Nathaniel Branden, page 2
|The Psychology of Romantic
(page 3) Romantic love is a passionate spiritual-emotional-sexual attachment between a man and a woman that reflects a high a regard for the value of each other's person.
(page 5)Young people growing up in twentieth-century North America take for granted certain assumptions about their future with the opposite sex, assumptions that are by no means shared by every other culture. These include that the two people who people will share their lives will choose each other, freely and voluntarily, and that no one, neither family nor friends, church or state, can or should make that choice for them; that they will choose on the basis of love, rather than on the basis of social, family, or financial considerations; that it very much matters which human being they choose and, in this connection, that the differences between one human being and another are immensely important; that they can hope and expect to derive happiness is entirely normal, indeed is a human birthright; and that the person they choose to share their life with and the person they hope and expect to find sexual fulfillment with are one and the same.
Throughout most of human history, all of these views would have been regarded as extraordinary, even incredible.
(page 9) The ideal of romantic love stands in opposition to much of our history, as we shall see. First of all, it is individualistic. It rejects the view of human beings as interchangeable units, and it attaches the highest importance to individual differences as well as to individual choice. Romantic love is egoistic, in the philosophical, not in the petty, sense. Egoism as a philosophical doctrine holds that self-realization and personal happiness are the moral goals of life, and romantic love is motivated by the desire for personal happiness. Romantic love is secular. In its union of physical with spiritual pleasure in sex and love, as well as in its union of romance and daily life, romantic love is a passionate commitment to this earth and to exalted happiness that life on earth can offer.
(page 10) In particular we shall come to appreciate how intimately related are the themes of individualism and romantic love. In that same context we shall need to reappraise the issue of selfishness, to move beyond conventional ways of thinking and to recognize how indispensable to our life and well-being is rational intelligent of enlightened selfishness; an honest respect for self-interest is a necessity of survival and certainly of romantic love. The music that inspires the souls of lovers exists within themselves and the private universe they occupy. They share it with each other; they do not share it with the tribe or with society. The courage to hear that music and to honor it is one of the prerequisites of romantic love.
The Tribal Mentality: The Unimportance of the Individual
(page 11) Economics, not love, was the motivating force for union in primitive societies, indeed, in virtually all hunting and agricultural societies. The family was a unit established for the purpose of optimizing the chances of physical survival. Man/woman relationships were conceived and defined not in terms of "love", or of psychological needs for "emotional intimacy", but in terms of the practical needs associated with hunting, fighting, raising crops, child-rearing, and so forth.
So far was we can ascertain, in primitive cultures the idea of romantic love did not exist at all. The cardinal and ruling value was the survival of the tribe. The individual was subordinated to the tribe's' needs and rules in virtually every aspect of life. This was the essence of the tribal mentality. Little or no importance was granted to the worth of the individual personality and little or none to individual emotional attachments.
(page 13) Passionate individual attachments are evidently seen as threatening to tribal values and tribal authority.
We need to note that the issue is not primitiveness as such, but the tribal mentality. One encounters it again in the technologically advanced society of George Orwell's 1984, where the full power and authority of a totalitarian state is aimed at crushing the self-assertive individualism of romantic love. The contempt of twentieth century dictatorships for a citizen's desire to have a personal life- the characterization of such a desire as petty bourgeois selfishness- is too well-known to require documentation.
(page 14) Despite the fact that much of Greek culture reflects a worship of physical beauty, clearly evident in attitudes toward sex and love was the view that a person was made of two disparate elements: flesh, which pertained to one's "lower" nature, and spirit, which pertained to one's "higher." The needs and goals of the flesh were inferior to those of the spirit; what was exalted and most precious was that which was most remote form the body and its activities. Closely related to the soul-body dichotomy was an other division-that between reason and passion. "Reason" meant cool, uninvolved detachment, and "passion" was seen as necessarily representing a failure of reason. The Greeks idolized the spiritual, not the carnal, relationship between lovers.
(page 15) A passionate love relationship between two men was idealized as relationship in which the older lover inspired the younger to nobility and virtue, and the love between them elevated the mind and the emotions of both.
Were a man to fall in love with a woman, it was highly unlikely that the woman would be his wife. Far more likely, she would be a courtesan-a highly educated woman, trained to be mentally stimulating as well as sexually exciting, an intellectual as well as a sexual companion. But most Greeks looked with contempt upon a man who fell in love even with a courtesan.
Passionate sexual love, when it appeared, was commonly regarded as tragic madness, an affliction that took possession of a man and carried him away from that calm, cool evenness of disposition so much admired by the Greeks. (page 16) The notion of "marrying for love" was consequently as absent from the thinking of the Greeks as it was from the thinking of primitive man. "Marriage," wrote the Greek poet Pallates, "brings a man only two happy days: the day he takes his bride to bed and the day he lays her in her grave." A wife was expensive, a burden, often a hindrance to a man's freedom. But it was generally held that a man owed it to the state and to his religion to have children.
17) The increased valuation of the domestic unit was
accompanied by an elevation in the position of women.
Women in Rome gained significantly in legal status and
enjoyed a far greater measure of freedom, economic
independence, and cultural respect. In this respect, they
approached at least one of the conditions of romantic
love-equality- since the relationship of a superior to an
inferior, of a master to a subordinate, cannot qualify as
The Message of Christianity: Nonsexual Love
(page 18) Christianity. The central thrust of this new religion was a profound asceticism, an intense hostility to human sexuality, and a fanatical scorn of earthly life. Hostility to pleasure-above all, to sexual pleasure-was not merely one tenet among many of this new religion; it was central and basic. The Church's hostility to sex was rooted in its hostility to physical "earthly" existence and its view that physical enjoyment of life on earth necessarily meant spiritual evil. While such doctrines were already present in the Roman world in the doctrines of Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and Oriental mysticism, Christianity mobilized the sentiments behind such doctrines, capitalizing on the growing revulsion against the mindless decadence of the time and offering the appeal of a cleansing and purifying acid. (page 19)
Saint Paul elevated the Greek concept of the soul-body dichotomy to unprecedented importance in the Western world. The soul, he taught, is an entity separate from the body, transcending the latter, and its proper sphere of concern is with values unrelated to the body of to this earth. The body is only a prison in which the soul is trapped. It is the body that drags a person down to sin, to the quest for pleasure, to sexual lust. Christianity upheld to men and women an ideal of love that was consistently selfless and nonsexual. Love and sex were, in effect, proclaimed to stand at opposite poles: the source of love was God; the source of sex was, in effect, the devil. "It is good for man not to touch a woman," taught Saint Paul; but if men lack the necessary self-control "let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." Sexual abstinence was proclaimed the moral ideal. Marriage -- later described as a "medicine for immorality" -- was Christianity's reluctant concession to the depravity of human nature that made this ideal actually obtainable. Taylor (1973) writes:
Not only the pleasure of the sexual act was held sinful, but also the sensation of desire for a person of the opposite sex, even when unconsummated. Since the love of a man for a woman was held to be simply desire, this led to the inconvertible proposition that no man should love his wife. In fact, Peter Lombard maintained "that for a man to love his wife too ardently is a sin worse than adultery."
Apart from its role as a "medicine for immorality," marriage during the Middle Ages was still regarded essentially as an economic and political institution, although declared by the Church to be a sacrament. By the end of the sixth century, the Church had adopted political authority over marriage as it had assumed authority over other aspects of secular life. The severe regulation of man/woman relationships by Church power extend from start to finish. The Church replaced its authority for that of parental consent as the arranger and sanctioner of marriage, and it banned divorce and remarriage without papal dispensation. What is rarely appreciated today, and what is particularly interesting to note in the Church's attitude, was that the integration of love and sex was regarded not as a noble ideal but as a vice:
(page 21) For in the eyes of the Church, for a priest to marry was a worse crime than to keep a mistress, and to keep a mistress was worse than to engage in random fornication -- a judgement which completely reverses secular conceptions of morality, which attach importance to the quality and durability of personal relationships. When accused of being married, it was always a good defense to reply that one was simply engaged in indiscriminate seduction, for this carried only a light penalty, while the former might involve total suspension.(Taylor,1973)
It was not a great sin, in the eyes of the medieval church, for a priest to fornicate with a whore. But for a priest to fall in love and marry, that is, for his sex life to be integrated as an expression of his total person, was a cardinal offense. It is significant that the Church's most ferocious wrath was reserved not for fornication but for masturbation. It is through masturbation that a human being first discovers the sensual potential of his or her own body; moreover, it is an entirely "selfish" act, in that it is performed solely for the benefit of the person involved. It is the act through which many an individual first encounters the possibility for an ecstasy entirely different from the ecstasy promised by religion.
The Church's essential antisexualism was paralleled by an essential antifeminism. With the rise of Christianity in medieval Europe, women lost virtually all the regarded, in effect, as vassals of the male, to whom they were to be entirely subordinate; more precisely, they were regarded as domesticated animals. There were disputes as to whether or not women possessed souls. The proper relationship of woman to man, according to Christian doctrine, is that of man's relationship to God: just as man is to accept God as his master and submit himself unquestioningly to God's will, so must woman recognize man as her master and submit herself unquestioningly to his will. That woman should be entirely subordinate to man was justified, in part, on the ground that Eve had been the cause of Adam's downfall and therefore the cause of all the suffering men had to endure thereafter. (page 22) Later in the Middle Ages, a second view of woman emerged and coexisted with the first. On the one hand, woman was symbolized by Eve, the sexual temptress, the cause of man's spiritual downfall. On the other hand, she existed in the image of Mary, the Virgin Mother, the symbol of purity who transforms and lifts man's soul upward. The whore and the virgin-or the whore and the mother-have dominated the concept of woman in Western culture ever since. To state the dichotomy in modern terms: There is the woman on desires and the woman one admires; there is the woman one sleeps with and the woman one marries. In its attitude toward woman, too, Christianity exhibited profound antagonism to a love relationship that integrates desire and admiration, physical and spiritual values, and which is based on the essential equality of the partners. On the deepest level Christianity has always been a fierce opponent of romantic love. The pursuit of one's value, the exercise of one's judgment in the conduct of one's life, and the enjoyment of sexual pleasure all are acts of self-assertion entailed in the choice and experience of a romantic relationship. All were condemned by Christianity.
Authentic love between a man and a woman rests on and requires the free choice of each and cannot flourish in the context of submission to family or social of religious authority; such love is based on admiration and mutual regard; and love is not an idle diversion but is of great importance to one's life. In these respects, historians are justified in regarding the doctrine of courtly love as marking the beginning of the modern concept of romantic love.
The purpose of marriage was the production of offspring and "the remedying of incontinence."
(page 58) Separation and individuation mark the child's birth as a human being.
We can strive to avoid the fact of our ultimate aloneness, but it continually confronts us. A romantic-love relationship can nourish us; it cannot become a substitute for personal identity. When we attempt to deny these truths, it is our relationships that we corrupt-by dependency, by exploitation, by domination, by subservience, by our own unacknowledged terror. (page 59) Perhaps the essence of our evolution as human beings is to keep answering, on deeper and deeper levels, the basic question:"Who am I." We define ourselves, through the acts of thinking, of feeling, and of doing--of learning to take more and more responsibility for our existence and well-being-- and of expressing through our work and through our relationships more and more of who we are. This is the wider meaning of the concept of individuation; it represents a lifelong task.
Innovators and creators are persons who can to a higher degree than average accept the condition of aloneness. They are more willing to follow their own vision, even when it takes them far from the mainland of the human community. Unexplored spaces do not frighten them--or not, at any rate, as much as they frighten those around them. This is one of the secrets of their power. That which we call "genius" has a great deal to do with courage and daring, a great deal to do with nerve.
Aloneness entails self-responsibility. No one can think for us, no one can feel for us, no one can live our life for us, and no one can give meaning to our existence except ourselves. To most people, this fact is terrifying. It may be the most fiercely resisted, the most passionately denied, fact of their being.
(page 61) We are all parts of one universe, true enough. But within that universe we are each of us a single point of consciousness, a unique event, a private, unrepeatable world. If we do not understand this, we cannot understand some of our most enrapturing experiences of union and fusion. We cannot understand those extraordinary moments of serenity and bliss when we feel ourselves to be one with all that exists. And we cannot understand the ecstasy of romantic love.
(page 63) Aristotle suggests that if we wish to understand love we should take as our "model" relationship--by which to measure, compare and contrast other relationships-the attachment that exists between friends who are more or less equal in development and who are mutual admirations.
(page 67) Let us focus first on the need and desire to love. The origin of our desire to love lies in our profound need to value, to find things in the world which we can care about, can feel excited and inspired by. It is our values that tie us to the world and that motivate us to go on living. Every action is taken for the purpose of gaining or protecting something we believe will benefit our life or enhance our experience.
Life is worthwhile--at any age--precisely to the extent that we find particular values worth pursuing. A child who can find nothing in the environment that is a source of pleasure, nothing in the environment that is a source of pleasure, nothing to which the child can respond to affirmatively, with interest, curiosity, and excitement, is almost certainly doomed. Such a child could not survive the first years of life.
Children need to find joy in their world, joy in various activities, joy in different aspects of their physical surroundings, and the promise of joy in association with other human beings. The child is an active force, not merely a passive recipient. The child's need to love can be as powerful as--if not more powerful than- -the need to receive love. And this becomes no less true as we mature.
(page 69) Apparently, observing successful life is of value to human beings.
(page 73) They achieve expression and reality in material form. This is the proper and necessary pattern of human existence. To live successfully is to put ourselves into the world, to give expression to our thoughts, values, and goals.
(page 74) And, in an indirect sense, it is, every time we act on our judgement, every time we say what we think or feel or mean, every time we honestly express through word and deed our internal reality, our inner being.
(page 77) A friend, said Aristotle, is another self. This is precisely what lovers experience to the most intense degree. In loving you, I encounter myself.
(page 78) Self-Esteem and the Art of Being,
I am struck over and over again by the frequency with which the agony of invisibility in their home life as children is clearly central to their developmental problems and to their insecurities and inadequacies in their love relationships.
The reactions and responses of others open the door to various self-observations that contribute in a positive way to the elaboration of the child's self-concept; sometimes these observations go beyond what the child knows of believes to be true. Visibility often entails self-discovery.
(page 79) When visibility goes to any significant depth, and especially when it lasts across a significant period of time, it always stimulates the process of self-discovery. This is one of the most exciting elements in any human encounter--the possibility of this expanded awareness of self.
(page 82) Our desire for love from others is inseparable from our desire for visibility. If someone professed to love us but when in talking about what he or she found lovable named characteristics we did not think we possessed, did not especially admire, it could not be love. We do not wish to be loved blindly; we wish to be loved for specific reasons. And if another professes to love us for reasons that do not bear any relation to our self-perceptions or values or standards, we do not feel gratified, we do not even feel really loved, because we do not feel visible; we do not feel that the other person is responding to us.
(page 83) For any mature individual, "blind" love may help to quell anxiety, but it will not answer our hunger to feel visible. It is not unconditional and unseeing support that we need, but consciousness, perception, and understanding.
(page 84) On the contrary, the lower our self-esteem, the more we feel the need to hide, the more ambivalent our feelings toward visibility are likely to be: we both long for and are terrified by it. The more we take pride in who we are, the more transparent we are eager to be.
Self-esteem means confidence in our efficacy and worth. One of the characteristics of a self-esteem deficiency, of a lack of confidence in our mind and judgement, is an excessive preoccupation with gaining the approval and avoiding the disapproval of others, hungering for validation and support at every moment of our existence. Some people dream of finding this in "romantic love." But because the problem is essentially internal, because the person does not believe in him or herself, no outside source of support can ever satisfy this hunger, except momentarily.
The purpose of romantic love is, among other things, to celebrate self-esteem--not to create it in those who lack it.
(page 86) Pleasure, for human beings, is not a luxury, but a profound psychological need.
In order to live, we must act, must struggle to achieve the values that sustaining life requires. It is through the state of enjoyment, through the state of happiness, through the state of pleasure that we experience the sense that life is a value, that life is worth living, worth struggling to maintain. Joy is the emotional incentive nature offers us to live. When we are successful in achieving life-enhancing values, the normal consequence is enjoyment.
(page 89) We feel that it is our person, not merely our body, that is the cause of the pleasure felt by our partner. (We want to be enjoyed as more than I am, I am able to cause him (or her) to feel the things he (or she) is feeling." Thus, we see our own soul, and its value, in the emotions on the fact of our partner.
(page 95) There is the simple need for companionship. There is the need to love, and to admire. There is the need to be loved, and to feel visible. There is the need of self-discovery. There is the need of fully experiencing oneself as a man or a woman.
And as our journey continues, we will see that still other needs inspire a longing for romantic love. There is the need for a private universe, a refuge from the struggles of the world, that romantic love has a unique power to fulfill. There is the need to share our excitement in being alive--and to enjoy and be nourished by the excitement of another.
Chapter Four --The Challenges of Romantic Love
(page 124) Self-Esteem
Of the various factors that are vital for the success of romantic love, none is more important than self-esteem. The first love affair we must consummate successfully is the love affair with ourselves. Only then are we ready for other love relationships.
It has become something of a cliche to observe that, if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love anyone else. This is true enough, but it is only part of the picture. If we do not love ourselves, it is almost impossible to believe fully that we are loved by someone else.
Self-esteem, as a psychological phenomenon, has two interrelated aspects: a sense of personal efficacy and a sense of personal worth. It is the integrated sum of and a sense of personal worth. It is the conviction-or, more precisely, the experience-that we are competent to live and worthy of living.
If an individual felt inadequate to face the challenges of life, if an individual lacked fundamental self-trust, trust in his or her mind, we would recognize the presence of a self-esteem deficiency.
(page 125) To experience that I am competent to live means confidence in the functioning of my mind, in my ability to understand and judge the facts of reality within the sphere of my interests and needs; intellectual self-trust; intellectual self-reliance.
To experience that I am worthy of living means an affirmative attitude toward my right to live and to be happy, toward the assertion of my own wants and needs, the feeling that happiness is my natural birthright.
We only need recognize the obvious fact that different persons experience different levels of self-esteem, and that the level of our self-esteem has a profound impact on our life and experience.
(page 126) We cannot understand the tragedy of most relationships if we do not understand that the overwhelming majority of human beings suffer from some feelings of that deep in their psyche they do not feel they are "enough"; they do not feel lovable as they are; they do not feel it is "natural" or "normal" for others to love them. They do not necessarily hold these attitudes consciously. On the conscious level they may say, "Of course I expect to be loved. Of course I deserve to be loved. Why shouldn't I be?" But the deeper, negative feelings are there, operating to sabotage efforts at achieving fulfillment.
Self-concept determines destiny.
If, for example, we have trust in ourselves, trust in our ability to understand, trust in the competence of our mind, we will be open to experience, motivated to understand, motivated to exert the effort to understand. We will not be frozen or paralyzed by the blocks generated by self-doubt. And our growing competence will enhance our feelings of self-trust.
If, on the other hand, we experience a deep doubt of our efficacy, if we lack confidence in our cognitive ability, if we distrust our judgement, our very insecurities will lead to behaviors that result in frustration and defeat. These behaviors, and the results thy lead to, seem to justify our initial self-distrust.
(page 133) Once the issue is pointed out, they notice readily how often they interrupt their own happiness, sabotage it, create trouble where none need exist -do anything to escape the fact that they can be happy right now, if only they will accept the moment, not fight it, not resist, just yeild to the joy of being, yiel to the joy of each other, yield to the ecstatic potential of romantic love. But no, they prefer to take workshops, consult marriage coundelors, enter spuchotherapy, studiy sex manuals, accumulate books on psychology, so that they can make themselves happy in the future, at some unspecified time, a time that never comes, like the horizon that keps recending as one approaches.
(page 135) To be unhappy, as Mother or Father were, is to "belong." To be happy may mean to stand alone against Mother or Father, perhaps against the whole family-and that prospect may be terrifying.
Men, too, can receive messages from either parent to the effect that they are not to be happy romantically.
To be happy romantically may mean to separate from one's family. This demands a level of independence that many women and men do not achieve.
If we feel that our relationships always seem to be unhappy, always seem to be frustrating, it is relevant to inquire: Am I allowed to be happy? Does my self-concept permit it? Does my childhood programming permit it? Does my life scenario permit it? If the answer is in the negative, it is futile to try to solve romantic problems by learning communications skills, improved sexual techniques, or methods of "fair fighting." This is what is wrong with so much marriage counseling. All such teaching rest on the assumption that the persons involved are willing to be happy, want to be happy, feel entitled to be happy. But what if they don't.
(page 136) When we feel happy, and that happiness triggers anxiety and disorientation, we must learn to do nothing-that is, to breathe into our feelings, to allow them, to watch our own experience while at the same time being a conscious witness to it and not be manipulated into behaving self-destructively. Then, across time, we can build a tolerance for happiness, we can increase our ability to handle joy without panicking.
(page 137) Autonomous individuals understand that other people do not exist merely to satisfy their needs. They have accepted the fact that no matter how much love and caring may exist between persons, we are each of us, in an ultimate sense, responsible for ourselves.
They are ready for romantic love because they have grown up, because they do not experience themselves as waifs waiting to be rescued or saved; they do not require anyone else's permission to be who they are, and their egos are not continually "on the line." This last issue is important and needs elaboration. An autonomous individual is one who does not experience his or her self-esteem as continually in question or continuing doubt. The source of approval resides within the self. It is not at the mercy of every encounter with another person.
(page 138) No matter how passionate the commitment and devotion autonomous men and women may feel toward the one they love, there is still the recognition that space must exist, freedom must exist, some times aloneness must exist. There is the recognition that no matter how intensely we love, we are none of us "only" lovers-we are also, in a broader sense, evolving human beings.
Autonomous individuals have assimilated and integrated the ultimate fact of human aloneness. Not resisting it, not denying it, they do not experience it as a burning pain of a tragedy in their lives. They understand that it is the fact of aloneness that gives romantic love its unique intensity.
(page 139) Perhaps one of the clearest requirements for a successful romantic relationship is that it be based on a foundation of realism. This is the ability ad willingness to see our partner as he or she is, with shortcomings as well as virtues, rather than attempting to carry on a romance with a fantasy.
To deal first with the negative case: if I do not see and love my partner as a real person in the real world, if instead I elaborate a fantasy about him or her, using the person merely as a springboard for mu imagination and mu sihes, then I am doomed sooner or later ot resent the actual person for not living up to my fantasies. If I choose to pretend that my partner does not have tthe shortcomings he or she has, if I refuse to include the knowledge of those shortcomings in the overall picture of mu partner, late I am likely not only to feel hurt, outraged, and betrayed but also to cast myself in the role of a bewildered victim. "How can you do this to me?"
(page 141) On the other hand, when and if we choose to see our partner realistically, not deceiving ourselves, love, if it is real in the first place, has the best of all opportunities to grow. We know whom we are choosing and we are not shocked when our partner acts in character. A very happily married woman once said to me, "An hour after I met the man I married I could have given you on ways he could be difficult to live with.I think he is the most exxciting man I've ever known, but I've nver kidded myself about the fact that he's also one of the most self-absorbed. Often he's like an absent minded frofessor. He spends a great deal of time in a private world of his own. I had to know that going in, or else I would have been very upset later. He never made any pretenses about the kind of man he was. I can't understand people who profess to be hurt or shocked at the way their mates turn out. It's so obvious what people are if you'll just pay attention. I've vener been happier in my whole life than I am right now in this maiirage. But not because I tell myself my husband is 'perfect' or without fault." She added, "You know, I think that's why I feel so appreciative of is strength and virtues. I'm willing to see eveything." This is realistic romanticism, not fairy-tale romanticism. When passion and sight are integrated, love can flourish.
Mutual Self-Disclosure: The Meaning of Sharing a Life.
One of the characteristics of love relationships that flower is a relatively high degree of mutual self-disclosure--a willingness to let our partner enter into interior of our private world and a genuine interest in the private world of tat partner. Couples in love tend to show more of themselves to each other than to any other person.
(page 142) This implies that they have created an atmosphere of trust and acceptance, but it implies more than that. It implies first and foremost, that each is willing ot know and encounter him- or herself. This is the necessary precondition of the willingness for mutual selfdisclosure.
And here we confront one of the greatest obstacles to the sustaining of romantic love: the eidespread problem of human self-alienation tends to make self-disclosure impossible.
The problem is not new, but perhaps at no time in history has there been such awareness on the part of so many people of the fact htat they suffer from a sense of personal unreality, that they have lost touch with themselves, that too often they do not know what they feel, but they act with numb obliviousness to that which promptss or motivates their actions.For romanticlove, the results are disastrous.
The source of this self-alienation--or, as it might better be sexcribed, this unconsciousness--springs from several factors. To begin with the simplest and most obvious: Many parents teach children to repress their feelings. They teach unconsciousness as a positive value, as one of the costs of being loved, found acceptable, regarded as "grown-up." A little boy falls and hurts himself and is told sternly by his father, "Men don't cry." A little girl expresses anger at her brother, or perhaps shows dislike toward an oler relative, and is told by the mother, "It's terrible to feel that way. You don't really feel it." A child burtst into the house, full of joy and excitement, and is told by and irritated parent, "What's wrong with you? Why do yu make so much noise?"
Children also learn to repress their feelings by example, Emotionally remote and inhhibited parents tend to produce emotionally remote and inhibited children, not only through their overt communications but also by their own behavior, which proclaims to the child what is "proper," "appropriate," "socially acceptable."
Parents who accept certain teachings of religionvery likely to infect their children with the disastrous notion that there are such things as "evil thoughts" or "evil emotions." The child is then filled with moral terror of his or her inner life.
Thus a child can be led to the conclusion that his feelings are potentially dangerous, that sometimes it is advisable to deny them, that they must be "controlled." What such "control" means practically is that a child learns to disown his or her own feelings, effectively ceasing to experience them. Needless to say, this process does not take place through conscious, calculated decisions; to a large extent it may be described as subconscious. But the process of self-alienation has begun. In denying feelings, in nullifying his of her judgements and evaluations, in repudiating his of her experience, the child has learned to disown parts of the self, of the personality.
The child begins in a natural state, in contact with his of her organism. And a conflict is set up: the child is taught that certain feelings of emotions are unacceptable. But they are felt. The child produces a solution: unconsciousness.
(page 144) If we are free to know honestly what we feel and to experience it (not merely to acknowledge it verbally), then we can decide with whom and in what context it is appropriate to share our inner life. But if we ourselves do not know, if we are forbidden to know, if we are afraid to know, if we ourselves have never encountered who we are-if we are self-alienated-then we are crippled and incapacitated for genuine intimacy, which means that we are crippled and incapacitated for romantic love.
(page 146) We want our emotions to be taken seriously, to be respected.
(page 147) The acceptance of our own feelings is the foundation of our acceptance of the feelings of others.
(page 148) If communication is to be successful, if love is to be successful, if relationships are to be successful, we must give up the absurd notion that there is something "heroic" or "strong" about lying, about faking what we feel, about misrepresenting, by commission or omission, the reality of our experience or the truth of our being. We must learn that if heroism and strength mean anything, it is the willingness to face reality, to face truth, to respect facts, to accept that that which is, is.
Sometimes we are angry with our partner, or our partner is angry with us. This is entirely normal: it is part of life, it does not mean that love has gone.
(page 149) If we wish to be in a love relationship, we owe to our partner the freedom for him of her to express anger. We owe it to our partner to listen, not to interrupt, not to fight back, but to listen. After our partner is finished, after he of she feels satisfied about having said everything, then and then only is it appropriate to respond. Then, if we believe our partner has misinterpreted the facts, we can point that out. If it is clear that we are in the wrong, the solution is to acknowledge that. Relationships are not destroyed by honest expressions of anger. But relationships die every day as a consequence of anger that is not expressed. The repression of anger kills love, kills sex, kills passion.
(page 150) Expressing feelings of love and appreciation and desire is vital to the sustaining of a passionate relationship.
(page 151) We can readily understand how such a situation arises, we can readily understand why it is so common, when we realize how rare it is for a child to be taught that his of her wants matter, how rare it is for a child, even a child who is loved, to have the experience of being taken seriously as a human being, to have his of her feelings taken seriously.
(page 153) Honest communication, therefore, has great deal to do with our willingness and courage to be who we are, to show who we are, to own our thoughts, feelings, and desires; to give up self-concealment as a survival strategy.
Further, communication is rarely effective when unaccompanied by benevolence and respect, particularly in the context of romantic love.