Therapist: Hi Cupid, so what brings you in today?
Cupid: I’ve had it! I just can’t take it anymore. Really, it’s all just too much… and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!
T: Wow… Valentine’s Day didn’t go well?
C: Didn’t go well?! It was a disaster! It will never be the same. My entire sense of identity, the way I have seen myself all these years, has been utterly shattered, and I will never be the same again.
T: You sound devastated. Can you help me understand what happened?
C: Okay, over the years, I have come to expect the occasional “Fat Boy” references… the ever growing complaints if chocolate isn’t Fair Trade AND organic… I’ve adapted my methods to make use of social media and texting since in real life no one actually talks to their lovers anymore… but this year was different.
It started with the Grammies. Six Grammies to that singer, Adele, who writes songs about her relationships breaking up? What’s with that?! And two days before my big day of the year?
After that, it was just one thing after the other. The complaints seemed endless. Apparently, unrequited love is now deemed passé. Pining away for the loved one just doesn’t seem to cut it for some people anymore. No… they want mutuality and reciprocity. Do you know what a toll that would take on my schedule to have to shoot the arrow at BOTH parties?
T: I can imagine…
C: Oh, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Someone created an image and started posting it on Facebook.
T: An image?
C: Yes, an image of someone pointing a gun at me just as I was about to shoot my arrow into their heart so they would fall madly in love with… well… whatever random person happened to be nearby, I just don’t have time to figure out the whole soul mate thing… I have deadlines to keep. Anyway… it said: DO NOT TOUCH ME. And then underneath it… this part is just almost too much for me… (choking back a sob)… they wrote, “Stop the Cupidity!”
I have never felt so humiliated in my entire life. It wasn’t even a good likeness of me (sigh).
T: I can see why…
C: No, no… you haven’t heard all of it yet!
T: All right, please go on…
C: Look, I’m like any other professional. I like to stay current in my field of expertise, you know, continuing education and whatnot. Know what I mean?
C: So, I was at the library trying to sort all of this out, and one passage in particular just left me stunned. And written in a book that’s been out for awhile now! Where have I been? I’m out there year after year, promoting romantic love, thinking I won’t ever need to dig any deeper than that. I mean, romantic love, well, what else is there to be concerned with? One little arrow from me and a person is intoxicated with the love drug. And I make sure I use the good stuff, the really strong, potent stuff, one hit is all it takes… uh… with my arrow, right? No longer can they do anything but feel an all-consuming, gut-wrenching, nauseated, pining-away-for, do-or-die desperation as if life has lost all meaning… unless they can once again see the face of, hear the voice of, feel the touch of their own one and only true love. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want some of that?
Okay, so, back to the library story… I saw this book, “We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love,” by Robert Johnson. At the end of the book, he has this chapter on “Human Love”. That one was the worst.
T: Why is that?
C: Okay, here’s a few examples:
“…romantic love can only last so long as a couple are ‘high’ on one another…”, “romantic love sees the other person only as a role player in the drama,” and, “romance is never happy with the other person just as he or she is.”
I guess that would explain all those Adele break-up songs, but I never saw a down side to it. It’s the very thing that keeps me in business year after year…
T: So what’s different now?
C: Well, there’s more… he keeps referring to romantic love as if it is just a flimsy projection. He says it isn’t really love for the other person… but that we are actually feeling attracted to something they reflect back to us about ourselves. He says human love has a friendship component, and accepts the person for who they really are, both strength and weakness.
And he quotes some guy named Sanford who said:
“ …To be capable of real love means becoming mature, with realistic expectations of the other person.”
Let’s just say it kinda shook me up a bit.
T: You are beginning to see things differently? You sound sad when you talk about it.
C: (suddenly overly cheerful) Okay… so this is therapy, right?
T: That’s right.
C: So I figured you were gonna ask me about my childhood and I’ve already given it some thought.
T: What came to mind?
C: I came from a really good family. There was just one little thing that kinda got to me…
T: What was that?
C: Well, it was all the “Mama’s little angel” crap.
T: “Mama’s little angel”… crap?
C: Yeah, well… it felt like a lot of pressure. I mean, what kid feels like being angelic all the time? Yet, I felt like that’s all they wanted me to be. It felt like more of a curse than a blessing… even the word “little”. It’s like I never fully grew up. I even look like a little angel after all this time… (voice trails off)
T: The sadness is back, I can feel it in what you are saying.
C: Well, yeah, I guess it is sad. I was never sure if they ever really just loved me for me. Or did they just have an image in mind of how they wanted me to be and did everything they could to keep sculpting and re-sculpting me into that image? Maybe underneath it all I’m just not really that loveable.
T: There’s a bit of irony here, don’t you think? You have spent your life going around seeking to inject love into the lives of others all the while deep down feeling your own questions about whether you are love-able or not.
C: Yeah, I guess so. (deep breath) Okay, so now that I think about it… this romantic love thing… I’m not sure it is always all that genuine either.
T: What do you mean?
C: Well, according to that guy Johnson in the book, it can be full of projection. I’m just now getting in touch with feeling the pain of my parent’s projections on to me, and here I have spent a lifetime helping to create projection in the lives of others. That really sucks!
I am beginning to question everything I’ve ever done with my life. I feel like a fraud. I don’t know if I even know what love really is! And I don’t know if I have ever genuinely felt loved.
T: The pain of that goes very deep and it really takes a lot of courage to begin to look at these things so honestly.
C: I guess…
T: When we have felt unloved, sometimes we block our heart without even knowing it. It is as if it is too painful to feel all the times we needed someone to be there for us when no one was… all the legitimate needs that went unmet. We block our longings and desires. We go on as if we don’t really need what we need. We can get so good at it that we convince ourselves we don’t really need anyone… we are just fine on our own. But it’s a defense… an illusion… and when something impacts us in a way that starts shattering the illusion, we start to feel just how much has been lost to us. Suddenly we get in touch with all the times we have settled for living out an image in the world, and how much grief lies within us… so many un-cried tears. It puts us in such a bind. If we can’t open our heart, we stay stuck in not being able to fully give or receive love. Yet, when our heart starts to re-open, it is the pain we feel first. We begin to feel how much heartbreak we have been holding in.
C: So you think shattering is a good thing?
T: It doesn’t feel good, that’s for sure. It is more likely to feel excruciating. Yet, by going through the pain and grief, we make room for love to come in. The real kind, not just the stuff of fairy tales… uh… no offense intended.
C: None taken… I know what you mean… romantic love needs to grow up and the painful part comes first.
The funny thing is, I feel really sad, but I sort of feel relieved… like I’m finally telling the truth for the first time in my life… feels like maybe I could learn how to just be me…
T: It can be a long journey… but worth it.
C: (really, really long pause) …can I come back again next week?
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Barbara English is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Certified Bioenergetic Therapist with over 20 years of experience. She is the Executive Director of Living Ubuntu, a non‐profit organization founded in response to her concern about the effects of mass trauma on populations around the globe. Much of her training has centered on Early Development, Infant Mental Health, and how to recover after abuse or trauma. She is a 2009 Carl Wilkens Fellow with Genocide Intervention Network.