By Olivia Fellus, L.A.c, Dipl.OM
Valentine’s Day has arrived weeks before it’s due date. Following the deep exhale of New
Year’s, this day of romantic celebration has enthusiastically announced it’s arrival: bright red and pink heart-shaped items of varying sizes burst from pharmacy and grocery store shelves; shiny “Be Mine” balloons ripe with promise bob coquettishly above hallmark card aisles, waiting to be plucked by the next passing customer; jewelry stores wink from seemingly every corner, whilst emails promoting special “couples discount” offerings fill inboxes to the brim, multiple heart emojis included. Cupid aims to please.
Romantic love, the notion of The Pair; the merging of yin and yang, two souls, into the perfect whole, is a concept as ancient as time. According to the Old Testament, after God created Adam; He then created Eve to be his partner, since God stated that it is unhealthy for a man to be alone.
Regardless of one’s religious or spiritual beliefs, the importance of partnership has permeated humanity for centuries. We are taught that our “other half” exists somewhere out there, and we may only be complete once we find them. Granted, pursuing partnership and building a family are beautiful; innately human instincts for the general population, offering a sense of deep fulfillment and joy that many find unparalleled.
However, embedded within this universal tradition, there seems to be a culturally stimulated hyper-focus on the other; which coupled with the American “accomplishment based” mentality, perpetuates the collective belief that perhaps we are lacking in some way, to begin with.
So often, we look for the other, whilst leaving ourselves behind; and thinking we are behaving virtuously by our supposedly selfless actions, when we are actually donning a martyr’s cloak, leaving a bloody trail from our self-inflicted bleeding hearts.
On the other hand, we may overemphasize our own needs at the expense of another; focusing solely on how the relationship serves us, without any regard for our partner’s needs.
On both spectrums, imbalance threatens the integrity of romance. We need to reestablish
equilibrium by taking an honest look at why we seek love. Furthermore, we need to have a
deeper understanding of what love really means. Perhaps Valentine’s Day will then hold more depth for us this year.
Relationships are where we have the potential to learn the most about ourselves, through vulnerable interaction with another. The issues only arise when we seek love from a place of lack.
In her song entitled, “Paper Bag”, artist Fiona Apple aptly depicts desire for love from a place of lack; lamenting over hopelessly searching for that mythical someone who will satiate her emptiness, crooning; “ I’ve got to fold ‘cause these hands are too shaky to hold/ hunger hurts but starving works when it costs too much to love”.
She conveys her desperate need for the other, singing “I went crazy again today, looking for a strand to climb, looking for a little hope”, as she compares the fantasy of her perfect partner to a dove that disappointingly turns out to be a paper bag on closer observation.
True love does not want.
True love is not fraught with anxiety; rather it is patient, calm, freeing, all-encompassing, and unconditionally accepting. The saying, “If you love someone let them go”, truly represents the essence of pure, high vibrational love, which is expansive, making room for both partners’ needs whilst simultaneously holding space for mutual growth within the relationship.
Toxic love constricts, smothering intimacy within its cold, fear-laden grip. Holding on, consuming; merging to the point of self-annihilation, is when maladaptive behaviors such as codependency, with all of it, ’s insidious manifestations, including jealousy, control, passive aggressiveness, and stagnancy, arise, as we lose sight of nurturing our own hearts and call that selflessness.
The intimate connection between the heart and spirit as explained by Chinese Medicine subtly conveys the importance of nourishing individuality.
Chinese Medicine extols a holistic approach to the entire human being, with it’s intricate,
interconnected system of internal meridians that link the viscera, their functions, and
surrounding tissues to one another. Additionally, each emotion is associated with a different organ and have various effects on a person’s Qi, or dynamic life force.
For example, the lungs are associated with grief, and according to ancient classical texts, grief has the effect of consuming one’s qi. Often, patients suffering from the recent loss will suddenly contract an acute upper respiratory infection. Deep grief has essentially attacked and consumed their lung qi, weakening their immunity and in turn making them susceptible to illness. Fortunately, there are detectable signs of emotional imbalance, some of which may resonate with those unfamiliar with the mechanisms of Chinese Medicine.
According to Eastern philosophy, the spirit, or “Shen” of a person resides within the heart, and the heart meridian flows to the eyes. When the heart is malnourished, it can no longer house the Shen, thus resulting in a dull; vacuous gaze. When someone feels alive and happy, their eyes contain a sparkle. Within the diagnostic setting, as practitioners trained in visual diagnosis, a key component of Chinese Medicine, we would note that the patient’s eyes
contain Shen. On the contrary, a patient exhibiting signs and symptoms of depression usually has flat, lusterless eyes. Many people in modern society can relate to these aforementioned signs of lifelessness, which indicate a lack of heart nourishment within the individual.
The heart then is fed by supplementing the spirit. All too often, as individuals suffering from heart starvation; we endeavor to seek nourishment through relationship. While companionship and support are beneficial for healing, a conditional clause exists in this innocent attempt to assuage our pain, for, when our happiness is incumbent upon another person alone, if that relationship ends, the scaffolding on which we base our wellbeing collapses and we find ourselves floored by even more intense pain.
We actually disempower ourselves from this dependency on an external locus of control, rather than looking within for an internal anchor of comfort; not to mention that we put a lot of unhealthy pressure on someone else to fill our needs. What we need is a balance between reaching our hands out for help whilst, simultaneously empowering ourselves by reaching within; to tap into self-love and compassion.
Both actions require courage in expressing vulnerability and yet both are equally vital in engendering love and healing.
Last weekend I held a workshop focused on taking back one’s power through the art of self-healing. During the practical portion of the event, the participants paired up and conducted healing treatments on one another. The idea behind this activity was to awaken others to their innate healing abilities. We have everything within ourselves to self-heal, and to self nourish. What an empowering insight!
How do we nourish our hearts then? By cultivating a relationship with ourselves. What alights our souls? What talents do we possess that we have not yet explored, or have left dormant?
How can we stop for a few minutes each day to tap into our internal awareness, and endeavor to listen to that mysterious little voice that offers quiet wisdom which we often shrug off or ignore altogether?
When we first love and support ourselves by nourishing our own hearts and healing our own wounds; only then can we tap into true, unselfish love; offering from an overflowing cup, and from a place of abundance and desire to share with another.
The partnership then replaces consumption, as two individuals; beautifully whole and unique, connect their respective energies into a brilliantly cohesive and strong union; true love occurs when a couple mutually support and enhance each other’s individual growth, personal and shared goals and philosophies; whilst simultaneously cultivating their own growth through self-nourishment. This way no soul is left in the dark, no identity is consumed by the other; and no heart is left to starve.
“If I am not for myself, who am I?”
– Ethics of Our Fathers 1:14