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Sunday, October 30, 2011

What I have learned about love

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When I love myself least, I am least able to love someone else.

When I am least in love with myself, I am the most self-centered.

I think Narcissists do not love themselves well enough.

When I most love my own soul, I am most capable of loving the souls and selves of others.

When I most love my soul, I am most able to love my self
—my personality, my aging body and face, my limited mind—
my every failing.

If I love myself, perfectly, I do not need anyone else to love me.

It is no one’s job to love me but my own.

If I do not rely on someone else to love me, I am more capable of being happy.

If I love myself as I am, in spite of my failings, I can love someone else in spite of theirs.
(I am in the process of even learning to love my failings; the correlative impact this will have
on how I view the failings of others is interesting to think about.)

James Hillman, who died Thursday, said,
Why try to eradicate your demons?
Better to learn to live with them.

I think a demon is one part of a whole. Think positive archetype and negative archetype.
Example: mother/victim. If I fall into the victim role (a lifetime habit), perhaps it’s time
to mother myself. There there, Ruth, that doesn’t feel good does it, tell me about it,
says my mother self sitting on the edge of the bed of my pouting, victim self.
No one else should have to do this for me.
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66 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

There is profound truth in this.

Mimmu said...

Oh, many serious thoughts and deep one too and complicated - and after all very simply, love and forgiveness :)
Rewarding Sunday to you Ruth!

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Well, here's to loving Ruth ... clink, clink

Grandmother said...

The wisdom garnered by mid-life. I especially like your embrace of the demon within and look forward to hearing how it impacts embracing the demon in others. Hillman is brilliant and I'm sad at his death.

Shari Sunday said...

If only I could have learned these lessons earlier in life, how much more powerful I would have been.

jan said...

So true and such a difficult lesson to learn for many of us. I am just learning about the importance of self love and need constant reminders on how to do this. What you write about embracing the shadow sides of yourself is also something I've learned recently. What i want to know and need to learn is how to strengthen the positives in myself so that I am strong enough to do what you describe...sit on the bed of my victim, pouting self...I guess it is practice, discipline in self care, reflection, study, courage??

erin said...

and if anyone else did this for us we would not listen, or if we did listen it would only be because we called that voice to our bedside anyway which is the same as being the voice ourselves, but the voice, by necessity, must have our own tone and timbre.

there are so many things inside of this post to thrash out! it is very exciting.

i feel my self is like a greased pig. to love her it is difficult to stay upon her back but it is essential, and all of her, yes, even her elemental failings. without those i am loving a lie.

ok, this is the time to sit on a floor without a clock and talk.

xo
erin

Cindy said...

So true! A beautiful reminder as I start my day. Thank you.

George said...

Well said, Ruth, and I suspect that you, like the rest of us, will continue to learn about love. Isn't that our common purpose here on earth? Trying to love more perfectly, often failing, trying harder yet again? And Hillman was right; we should not seek to eradicate our demons; we should embrace them, for they are part and parcel of who we are. As I recall from Hillman's great book, "The Soul's Code,", the word "demon" is derived from the Greek word "daimon," which referred to those spirits, good or bad, which drive our destiny. Hillman suggested that every person has a daimon, which is that person's genius and calling. What we call "unhappiness" is often nothing more than our reluctance to follow that genius and calling. To love oneself is to embrace one's daimon.

Gwen Buchanan said...

yes,oh yes, Ruth it takes us most of a lifetime to come to this conclusion and admit it as clearly as this... I also think it comes from being a mother and being selfless..everyone and their happiness ahead of oneself.. it's a revelation we must accept.. this is a beautiful honest post.

Kamana said...

this is a very thought provoking post. loving oneself. something to think about certanly

Ruth said...

Robert, as erin says, below, I know this from the inside, not from someone telling me. I imagine that is true for you as well.

Ruth said...

Mimmu, thank you!

Love and forgiveness, ohh. I see a whole lifetime of you with your children and grandchildren.

Love.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Lorenzo, I'll drink to that! And back atchu!

Ruth said...

Mary, thank you. And please see George's amplification of the demon/daemon concept that Hillman presented, and perhaps you, too, have read.

Ruth said...

Me too, Shari, me too. But maybe our soil is more fertile since we did not. Certainly the peace I feel is sweeter, after being without it.

Ruth said...

Jan, I'm so glad you're in the classroom of these concepts! It is freedom. Yes, it takes practice, so much practice, years and years for me. I needed active practices, literally. Michael Brown's The Presence Process was very helpful to me, and it was he who introduced me to the practical imagery of mothering myself when I need it.

Ruth said...

erin, yes yes yes! No one could have told me these things. They would have had nowhere to go. I think this is hard for most people, and especially for women. We are awfully hard on ourselves.

The time is ripening for you and me to sit and talk. I wonder if it might happen one day.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Cindy, I'm glad!

Ruth said...

George, thank you for your helpful comment. I love what Hillman did for demons everywhere. He showed us that the "bad" ones took over our definition from that original daemon, the guardian angel, the companion through life that we can welcome. I need to read The Soul's Code again, and also Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore, because these truths are just exploding around me these days. Rather than homogenizing everyone and everything, which our society seems to want to do, we need to champion each individual's unique way of seeing, and expressing.

Maybe Halloween is a good time to celebrate daimons. What would our maskless faces look like?

California Girl said...

Halloween is a good time, as you say, to celebrate the demons within and without. I'm turning 60 the day after Halloween and THAT is my demon.

Ruth said...

Dear Gwen, I am amazed at what I still see around me, especially in women: intelligent, nearly-emancipated women, who still claim guilt and sacrifice instead of self love. We are too sure that we will fall into hedonistic self absorption if we love ourselves.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Kamana. I hope your thoughts lead you to deeper love, of yourself most of all.

Ruth said...

California Girl, that is a major big exciting demon to celebrate! Happy Birthday, and may you have many, many more! Funny, isn't it, how we all want more birthdays, yet we tend to be sorry when they arrive?

ellen abbott said...

True dat!

You don't try to change the person you love, you change yourself.

and...

When you love, you must love 'warts and all' as my husband likes to say.

Ingrid said...

Thank you for this, Ruth. It constantly amazes me how you speak to my spirit at the times I need to hear you. You have the ability to verbalize truths I only feel and can't express. Your writings have been a source of strength and inspiration for me over the past year and I will always be grateful.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Ruth, you have it the nail on the head...

Louise Gallagher said...

Five years ago, when my youngest daughter went through the CHOICES program, she came out at the end of five days and said, -- I always knew people loved me, I just didn't know how important it was to love myself.

She was 19 at the time.

To have known that at 19 -- as Shari said -- how powerful would I have been?

This has been my journey too. To love myself, warts and all, Beauty and The Beast. To embrace all of me and dance on the fires of my belief I am not enough.

I'm good enough. I do enough. I am enough.

Hugs Ruth -- very powerful post!

Thank you. It is exactly what I needed to read this morning.

Ruth said...

Ellen, yes! What I love is that I no longer have to expect perfection from myself or anyone else. In fact I don't have to expect anything at all. And if I don't like something I feel or believe, because it causes me pain, I can change my belief! (with work and time)

Ruth said...

Ingrid, I love hearing from you, right here in my neck of the woods. We have never met, and yet I feel our kinship. I am awfully grateful to hear what you say to me today. I think I need to go out for a walk in this frosty morning light and let your loving and gratifying words walk with me. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Gwen, it seems to be universal, and I hope we can evolve out of this self immolation together.

Ruth said...

Oh yes, Louise, you are enough. The messages ingrained in us as children are hard to record over, they keep seeping into consciousness. But over time, we get stronger. I love how your daughter is discovering this, which I believe is mostly possible because of what you've provided her.

hedgewitch said...

So very true, and so very hard, which is why so many never find this path. Age helps us, teaches us that we are really no worse or better than those we love or hate or blame, but it's an uncomfortable teaching, until you really accept that it isn't anyone else's job to fix things for you--though so many people seem willing and able to do the opposite, ;_) --and one has more control over all that than one thinks initially, too. Insightful, and very compassionate poem. I hope someday I will get to the place you describe--it's my job in this life now, and I do think, an important one for others as well as myself.

rosaria said...

Yet, we do need to 'mother' ourselves, talk to ourselves with love and compassion, realize our frailties are bound to appear and hinder us just because.
Great post, Ruth.

NJ said...

Very profound words. I was told last night by my daughter that mothering was one letter off from smothering...so just don't do that to yourself. :)

Ruth said...

Hedge, I affirm everything you said. And let me be clear here to you, as I should have been through the rest of my comment responses, that while I have learned these lessons at some level, that does not mean that I always follow them or feel perfectly content and at peace in these realms!!

Thank you.

Ruth said...

Rosaria, if not every day, every other day, that's how often I have to mother myself because I have not felt the truth of what I know in my soul. Thank you.

Ruth said...

NJ :-)

Expat From Hell said...

Geez, Ruth. This was one of the best posts I've read in a long time. To encounter one's demons, get to know them, and then love them as yourself. Since, after all, they ARE yourself. You have perfectly encapsuled my life over the past two years. What a great pleasure to be here again. EFH

Nancy said...

Ruth, I am learning this now, at long last. You have told a profound and important truth. If we love ourselves, we cannot help but be more loving to everyone else. It is a struggle for me, but I think I am finally realizing it in a deep way. Lovely post.

Ruth said...

Hi there, EFH! I am really pleased to hear from you that these statements resonate with you. I hesitated quite a bit before posting this whole thing for some reason. But I see from you and others that I am not the only one who is still struggling with these concepts. Thank you for your good visit!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Nancy. I find that the farther along I get in the practice of these truths/beliefs, the more naturally it goes. I still get hurt feelings, feel sorry for myself, and all the rest, but my suffering is much, much less than it once was.

who said...

I agree with the thoughts about learning to live with the dark parts of who we are. The best possible situation being to know how to control our words and actions so that they do not "call out" or envoke another person's dark side. That trying to remove those aspects of our lives usually results in every bit that was not dealt with to eventually explode with the force of the summation of each piece that we thought we removed. And when it happens, whoever it is unleashed upon is the recipient of a lot of negative (deserving only minor amounts of darkness but major amounts dumped on)

But I think a lot of times each bit of negative has to be brought full circle to be neutralized into calm and if not it the dark piece may feel calm but it is closer to qualm. A planted seed that is much like a sneaker wave of the darkness or demon.

but this theory of every problem needing a resolution or else each problem a planted seed with the potential to grow a sneaker revolution may or may not be a possible mechanism. And if it is, it may not be a mechanism for us all.

mostly because of the the image with this post and the way the word drops from where it started to where it stops. I am wondering if this post was not written by you Ruth, was this a guest post?

Marcie said...

Such fascinating thoughts and meditations on loving oneself thru it all...on truly embracing ourselves in spite of our own perceived imperfections. Lots to ponder here..
Thank-you!

Nelson said...

Ruth - help me and tell us about the image....

Powerful, your "when" not loving myself....converting to "if" I love myself....

Anything is possible, "if"....

The Bug said...

Yes, yes, yes! I struggle every day to be a good mother to that flibbertigibbet girl...

Vagabonde said...

This is a great post Ruth – I like it. It sounds so much like what my mother would say to me – don’t doubt yourself, don’t wait for others to agree with you, but love and accept yourself. This is how I could come to America at 21, alone, leaving my country, my family, my culture and my language. I accepted the way I wanted to lead my life and did not need to have someone to go with me or to lean on. This is also how I could travel to so many countries – by myself, alone.

As you say, if you accept and love yourself then you can love others for who they are and not for the way you wish they were. I like your sentence “If I do not rely on someone else to love me, I am more capable of being happy.” So true - you can love someone but at the same time should not use him/her as an excuse for not doing what you truly wish as in “I would do this but my mother… or I can’t go there because my son… or I might do this but my husband…” as you say you need to rely on yourself. Ruth I think the saying here is “you have nailed it on the head.”

Barb said...

So many ramifications of love - I think we search for it outside ourselves all our lives. Perhaps best to look inward, as you say.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Dusty! What you say makes a great deal of sense. If we suppress an aspect of ourselves, it will be transmuted into another form, and maybe not a healthy one. I love what Inge read recently, someone said that what the critics criticize you for (in writing), saying it is what they dislike, perhaps make that your strength!

My brother has asked for more information about the image, so I will say a bit more in response to him in a minute. Was this a guest post? Not that I am aware of. But I suppose you never really know. It is Halloween after all.

As Longfellow says at the end of "Haunted Houses":

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.


:-)

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Marcie. I see a world emerging in which parents more and more will begin to recognize the unique eye, ear and voice of each new child, and listen. I hope this vision really will evolve into reality.

Ruth said...

Nelson, thank you for observing the "when" to "if"! I had not noticed it! I wonder if there is a subconscious realization embedded in that reflecting that I am still in process (which I do know consciously).

The image. The image is an improvisation. I did not consciously think about love, or anything in particular when I wrote/drew it, except that it would be for this post. Now, looking at it, I see:

• a flowing, meandering path
• steps (descending, ascending)
• entrance, with freedom to leave
• separateness that looks for union
• individuality and uniqueness
• destiny

I wonder what you see?

Ruth said...

Dana, at first I thought you meant you were mothering a literal daughter this way. Duh! It's so great to recognize that you can be what you need. I need constant reminding, and practice.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, I have contemplated many times how different our backgrounds are, and what yours would have to have been to foster your independence and wanderlust. Do you know, I speak of you often? I tell Don about how you moved to the U.S., to S.F., in the time of hippies, and how interesting your life was, and is.

I have no regrets now (though I have had them) because I accept the unique path I've been given, as much as I accept my unique soul and personality, body, etc. Even if my background was constrained by fences, my life was rich. But I do wonder sometimes what I might have become had I been encouraged with the same freedoms and exposures you were. It's a silly exercise, I know, but it's fun to think about.

Thank you so much.

Ruth said...

Barb, yes. I have learned these things, because I have had pain (and caused it, too) when expectations were not met. It's not easy, but I think we can retrain our minds not to turn to others for what we need. That is not to say that I don't want love (and need, yes) and all the joys it brings. But when I let it go, and just be loving, I find that people in my life are much freer to love me, as they wish!

Ginnie said...

This one page could be a book, Ruth...required reading for all students everywhere, of whatever age!

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Boots. If parents modeled this to children, how different the world would be!

Stratoz said...

facing our demons is no fun, but can be quite enlightening.

as I hope to love myself more perfectly, I will be grateful for those who love me along the way.

Peter said...

I guess you really made a point here! So, I guess I have to do a check to which extent I love myself, including all weak points and failings! The problem (or maybe the good thing) may be that when really starting such a process, I will even more realize my failings. However, I will make a good try and then let’s see if I will be able to love, or at least accept, myself after a deeper analysis! :-)

Brendan said...

Very deep and long-distilled feelings here, Ruth. The Thought of the Heart is one of the many wonderful books I've read by HIllman over the years that have so helped me to name and naviagate and thrill to divine lands within, a sort of Virgil to my Dante, harrowing the underworld wrapped in the metres. (How fitting he should die in the hallows of St. Oran's day, rejoining my patron saint and hte father of so much of my own thought.)

And as you write of your most vintage reflections on the nature of love, I remember Hillman writing of Petrarch's love of Laura as a heart-felt response to beauty. This, from The Thought of the Heart: "the soul is born in beauty and feeds on beauty, requires beauty for its life. If we read Plato the way Plotinus did, and understand Psyche the way Apuleius did, and experience soul as did Petrarca and Dante, then psyche is the life of our aesthetic respsonses..." To write poems in the language of the heart, as you so ably do, is to think three-deep, down into our deep nature, into this beautiful world we share: and are healed, somewhat, somehow, by that access, if only for the breadth and depth of a poem.

Ruth said...

Stratoz, oh yes, enlightening. It takes some imagination, freedom, and busting down of fences to look past the downers of our demons, into their bright an mischievous eyes, and see creative possibilities.

Ruth said...

Peter, yes, there is that risk! Of more clearly seeing our failings. :(

It is painful going through that slough of despond. But I have witnessed and experienced the joys of coming up the bank on the far side, of starting a new journey of acceptance. Never easy, but it gets easier, I think.

Thank you!

Ruth said...

Dear Brendan, I know how much Hillman means to you. Truly, what a gift, for a scholar to delve into myth, as he and Campbell have done, and others, and help pave the way for your work (and others, I lag far behind in the mythic lore category, but it's all right). Then you take up that banner and plumb the depths!

I had not made the connection of his passing and the hallows of St. Oran's day, but how special.

Thank you for the beautifully thumbed rendering of Hillman's writing about Petrarch and beauty. If a glimpse of beauty, a sliver of ecstasy, comes from our writing, for ourselves and someone else (glory be when that happens!), then I feel the power of our work in these pages.

I hope you are feeling better. It's good to see you.

Raven said...

What a beautiful and profound post. I was literally taught that it was wrong to love myself and it has taken many years to even begin to recognize the lie that was. I wish is were as easy to LIVE these truths as to know them, but at least I'm working on it. I think you have spread quite a bit of love here, so you are clearly mastering the skill.

Oliag said...

I got so much from reading this post and all the wonderful comments following. How to learn to love both sides of our human nature is a lifelong task I am sure...I will admit that I find it easier with the help of others but try not to lean on them too much but to offer my support when they are in need.

Lilith said...

Thank you so much for this, for this reminder, especially today when I am busy hating myself for what I have done. I've hurt another.

amy@ Souldipper said...

There's no shortcut to loving oneself. It's such an inside job!