This post builds on The Seven Loves: An Introduction. In that discussion, I briefly look at the Triangle of Love (passion, intimacy, and commitment) and how these elements interact to form seven types of love: friendship, infatuation, empty, romantic , companionate, fantasy, and consummate love. I left off with the notion that of these seven forms of love we seem to see romantic love as our ultimate destination. However, romantic love is but a crossroad to consummate love (our true destination) or disillusionment. I have taken the path to disillusionment too many times. Perhaps a better understanding of romantic love will help me and others in the journey for consummate love–our true destination.
Primary references in this exploration of love are the writings of psychologist, Carl Jung and the book, WE: The Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert Johnson. WE explores the origins and meaning of romantic love and shows how a proper understanding of its psychological dynamics can revitalize our most important relationships. Johnson uses the classic love story of Tristan and Iseult to illustrate his points. I highly recommend Johnson’s book.
Romantic love can be thought of as the sensation of being possessed by love, soaring to new heights of enlightenment, and finding the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of our soul in our lover—”you complete me”. At its best, life takes on a new splendor and intensity that opens our eyes to the meaning of love. The world is brighter, we feel alive and vibrant, and are completely engulfed in love’s magical spell. We know the magic of this high…it is truly a transcendent experience. The transcendent, euphoric emotion we experience in romantic love is the ecstatic sensation the ancient Greeks attributed to the the Greek god, Dionysus. To feel romantic love is touch the psychological archetype of Dionysus.
We are also familiar with how transient and fleeting this magic spell can be. Johnson suggests that at its worst, romantic love can strip away all reality and turn our lives into a dance of illusion and endless cycle of despair as we move from one lover to another in search of another high. Once we have been possessed by romantic love, we don’t want to lose that feeling. It is like a drug-induced euphoria. We need another fix. We expect our lover to provide us with this feeling of divine ecstasy and the intense emotional connection we felt early on in the relationship. When it doesn’t always happen or fades over time, we become frustrated, lonely, and even angry at them for failing to lift our spirit…for failing us.
When we strive to rise above and beyond ourselves into something unified, extraordinary, and limitless–like the feelings around romantic love–we are having divine aspirations. When we look for this in love, we treat love as religion and our soul delivers. It is the nature of the soul to flow towards perfection.
As this relates to love, it is helpful to consider sexual archetypes. In men, the sexual archetype of an ideal woman is his Anima and she is unique to each man. For women, he is Animus. Within this ideal, each person has an innate sense of what it would mean to join as soul mates forming a divine couple. We see this union and longing expressed in poems, music, movies, and novels. We want it…we crave it. We can even scroll down our WordPress reader and see the quest for and celebration of romantic love everywhere.
The problem occurs when our inner and outer worlds collide…when we project our inner spirituality (Anima) on people in the outer world for fulfillment. Anima is infinite perfection. She is everything I want and never disappoints. When I project her on other women, she does what is in her nature. She pulls this lovely finite and imperfect being towards the infinite and the great archetypal themes: splendor, timeless beauty, betrayer and the betrayed, lover and beloved, warrior and priestess, conqueror and conquered, the protagonist and antagonist, and dominant and submissive, etc… Anima is filled with infinite extremes and contrast. Through our soul projections, we each create our own cosmic drama and epic love story into the outer world. It is an illusion.
The problem with soul projecting is that no person can sustain the projection of another’s soul indefinitely. I cannot be someone’s eternal light, source of spiritual fulfillment, and eternal bliss. I am imperfect and finite. I cannot expect someone else to be this for me either. Yet, we all do it. I call you my soul mate, and I am your soul mate. For a time, we burn like wild fire with love and passion for each other. We each sustain the projection of one another’s soul for a time but inevitably, like wild fires do, we burn out.
So, how do I handle Anima? Do I ignore her? Or, do I keep projecting her on women and riding the emotional rollercoaster on a Don Quixote-like quest for divine love and ecstasy? I can’t ignore Anima…she is real part of my inner world. Rather than ignoring her, I should celebrate and express Anima through my romantic and erotic thoughts, meditations, dreams, and art. Many of us may be doing this on WordPress knowingly or unknowingly and find it very fulfilling. In a very real sense, we are tending to our inner world and spirituality.
I will catch traces of my Anima in the real world. I should embrace and savor those moments for what they are. Sexually speaking, a woman may even role play aspects of my Anima through fantasy play and I can do the same for her. It takes open, trusting, and non-judgmental communication. Even then, as real as those worldly sensations feel, it can only be a transient illusion and we must understand this. Expecting anyone to live up to my Anima with consistency as a way of life only leads to disillusionment. If I can accept this, I can savor the moments where I taste perfection without the disillusionment that comes with expecting divine ecstasy as a state of being.
If we are able to see the truth in romantic love and recognize the dance of illusion, we may escape the burn out and disillusionment that destroys our relationships. If we can achieve this we are on the road to a consummate love. That said, we can’t dismiss the transient nature of romantic love as an excuse for being lazy in love and dismissing the importance of passion, intimacy, and romance. The interplay of this triad is essential to sustaining consummate love. We need to communicate the importance of our inner aspirations to our lover in a way that is real and sustainable rather than expecting infinite divine ecstasy as the norm. And, we need to understand our lover’s needs and inner aspirations.
Love isn’t all about me and it isn’t all about you. When it comes to consummate love, it is all about WE.