Gwyneth Paltrow may have put the term “conscious uncoupling” on the map; what about conscious coupling? What may conscious coupling be like? How will our relationships evolve when we truly understand love?
Many people “fall in love” looking for their “other half” or their “better half.” Sometimes they feel it’s their soul mate or twin flame. What is the difference between seeking love to become whole or not to be alone and receiving love that you know you deserve?
In Byron Katie’s book I Need Your Love – Is That True? she writes about how we are seeking love, approval, and appreciation but not necessarily finding it. We have all these beliefs around love, need, and worth. Even in business, we are taught tactics to attract “the right audience”. And when we don’t? We feel like crap. Like Rumi said, “your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” What may these barriers be?
Most people believe that having love in their lives and escaping loneliness depends on finding some special person. This is an ancient belief, and it takes courage to question it.
We are not alone. Whether we are actually physically alone or lying in bed with our lover, we are always with our thoughts, the voices in our head. “Thoughts create your world and your identity in every moment. If you listen to your thoughts, you’ll notice that they are telling you what love can do for you.”1
Have you stopped to ask if these thoughts are true?
This self-inquiry is The Work by Byron Katie. Doing this work initially may feel unnatural and perhaps too much like a stopgap. Some of this can be due to internal resistance (which is something else to do The Work on). Over time, it does become second nature and “believing your thoughts comes to seem more and more unnatural, a method of fooling yourself, and it becomes clearer and clearer that inquiry return you to reality.”2
The Work is based on four questions –
Is it True?
Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
How do I react when I think this thought?
Who or what would I be without the thought?
Then turn the thought around, and find three genuine examples.
Turnarounds are powerful; opening up space to help us see more possibilities in life, to see that our initial and go-to belief may not be the only one or most appropriate. This helps us be more peaceful with our lives and to move beyond defending who we think we are. It’s when we feel we have to defend ourselves that we get into trouble, isn’t it? Even escalating to warfare.
Our need to seek approval starts when we are young. We learn that with certain behaviours we receive attention. Positive or negative, it’s still connection. We shift the focus from having fun and enjoying pleasure for the sake of fun and pleasure to getting the response we desire from others. Along the way we learn to equate attention with acceptance and approval, with belonging and love.
Many people continue as adults doing back flips and bending over backwards to please others, to get ahead in life, to be loved. It becomes automatic, subconscious, and even resistant to change. In many obvious and subtle ways, we learn what is deemed appropriate social behaviour. We are taught the appropriate milestones of a happy successful life.
Your relief from suffering – your freedom – begins when you discover where you believe those thoughts in your own life.
Throughout the book, Byron Katie, with co-author Michael Katz, shares these ideas through exercises for the reader to experiment, such as merely noticing your thoughts in romantic situations – “does she think I’m a phony?” “Did I say the right thing?” “Should I have kissed her?” “Has he stopped loving me?” and so on…
Listen to your thoughts when you are with others, and what happens when you believe these thoughts. Do you have an agenda? Do you manipulate yourself (body language, laugh, voice, etc) to make a good first impression? Do you listen or are you more focused on being interesting to the other person?
Always looking for signs that you are pleasing to the other person is stressful!
When the focus is outside, it cuts us off from who we are, our emotions, our desires, and true contentment. “The outward focus also leaves unnoticed and unquestioned the inevitably painful thought that if you have to transform yourself to find love and approval, there must be something wrong with the way you are.”
Most efforts to win love and admiration aren’t coldly calculated – it’s not as if we do it on purpose. Flirtation, seduction, falling in love, and the whole romantic realm take place in a dreamy, trancelike state, alternating between hope and fear. One minute you think you may be rejected, the next minute you’re excited about succeeding. In this state you hardly know what you’re doing, and you may hide from yourself how much you pretend and manipulate.
“Falling in love” is a powerful experience. If you look back, you may remember it as a moment when you stopped seeking. You stopped because you thought you’d found what you were looking for. Your mind was no longer filled with the effort, the desperation, of seeking. What you found is what you had..and never really lost. But now you think it’s coming from another person, someone who is “the one.” When you had the crush, you found your way back to the child doing flips just for herself. That’s the one you abandoned in order to seek an identity that you thought others would recognize. What we may think of as “first love” really takes us back to love itself, which is what we are to begin with.
Who would you be without the thought that your happiness depends on someone else?
Romantic love is the story of how you need another person to complete you. It’s an absolutely insane story. My experience is that I need no one to complete me. As soon as I realize that, everyone completes me.
What readers may note as they read through this book and complete the exercises is that it is about the relationship we have with ourselves – how honest we are with ourselves and how observant we are of our thoughts and behaviours. It is also about how aware we are of the “two basic misconceptions about love” – namely, that to get love, you must manipulate others and that love is about getting what you want. These make a shaky foundation for relationships. The primary relationship is with ourselves, and with our thoughts.
What kind of relationships will we have with other people if we first developed an intimate one with ourself, overfilling with self-love and honesty?
1 I Need Your Love – Is That True. Byron Katie. Three Rivers Press. 2005.p 12
2 Ibid. p18
All quotes taken from the book I Need Your Love – Is that True