There is no deeper place in our drive to self-actualize than the need to find the love within us and share it with each other. Along with all the other ways in which we can grow into successful individuals – such as education, career, adventure or creativity – the ability to love ourselves and each other successfully brings the deepest fulfillment and liberates us in our souls.
The ability to actualize ourselves through knowing how to love well is something we have to cultivate and grow. Whether building a relationship or raising a family, there are emotional and cognitive skills that we have to know before we can fully open our hearts and find deep intimacy and successful communication.
Any journey of self-actualization moves in stages, and actualizing into and through love is no different. There are actually four stages of emotional development and love in our lives: the child, teenager, young adult and mature adult. In the ideal family and personal growth scenario we successfully actualize the love within us and between us at each stage.
These four stages of potential love and self-expression are the way are psyches are structured. They are present within us at birth, and they form the essential blueprint of our potential as well as a map to complete development and self-attainment in our life. Again, in this new psychology of love, the first premise is that we are meant to experience complete and successful love in each of the four stages of our lives while actualizing our unique identity.
This is enormously important to understand when you begin a healing journey rooted in the desire to awaken love in your life, because so many people never get past the little kid or teenager stages of development due to the dysfunction in their families. Then when they try to build a relationship or a family as young or mature adults, their wounded younger selves who didn’t learn how to love successfully show up and act out through the adult – which is one of the definitions of emotional and cognitive dysfunction.
When we are forced to move on past our child and teenage selves without having learned the emotional and cognitive skills of feeling, needing, communicating and actualizing our inner selves in an environment of conscious love, those become deeply incomplete places in our psyche. They will always show up in relationships in one form or another, usually acting out through triggered emotions that don’t seem to make any sense. So let’s make sense out of this.
The primal context in which the love and creative potential within us is meant to awaken in our families and relationships is what I call The Promise of Love. It means that whether as parents or partners, we promise to bring a conscious, loving awareness of each other’s unique self and to do no harm to each other’s unfolding lives.
Upholding The Promise of Love in our relationships means that we have the conscious emotional and cognitive skills to see and respond to each other’s emotional needs, wounds, challenges and potential. It means that we know how to honor each other with unconditional love and acceptance, and as parents it means they will do everything in their power to guarantee that their children’s lives will unfold to the best of their ability.
The Promise of Love that lives at the heart of our psyches holds both our deepest potential to open up to receive love and become whole people as well as our deepest ability to commit to giving love to the people in our lives and become fully conscious individuals who can resolve dysfunction and set free our potential. It is both what we expect from our families when they promise to love us as well as what we expect from ourselves when it is our turn to show up and consciously love another.
As I said, The Promise of Love is the primal relationship context in which we are meant to emerge as individuals, and there are only two times in our lives when someone promises to love us: when we’re born and when we go into a committed relationship. When the first Promise of Love fails or is broken and our inner blueprint of love and potential fails to actualize well, we bring that into our adult relationships. Then, when our partner promises to love us, our younger, incomplete selves suddenly show up in triggered emotions, arguments, shutdowns, affairs, substance abuse or breakups and through these behaviors are saying, “Well, if you are really promising to love me, can you love THIS?”
This is the end of the honeymoon stage in relationships, and one of the most painful and challenging life experiences to resolve because our parents and families haven’t given us the emotional and cognitive skills to successfully address the ways that dysfunction shows up in relationships. This is why we have such a high divorce rate in America. And there are proven ways to heal these patterns and actualize through love.
Again, there are only two times in our life when someone promises to love us – when we are born, and when we enter into a committed relationship. As children, we inherently know this. We have an emotional, biological, neurological, physical and spiritual expectation that if we have been brought into this life then our parents have promised to love us and empower us.
In The Promise of Love, our whole psyche expects that our parents have the emotional and cognitive skills to be fully present with us and ground us in solid personal development, to hold us safe in a world in which love works. This expectation lives at the very heart of our psyches and like our physical heart, is always pulsing within us as children.
If we have been raised to find successful love and self-actualization as children and teenagers, then we have the confidence to journey into life as adults looking forward to making and keeping the second Promise of Love with a partner and a family, knowing that we have the skills to do so. The full potential of the young adult and mature adult can be realized, laying a strong foundation for passing on those skills to the next generation, keep the circle of love alive and strong.
This, however, is not the norm. We have far more families in which the parents are wounded children and teenagers, either battling with their children over whose emotional needs are more important or withdrawn and unavailable, having given up as kids on being able to really love and be loved. And we have far more relationships ending in divorce. The Promise of Love is failing, and we need to learn how to restore it back to vibrant health.