The world will tell you that for everything, love is the answer. And the world is correct. But the world gets the subtlety of the reasons for this truth entirely wrong.
It seems popular to say that for every problem, if you simply throw enough love at somebody, this will cure the problem. And what does it mean if you’ve thrown a bunch of love at somebody and the problem isn’t solved? Well, clearly you didn’t throw enough love at them. So more love is needed. But the problems persist, and you simply need to keep churning out more and more love.
Thinking such as this is based partly on gooey, feel-good naivety and ignorance. It happens because of the human tendency to believe that if an idea makes us feel good, then it has to be true. It just has to be. People particularly prone to forming conclusions about reality based on what they feel are artists and creative types. So, actors, writers, musicians, performers, poets, painters, sculptors, and so on, all fit into this category - and this is not the exhaustive list.
John Lennon fits into this category. You may call him a dreamer, I call him a naive fool in a lot of ways. A musical genius, but a naive fool. Going around scattering love into the air is not enough, and in this article, I’m going to explain why.
It is not a coincidence that emotional disorders run so rampant among ‘sensitive’ types of individuals. While your sensitivity is absolutely not to blame for your emotional disorder (being sensitive isn’t something people aren’t ‘supposed’ to be, and having a sensitive personality doesn’t suddenly mean your parents’ emotional abuse wasn’t abuse, or that their abuse was somehow less unacceptable), your sensitivity can indeed make it difficult to rid yourself of an emotional disorder. And because sensitive people use their feelings so much in their everyday approach to life, it can be easy for them to use feelings inappropriately.
Creative types use their feelings to create realities in their minds. I did it myself for years (and I still sometimes do it, when I have the time and the hankering), as a newspaper cartoonist. Yes, I was aware that the world within the comic strip was fiction, but to make other people fall in love with it, those characters and places had to exist within me for real. And despite the work being fiction, the comfort I got from visiting those places and characters, and spending time with them, was not fiction at all. The experience I was having was as real as the ground you’re standing on.
Emotional disorder heavily involves an improper perspective of feelings. When you have an improper perspective of a thing, a naturally-occurring result is that you will use that thing improperly. If I live with the perspective that the primary use for hammers is to dig holes, you get a sense of what I’m talking about. A naturally-occurring result of my improper perspective toward hammers means I will use hammers inappropriately - that is to say, I will use them in ways for which they were never intended.
Well, people with emotional disorders live with improper attitudes and perspectives about feelings. They do not naturally put feelings in their rightful place when it comes to their approach towards life and their understanding of it.
In other words, the legitimate purpose for our feelings is how unhealthy people fail to use them, and for purposes that feelings do not legitimately exist is how unhealthy people do use them.
For example, feelings are not what we, as human-beings, appropriately consult to understand if gravity is a real thing or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter one iota how we feel about gravity. What we feel has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on whether gravity simply does exist or not, what its true nature is, and things of these sorts.
Unhealthy people do not live this way. They base entire narratives about reality based on what they feel.
On the other hand, feelings are what we as human-beings appropriately rely upon to alert us to explore a thing further using our analytical thought. We then can mindfully come to decisions and take action. Unhealthy people also don’t live this way.
Instead of using their feelings as an advisor, which alerts them to analytically examine situations for themselves in a mindful way, and come to their own decisions about how to handle these situations (thereby maintaining full control over their own decisions and actions), they allow their feelings this authority and control over themselves. Anger flares up and tells them to punch something, and so they do. Gloom flares up within them and tells them that life is pointless, and they believe it.
Their feelings, rather than they themselves, are in control and steering that bus.
So when unhealthy people parrot the expression ‘love is the answer’ they do not naturally, or healthfully, comprehend the reasons why. They erroneously imagine that it is the giving of love which is the solution to everything. Again, if the problem doesn’t improve, it must mean that not enough love is being churned out.
The problem with this sort of erroneous premise can be illustrated by the story of Christopher Johnson McCandless. Have you heard of him?
The life of Chris McCandless was told in the non-fiction book Into The Wild, which was later made into a full-length feature film, directed by Sean Penn.
Chris McCandless had this romantic notion of hiking into the Alaskan backcountry and simply surviving off the land.
At some point, McCandless ended up finding an abandoned bus out there in the Alaskan wilderness, which he used as his shelter for a while. But eventually, hunters came across his decomposing corpse. He weighed only 67 lbs when they discovered him, and his official cause of death was ruled as starvation.
Now here’s the part that I found most interesting and that stuck with me years ago when I was researching all of this: At the time, it was speculated that the real reason McCandless died was not for lack of being able to find anything to eat. Instead, he may have eaten certain types of wild seeds containing something called swainsonine.
Swainsonine inhibits a person’s metabolism.
What this means is that if you were poisoned by these seeds, you could starve despite ample caloric intake. You could eat and eat and eat, but as long as you had been poisoned by seeds that turn off your body’s ability to metabolize the food, what good would it do you? Your ability to absorb the food in a way that your body needs is being blocked.
People with emotional disorders are like somebody who has ingested these poisonous wild seeds.
It is not for a lack of having people loving them that is their problem. No. The problem is their inability to receive it, and take it in.
You can throw love at a person with an emotional disorder all day, and all night long. It will never matter. The problem isn’t a lack of access to love. The problem isn’t them feeling unloved. The problem is them feeling themselves unlovable.
Did you catch the nuance? Not unloved, but unlovable. It means incapable of being loved.
As long as a person believes this about himself or herself, it doesn’t matter how much love you extend to them. They are unable to accept it, receive it, believe it, absorb it, and be affected by it in any constructive way.
You see, what it really comes down to is that they are unable to love themselves. And until this changes, nothing else matters. Not all of the gooey, feel-good songs, and hugs, and greeting cards, and compassion in the universe will make any difference whatsoever.
John Lennon believed that if you just extend love to everybody, that wars would disappear, unicorns would begin flying around everywhere, and all sorts of magical things would happen. But people aren’t committing atrocities around the world and acting out of hopelessness, hate, and anger because they feel unloved. These unfortunate things exist because so many people feel unlovable. Devoid of inherent worth.
I remember everybody speculating about the motives for the Las Vegas shooter not long ago. He left no explanation behind about what on earth would possess him to smash out the windows of his hotel and indiscriminately fire a machine gun down on the crowds below. I listened to ‘expert’ after ‘expert’ debate it.
It was pretty clear to me all along: The man viewed himself as devoid of inherent worth. Other ways of saying this, which mean the same thing, are: He viewed himself as a piece of shit. He viewed himself as unlovable. He viewed himself as empty and everything as pointless. He perceived himself as inherently shameful.
What are the only things perspectives like this towards oneself motivate us as human beings to do? Do they encourage us to act in great, selfless, wonderful ways?
Or do these incredibly unhealthy perspectives instead eat away at us, and encourage us to resign ourselves, to be angry, to begin to despise life and the other people in it, to lash out at the great injustices that life has dealt us?
I think the answer is as clear as day to anybody genuinely wanting to see it.
I could talk for so much longer about Chris McCandless, but for now, I will only highlight a couple of things that his life teaches us.
First of all, was it enough that McCandless’s feelings told him it was a great idea to go to Alaska and try to live off the land by himself? Well, you see how that turned out.
No, allowing our feelings to determine reality for us, and to make decisions for us, is not the appropriate use of feelings. When McCandless began feeling the romantic notion of living off the land alone in Alaska, it seems his feelings created a false reality in his head. In other words, if McCandless was feeling that these notions were beautiful and appealing, then they must be.
But what was the real reality? The real reality was that life out there was going to be hard, grueling, uncomfortable, difficult, dangerous, often ugly, and fatal if not properly prepared and equipped. This was not something just anybody could do successfully. Mother Earth wasn’t going to simply open up and lovingly care for McCandless just because he felt such wonderful things about nature.
McCandless used his feelings inappropriately, and with inappropriate emphasis. He did not balance out the scales with analytical thought. It is analytical thought we, as human beings, appropriately use to determine realities - not our feelings. It doesn’t matter how we feel about realities with regard to what those realities simply are.
Also the possibility that McCandless died of starvation, not because of a lack of consuming calories, but because his body couldn’t absorb the calories he was consuming.
Throwing love at people is not the answer. The answer is helping people love themselves; helping them see the ways that they perceive themselves as unlovable, how this came to be, all of the reasons it is patently false, and how to correct these underlying false perceptions and beliefs.