Debunking Myths of the Mind

A little knowledge can be a risky thing.

The Psychology of Selfish Lovers

When your partner cannot give

People are often in unfulfilling relationships.  The dynamic of one partner always giving and the other always taking is common.  When requests are made for the takers to give up some part of themselves, they usually decline or flee, at once feeling alarmed and afraid.  What is the psychology that underlines this fear and what can you do about this?

Selfish lovers often suffer from feeling inadequate.  Their feelings of inadequacy run so deep that they end up feeing very ashamed.  To cover up this shame, they are internally “still” and this “stillness” drives the giver in the relationship to want to keep on giving as a form of resuscitation since the taker often feels dead.  When the taker then gives up just a little, this feels so relieving to the giver – it is like a glimpse of a sign of life.  But unfortunately for the giver, this does not last too long.

Selfish lovers are often hiding something they are very ashamed of as well.  Giving makes them feel out of control and threatened as they worry that the reason for their shame will be revealed.  With this strong feeling of having to cover up all the time, they hold onto their love very tightly because giving it up makes them feel as though they are sliding on ice.

Also, for selfish lovers, love feels like a scarce resource.  When selfish lovers give up a little love, they start to worry that the little that they are connected with will all be gone.  This is because selfish lovers are often not self connected and even when they are deeply intelligent, the one faculty that has remained undeveloped is the faculty of being self-connected.

The result of being a selfish lover is often either to find an extraordinary giver who can tolerate what feels like immense restrictive behavior or to have multiple “superficial” relationships.  This keeps the selfish lover in an unthreatened mode and they then can feel as though they don’t have to answer to anyone.  Perhaps the greatest obstruction to the selfish lover is that he or she is afraid to learn at a later stage in life. It is like asking an adult to start to learn how to swim. It is much more difficult later on life.

So, apart from avoiding the torture of a selfish lover, if you find yourself in a relationship with one, what can you do so that your entire being is not lost in trying to resuscitate his or her internal deadness?

Firstly, recognize that selfish lovers are easily threatened, so complaints about them, to them, will rarely work.  Talking it out in the usual way is not an option…at least, it takes a long time to draw someone out of this.  The things you have to do are: (1) Find other places to invest your loving energy besides the lover; this will reduce your own torture; (2) Confront your own pain and recognize things that you that need to develop.  Often, selfish lovers will respond with affection when they feel your own emptiness as they will feel less alone; (3) Differentiate between the need to resuscitate an internally dead person and actual love.  If the selfish lover brings out the craving in you, do not think of it as “life”.  Instead, recognize your own addiction to this; (4) When you do talk to your selfish lover, focus on their strengths as they are generally insecure.  Don’t let your anger get the better of you, but don’t also pretend not to ever be angry or sad.  Find the right balance for you; (5)  Also, when you talk to them, help them find things in their lives that will help them feel more self-connected.  This will pay-off in your own relationship.

If all else fails, leaving is always an option, but with your addiction to selfish lovers, you are likely to find another one, or turn them into one.  Some soul-searching may help you make better future choices.  The questions you ask yourself on this soul-searching journey (How do you live outside your craving? What are you avoiding doing by being addicted to love? How can you turn your loving energy into something hat gives back to you?) will help you get closer to your relationship goals

Srini Pillay, M.D., is the author of the book: Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School.

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