Love Is Not a Substance

One of the deepest and most common fears is the fear of not being loved.

Posted Dec 21, 2011

One of the deepest and most common human fears is the fear of not being loved. Our language encourages us to think of love as a substance, something that can be given, something that can be received, something that can be taken away. We imagine that love is like a pie that can be cut into slices and eaten up. Some slices may be larger and juicier than others and these contain more love. The bigger your piece, the less there is for me. This false image of love as a pie is masterfully laid to rest in a short story by Amy Bloom in which a dying mother explains to her daughter that she shows up differently with each person she loves and that there's plenty of love for everyone.

In reality, love is not an object. We can feel it, but we can not touch it. We can not see it, but we can observe its effects. Like oxygen, the presence of love is life enhancing, and has a measurable impact upon the body. Unlike oxygen, love is not an odorless and tasteless gas that can be metabolized and used up. Love is not diminished by its expenditure, but like well-invested capital, the more we use it, the more it grows. If we understood that love is a frequency, a vibration, a state of consciousness, which can be summoned at will and is totally inexhaustible, our fears of losing love would lose their power over us.

This kind of love is like a radio station, broadcasting twenty-four hours a day. You can always tune in to the love channel. Like a radio broadcast, love is available to an unlimited number of listeners. All that's required is that you find its signal on the dial of your built-in receiver.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? And it is, unless your dial is mislabeled or your antenna has been retracted. If you have grown up confusing love with attachment, dependency, sexual attraction, romantic illusion, lust, infatuation, or obligation you may be tuning to the wrong station. You keep hoping for some really upbeat, feel good music and instead you're getting an all news station. If on the other hand, you haven't learned the arts of trust and surrender, you may have difficulty getting a clear signal. One minute it's sounding great and the next all you have is static.

One of my clients, a woman in her fifties with five grown children, mistakenly believed that "if you love someone, you're supposed to take care of them." After mothering five children, it seemed natural to Sally to take care of her new boyfriend, Jeff, in the same way she'd taken care of her little ones. For several years she offered financial and emotional support, cooked for him, shopped for him, and expected nothing in return except his "love." Jeff was by nature a very emotionally expressive and communicative man. He complimented Sally often and bought her presents. He shared his feelings and was always available to listen when she'd had a hard day. Like her children, Jeff came to rely upon Sally to meet his basic needs. For the first time in her life, Sally felt loved by a man. And she craved this so much she ignored the unwritten contract she knew existed between them.

When the Jeff became dependent on her support and she became attached to his company, Sally called it love. Jeff began to feel obligated and resentful. When he left her for a woman who didn't care take and "made him feel like a man" she was heart broken. "I was under his spell for a long time," she lamented. But we could also say that rather than being his victim, she was an unconscious participant in the cultural trance that mystifies attachment and dependency by calling them love.

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a baby who is old enough to focus their gaze and young enough to be innocent of separation, judgment, and blame? This is the vibration of love. Pure, unconditional, natural, no strings attached love. There are no words to be exchanged, nothing required other than the willingness to be there and feel what's present. At any moment a sudden movement, sound, or bright light may distract the baby's attention away from you, but it doesn't matter. Once you've tuned to this frequency you can take it with you.

Most people believe that love is about getting your needs met or feeling appreciated, valued, and secure. There is nothing wrong with wanting these things and nothing wrong with getting them; most humans want this very much. The first mistake we make is in thinking about love in terms of what we will receive rather than what we will give. This mistake is compounded when we imagine that giving and receiving, wonderful as they are, are a substance called love.

Excerpted from The Seven Natural Laws of Love, by Deborah Anapol and appears by permission of the publisher. This material is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.

About the Author

Deborah Anapol, Ph.D.

Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D., is the author of Polyamory in the 21st Century and other books.

More Posts