May 13, 2011 Dreams and Death
Dreams and death have danced through my week, casting their creative shadow on my psyche. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 arrived from Netflix on Wednesday. I also picked up Dreamgates by Robert Moss from the GVR library on Wednesday. Moss discusses the connection between the living and the dead through dreams in his 1998 book. Earlier in the week I read about the death of love in Can Love Last? by Stephen A Mitchell and Intimate Terrorism by Michael Vincent Miller.
Mitchell gives many reasons why love fades over time. He says that romance, not a general feeling of love, fades because it is driven by sexuality. That rush of falling in love can cool into friendship or end up becoming a purely shallow sexual relationship. The romance is shattered when the illusions it is based on fade. When those oh so precious illusions are no more, passion can easily turn into hatred.
Mitchell goes on to explore the idea that marriages or long term commitments become scary at a certain point. It is fear of becoming too attached and too dependent one anther that drives the couple apart. It isn’t so much that familiarity is boring, as it is frightening. He believes that there is safety in anonymity of new relationships. It is the secrecy that provides the safety net. Couples often seek a sense of power outside their long term commitment. But that power and sense of security is temporary and fleeting by its very nature. As soon as the new love becomes old then it becomes scary once again.
My observations in 1993 that my insecurities were my security were in line with Mitchell’s theories. “Love,” Mitchell says, “by its very nature is not secure, but we keep wanting to make it so.
Many want to believe that if you find your so-called soulmate that love will remain fresh and new. They feel something is missing and that a change of partners will solve that lack of romance. I argue that it doesn’t matter who you are with, all that matters is finding that love inside. Most thinks love is dependent on an outside source and that once can feel different types of love for different people. But they don’t see that romance and passion he seeks can never last and that a long-term love is worth holding on to even without the passion.
Romance is filled with longing. It hinges on an intense desire for what we do NOT have. The very precondition for romance is that something must be lacking. One cannot long for what one already has. It is the lack of availability and familiarity that creates that oh so precious ache. Once you succeed in getting the object of your desire, that desire ceases to exist. It doesn’t necessarily die, but that desire then has to transform. Committed desire is different than romantic desire.
So is it hopeless then? Is love just an illusion? Mitchell doesn’t think so. While romance itself is dependent on illusion, true love does not. We may not be able to control who we fall in love with, but we can consciously make a commitment. Saying we love someone can create that love and sustain it. We can cultivate a better understanding of what makes us happy and we can appreciate fantasy turning to reality and not constantly chase new fantasies in search of the next bigger and better “high.”
Mitchell mentioned a patient he called Brett who was torn between two women. He found himself leaning more toward the woman who felt safe to him even though their relationship was shallow. Brett kind of hated the second woman in a way because he felt more for her than the first woman. It was more like he hated himself for being vulnerable to her and he hated that she already loved him deeply. There was a possibility for something meaningful with her, but Brett was scared by his feelings, so he pushed her away. How many men like Brett are there in the world? Many, I would imagine.
Miller quotes Rollo May in his book on Intimate Terrorism. “It is not power that corrupts, but powerlessness.”
Because of the illusitory nature of love, many people fail to recognize love for what it is. Romance and love are so intertwined in our collective imaginations, that we ignore the simple explanations at our disposal. Psychology tells us that we form our “limbic attractors” early in life. Our attachments or lack thereof to our parents shapes our attractions and subsequent relationships. Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin are chemical markers that tell us we are in love or falling in love. There really isn’t much mystery to it, yet we often stumble blindly through all of our relationships clueless as to what drives us and them. And when our relationships came to an end, we are often puzzled by the death of love. But true love sees past the illusions and continues to thrive. True love is all about acceptance, selflessness, and lack of conditions. True love is not the same as romance, nor is it its antithesis. No, mature, adult love is a synthesis of fantasy and reality. It is a transformation of consciousness. That acceptance and transformation is the true magic behind lasting love.
Just as with love, the only way to beat death is to go to it willingly as its equal. That is the lesson in Harry Potter—that death is nothing to be afraid of. JK Rowling shows us that love and sacrifice are more powerful than the darkest magic. Voldemort’s fear of death makes him weak, while Harry’s willingness to sacrifice himself for those he loves makes him strong. In a world so filled with magic and illusion, love is the one thing that can be counted on to be genuine and solid.