Love is one of the five primary needs of any person according to Glasser’s theory. I have to agree with him. When I look around the world, read the news (okay this is rare), talk to various people (this is often), I definitely get the sense that everyone is looking for love. At least in once sense or another – belonging, acceptance, appreciation, respect. And I agree that it is a NEED. We were created as relational people.
Even if a person is not religious, research in secular psychology has shown time and time again that mental and emotional health starts with the spiritual connection we have with one another. It begins with relationships. It begin with connection. As an example, we can look at addiction. To be technical, addiction is formed and maintained in the mid-brain, the part of our brain that dictates what we need to survive (our basic instincts). Which is interesting that research found recovery from addiction was NOT found in the mid-brain, but in the pre-frontal cortex. This is the part of our brain that makes us human – where our morality, spirituality, connection, judgement, decision-making, etc. are developed. *little fun fact – animals can become addicted to substances, but they cannot recover because they have no frontal cortex* ANYWAYS!
Now we all agree we need love, right. I can get so off-track sometimes 🙂
If we assume we all need love/belonging/acceptance/etc, then how are people attempting to do this? I will speak from my own experience (the only one I truly know) about seeking love and belonging. Although, I have found this is the case with many people. I will try to simplify my “theory” on this…
(1) I need love and acceptance.
(2) This need is so overwhelming, and I fear that I may be rejected and not receive it.
(3) Thus, I observe from others what qualities they find lovable and acceptable.
(4) I resort to people-pleasing and/or perfectionistic behaviors (based on my observations from above) in order for others to love and accept me.
(5) Others, in return, show me love and acceptance. After all, I did exactly what I knew they would love and accept.
(6) Bewildered, I do not understand why I do not feel this love and acceptance from others, even though I am receiving it on a regular basis.
(7) I still need love and acceptance. Repeat steps 2 thru 7.
In real life this may look like… Saying to “yes” to all things at all times. Getting the reputation of being such a good spouse/friend/family member/co-worker/employee. Others providing compliments on helpfulness and dependability. Cannot receive it because it was not “me” saying yes; it was my mask and my fear. I am left thinking, “Do these people really like me for me or they just like my mask that says ‘yes’ all the time? If I was really myself, I probably wouldn’t be so “helpful” and “dependable” because I would want to do things for myself. Where would that leave me with others?”
It comes down to this. How can someone love me if they do not know me? All they know is the reflection I give them. All they know is the mask I wear. When others give me love and acceptance, I feel nothing. Why? BECAUSE I AM NOT THE ONE RECEIVING IT! It is the mask I wear, the person I pretend to be, the reflection of what they find lovable who is receiving all of the love and acceptance from others. Until I am completely honest about who I am and willing to share this with others, I will not be able to receive love.
So, what do I do then? “Okay, sure I’ll be completely vulnerable about who I am, easy.” Not happening. At least not right away. First things first. I have to be honest with who I am to myself. Then, I have to willing to risk others not loving and accepting me. Inevitably, when I begin to be myself, there are going to be those that I jive with and others I just won’t. I have to willing to accept the rejection alongside love and acceptance…just writing that makes my stomach sink. Once I am courageous enough to be myself, there will be those who will love and accept me. And that is when I begin to reap the benefits…receiving love and acceptance for my true self. And I have to say, it feels good.
How about you? Do you struggle with feeling rejected even when those around you seem to love and care about you? Could it be that your mask is reaping the benefits while you are silently suffering on the inside? Are you ready to take the risk and just be you?