Love Lessons
Larry B. Gelman, Psy. D.

LBG1 1All of the circumstances, events and happenings associated with the gradual awakening that we are born, live and die, invite deep thought as to which developmental tasks are required of every individual to successfully navigate and integrate each of these rewarding and perilous passages.

The first crucible that birth confronts us with is the Herculean task of learning to love our Self. This is complicated because, in order for us to succeed on this test, we require habilitative and rehabilitative inputs and reactions to tasks from “outside-in” over a very long period of time and also what happens during the passage of time which is “good and true”.

If we are very fortunate, “unconditional positive regard” from our caretakers, along with their consistent and appropriate responses to our legitimate, ever-changing, needs, wants and requirements, may result in our acquiring the right kinds of healthy dependency and independency behaviors and internalizing structure, eventually, leading to genuine self- esteem.

The second crucible that life confronts us with is the Herculean task of learning to love another as much as our Self. This is also complicated because, in order for us to succeed on this test, we must now shift our conformance from external “conditions of worth” requirements to less rule-governed creation of internal “conditions of worth” requirements which are relevant, not only to our Self, but to another Self, this time from “inside-in”.

What is required to “pass” this particular developmental test, is an enduring and faithful commitment, to relative equivalence in the exchange of a meaningful relationship, over the life of the relationship, where self-interest is now a, permanently, ’yoked- contingency’ in which if it’s not good for one of the parties, then it’s not good for the relationship.

The third crucible that death confronts us with, or, should I say, the encroachment of death, which our decreasing mortality, irreverently, mirrors in our increasing decay, is the Herculean task of learning to love another more than our Self. The success of this

test can only be achieved from “inside-out” where the lived-value of love, and of loving, becomes an easy and effortless discipline with “open arms” fully outstretched hands and with absolutely “no strings attached”, including those which are invisible.

The poignant developmental challenge to succeed on this last test, is for all devotees, to transcend, the regressive narcissism of the psychological infantile position of self- centeredness and the multiply conflicting and competing countervailing forces at play

in the psychological adolescent position of self- absorption vs. a pseudo-self-serving utilitarian peer affiliation, and, hopefully, the real, healthy, mature adult in the group will quickly, but humbly, rise to the top, above the frivolous play and rivalrous fray, to gift authentic love in a wholly selfless way, and to improve the selfless gifting with time and with lots of practice, with typically, teeny, tiny imperceptible baby steps...gifting love, not because s/he must, but rather, because s/he chooses to choose s/he has no other choice!

Thou shalt, if you so choose to do, and do as so you choose, in the noble and loving ser- vice of loving nobly, of adding real value from your heart and your soul, to the bucket of the world, mattering not young and mattering not old.

Are not the true tests of love really about awakening to the actionability of our personal responsibility and of our personal accountability by learning to love my Self, learning to love another as much as my Self and learning to love another more than my Self?

Love lessons learned and love lessons lived are extraordinary antidotes to the dis-ease of loneliness emanating from self-abnegation, extrusion by or loss from a primary relationship or the devastating shunning which occurs in larger social groups whereby the other is dead to you because they have infracted one or more of the love lessons. But to love another more than your Self is to love unconditionally with open arms, outstretched hands and a loving heart. And, of course, such will be the hardest of tests to pass in the course of one’s love lessons.


Author Note: Dr. Larry B. Gelman is a Clinical Psychologist and a Personal Mentor

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