1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

How to handle the tremendous power of romantic love? February 12, 2010

As many of you have learned from my earlier posts on the awesome book of Robert A. Johnson “Understanding the psychology of Romantic Love” (here and here), romantic love however attractive and delightful it may occur, brings more destruction than happiness.  Romantic love being the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche, is a tremendous power that attracts. If we can learn how to use it in a constructive, not a destructive way… may be the make up of the modern Western society can change for the better!

Let’s see the Johnson’s implications on the channeling of romantic love, please enjoy the way the author is unfolding it, so beautifully and truly:

 Romantic love is a spiritual power

Romantic love is one of these truly overwhelming psychological phenomena that have appeared in Western history. It has overwhelmed our collective psyche and permanently altered our view of the world. As a society, we have not yet learned to handle the tremendous power of romantic love. We turn it into tragedy and alienation more often than into enduring human relationships. But, I believe, if men and women will understand the psychological dynamics behind romantic love and learn to handle them consciously, they will find a  new possibility of relationship, both to themselves and to others.

When we “fall in love” we feel completed, as though a missing part of ourselves has been returened to us; we feel uplifted, as though we were suddenly raised above the level of the ordinary world. Life has an intensity, a glory, an ecstasy and transcendence.

We seek in romantic love to be possessed by our love, to soar to the heights, to find ultimate meaning and fulfillment in our beloved. We seek the feeling of wholeness.

If we ask where else we have looked for these things, there is an answer: religious (spiritual) experience. When we look for something greater than our egos, when we seek a vision of perfection, a sense of inner wholeness and unity,  when we strive to rise above the smallness and partialneess of personal life to something extraordinary and limitless, there is spiritual aspiration. Here we are confronted with a paradox that baffles us, yet we should not be surprised to discover that romantic love is conncected with our religious instinct – for we already know that courtly love, as its very beginning so many centuries ago, a way of loving that spiritualized a knight and his lady, and raised them above the ordinary and the gross to an experience of another world, an experience of soul and spirit.

Carl Jung discovered that each person’s psychological structure includes an independent “religious” function. This does not mean there is a need necessarily to follow a particular creed or dogma. But it means that each human being comes with an inborn psychological urge to find meaning in life. Jung saw that most Westerners, although they consciously only believe in what is physical and rational, have dreams and fantasies overwhelming with symbols of those very qualities that people used to seek in their religious life: symbols evoking a sense of wholeness and a vision of a world larger than the ego.

Why we look for Divinity in each other

We only need to look at the love stories, the poetry, the songs that came from the romantic era, and we find that man-in-love has made of woman a symbol of something universal, something inward, eternal, and transcendent. He sees a special reality revealed in her; he feels completed, ennobled, refined, spiritualized, uplifted, transformed into a new, better, and whole man. The great romantic poets do not hide this fact; they proclaim it. Why is it that modern men won’t admit what earlier men openly proclaimed and even idealized? It is because we won’t consciously give a place to spiritual aspiration in our modern lives. We aren’t consciously interested in wholeness – only in production, control, and power; we don’t believe in the spirit – only in what is physical and sexual.

When a man’s projections on a woman unexpectedly evaporate, he will often announce that he is “disenchanted” with her; he is disspointed that she is a human being rather than the embodiment of his fantasy, He acts as though she had done something wrong… Our culture trains women that their role is not to be human being but to be mirrors who reflect back to a man his ideal or his fantasy. She must struggle to resemble the current Hollywood starlets; she must dress and groom herself and behave in such a ways as to make herself into the collective image of anima (soul). She must not be an individual so much as the incarnation of men’s fantasy. Many women are so accustomed to this role that they resist any change in the arrangement. They want to go on playing the goddess to a man rather than be a mortal woman: There is something appealing about being worshiped and adored as a divinity.

It is a momentous discovery that we have taken our instinct for wholeness and project it completely into our loves. We have taken the imago dei out of the temple, out of heaven, and suddenly relocated it here in our midst, contained in the relationship between two human beings. This is why men and women put such impossible demands on each other in their relationships: We actually believe unconsciously that this mortal human being has the responsibility for making our lives whole, keeping us happy, making our lives meaningful, intense, and ecstatic!

 OK, it is a spiritual power. Then how to live that?

One of the great needs of modern people is to learn the difference between human love as a basis for relationship, and romantic love as an inner idea, a path to the inner world…  One may follow this path by traditional religious practice, by meditation, by yoga, or by Jung’s active imagination. But it requires an inner practice, an affirmative soul-life, actually lived day by day.”

(image by me)


13 Responses to “How to handle the tremendous power of romantic love?”

  1. axinia Says:

    It fascinates me personally how Johnson analizes the phenomenon of romantic love and concludes on it’s spiritual nature. Amazing!

    Basically, in terms of sahaj, the idea is very simple: as soon as we LIVE our left side ( Spirit, love, compassion, emotions) – both men and women – we don’t need to wait for somebody (a so called dream partner) who will fullfill all our desired and make us happy. WE ARE COMPLETE already. And we are human beings, not gods (yet :)…so why don’t see a human being and not an ideal/dream/fantasy is the spouse?

    Johnson has made a very good point on this typical Western feature: we like to wait for someone to come and make us happy. In reality, the happiness is always there, within us. Surely, having a loving soul next to you is a great pleasure, but I agree that we should never make anyone responsible for our happiness. And that is what many of us, unfortunately, do.

  2. both men and women – we don#t need to wait for somebody ( a so called dream partner) who will fullfill all our desired and make us happy

    If that’s the case, Axinia, then that should completely nullify the need for marriage, wouldn’t it 😕 Why does a man or woman need to get married if there is no need for a “so-called dream partner” 😕

    Is marriage then only meant for purposes of breeding and satisfying a person’s sexual needs??? The latter can be met without marriage, so that should reduce marriage to the only purpose of being an ordinary, lowly breeding contract. Then what’s the difference between the herds of wild animals that roam the jungles and mate with others of the herd for the sole purpose of breeding and humans?

    Most animals cannot feel the concept of romantic love. They can only feel an urge to breed, as that’s necessary for them to multiply their herd. I know humans are also animals (and often behave worse than the so-called “wild” animals), but there are a few things that humans have which most animals don’t. Romantic love is one of those few.

  3. But one of the great needs of modern people is to learn the difference between human love as a basis for relationship, and romantic love as an inner idea, a path to the inner world

    Human love can be the basis for any relationship, but there is only one form of human love that should be the basis for a marital relationship and that is romantic love! Any thing else cannot be qualified to be the basis for a loving marital relationship. How can ordinary human love that one may feel for everyone ever be the basis for a marital relationship 😕 Brotherly/sisterly love or parental love or friendly love or even love for a stranger can never be the basis of a marital relationship, can they 😕

    • axinia Says:

      I find it strange, Raj that you totally miss the point here. Ther are already 3 (!) posts about romantic love here and you still don’t see the difference between the romantic love and human love? I am surprised because you usually seem to read carefully all my posts…

      It is NOWHERE mentioned that human love is “brotherly/sisterly ” love, isn’t it?

      Moreover I wonder if you know what romantic love is by oyur own experience? Are we talking about one and the same thing or we mean totally different things?

      • I think you’ve misunderstood me, Axinia 😦 I’ve never tried to say human love is brotherly/sisterly love alone 😐 Human love includes ALL forms of love and that includes(!) romantic love. In other words, human love is one huge set and romantic love is one (special) subset of that human love. That’s what I meant to say when I wrote but there is only ONE FORM of human love that should be the basis for a marital relationship and that is romantic love!

        I’m also beginning to wonder whether we mean the same things by romantic love and human love 😕 I get the feeling that you think romantic love is not human love, but some kind of imaginary, nonsensical day-dreaming myth that is responsible for the (very recent phenomenon) of high divorce rates and broken families in the West. If romantic love between two humans is not human love, then what is it 😕

        • axinia Says:

          good question, Raj 🙂

          The simple difference is that romantic love is what people call “to fall in love” (even when we think of this term, it’s FALLING!)…this happens very often to most of people in the west, it is a very exiting feeling and what scienties say on a biological level it looks like a sickness, because the hormomes and all systems are in a constant “alarm” state 🙂 The typical sign of it that one day you definietely “fall out of love”. So at some point all this stops… It feels like a strong drug, and many people do lot’s of stupidity to get this feeling back (normally you can’t get it back with the same partner, so you have to seek another one, then another one…and so it goes on)… That is he danger of it, it desptoys families, relationships, brings betryal or what they call” brocken hart”. Great pain…

          As for myself, I think I only had this feeling once when I was 12 🙂 I fell in love with one boy on summer vacation… Since then, I was lucky enough to experience the GREAT TRUE LOVE which has nothing to do with this silly “falling in love” and works in a diffent way. If you remember one of my old posts, I compared these two like faling into the waterfall and swimming in a ocean.

          I hope the point in clearer for you, Raj…:)

          • As for myself, I think I only had this feeling once when I was 12 🙂 I fell in love with one boy on summer vacation

            That clears everything, Axinia! 🙂 I now understand what you mean. It looks like you’re referring to what I’d call as infatuation, crush or puppy love. It’s a silly, temporary, adolescent and fleeting (but intense) feeling one has towards certain members of the opposite sex, especially when one is becoming an adult.


            This has got nothing to do with romantic love as far as I’m concerned 😐 The two are completely different and should not be mixed or confused with. While infatuation is a fleeting phenomenon that achieves nothing, romantic love is the true love that helps one to find one’s life partner.


            IF the question is not too personal, Axinia, I guess you did not have an “arranged marriage”, but found your husband by yourself through the phenomenon of love (what I’d call as romantic love), didn’t you?


            • axinia Says:

              Dear Raj, still I have a feeling we are talking about different things…Although I expeirenced the romatic love only at 12, many people I know keep experiencing it throughout their lives, many a times.
              And many do believe that this feeling of romantic love can help to find the life partner. Unfortunaly far too many fail, because this “falling in love” (however attractive and “true” it may seem for the moment) does not serve as a proper base for a healthy, happy marriage.

              As for myself, sorry to dissapoint you Raj, but I did not choose my husband on the base of romantic love as you may suggest….I had an arranged marraige and both me and my husband are very happy about it 🙂

              • I still feel it’s infatuation you are referring to, Axinia, as this “falling in love”. That’s what usually happens during the growing-up years, like 12, when one is still a kid. Infatuation is pseudo-love and cannot be counted as true romantic love. And the people you mention who keep experiencing “romantic love” so many times in their lives with ease could well have been experiencing NOT love, but plain lust. Of course, if relationships are based not on romantic love, but silly things like infatuation and lust, they don’t last. That’s why only romantic love can serve as the basis for a genuine, true, happy relationship 🙂

                Why are you concentrating excessively on the word “fall” in the term “falling in love”, Axinia 😕 It’s just one of the peculiarities of the wonderful language of English! 🙂

                If you aren’t convinced, please consider this. Some mystical people perform whirling dances as a form of attaining a meditative state. Such mystics are said to “fall into a trance” at the moment they attain their meditative state. Do you think that such a meditative mystical trance state is undesirable just because it is called “FALLING into a trance” 😕 I bet you won’t say that! 😉


                • axinia Says:

                  a meditative state is never a trance. In a meditation one should be always aware, totally consious (trance is the opposite!).
                  Falling in Love is a kind of transe, correct 🙂 But by no means it is the true love.

              • Though my guess was incorrect, I’m NOT disappointed at all, but only delighted to know that you and your husband were able to find true happiness in an arranged marriage, Axinia! 🙂

                I have nothing against arranged marriages. In fact, like nearly everyone of their generation, my parents too had an arranged marriage 🙂 Now, I observe that arranged marriages seem to be around 50% or so. Hopefully, in another generation or thereabouts, this kind of system would become almost extinct. It’s just that in the uncouth “cultures” of the sub-continent and the Middle East that are insanely obsessed with such a system, they can become a gigantic, decadent and deadly mess.

  4. While I disagree with Mr. Johnson on most things, I certainly agree with him on a few things.

    One is that the more civilised societies (not necessarily the “West” alone) all have romantic love play a big part in building them. It’s only in the primitive, semi-civilised, barbaric parts of the world where romantic love has very little meaning as the uncouth, rapidly overbreeding hordes that (over)populate such places get married mainly for the purposes of breeding and exploding their already bloated population figures.

    Two, Mr. Johnson must certainly be correct when he mentions that romantic love originated from mediaeval courtly love. I didn’t know how and when the civilised societies changed their attitude towards women in the course of their evolution. Now I do, thanks to Axinia and Mr. Johnson. It was when the concept of romantic love (descended from courtly love) became a mass phenomenon, that the uncouth ideas towards women changed and they developed a modern, civilised attitude towards one half of humanity. This is what makes the civilised societies civilised. And the reason behind that is romantic love.

    You see, Axinia, the primal instinct of man is to view a woman in two ways. One is as a “whore” and the other as a “goddess”. It’s only secondary that the positions in between these two extremes occur.

    When humans were cave-dwelling uncouth savages, a man would view all women as “whores” whom he could breed with. Just like all the wild animals that surrounded him. Only later in the evolution of humans into civilised beings did he develop the idea of viewing a woman as a “goddess” and this was to those whom he could not view as “whores”, like his mother, grandmother, sister etc.

    This sorry situation still exists in the uncouth societies of the world. Except those few women that they cannot view as a “goddess”, the uncouth men that exist in the semi-civilised parts view as “whores” and this includes their wives. That’s the reason why women have a very low status in the uncouth, semi-civilised socities of the world. That’s why things like “eve-teasing”, “dowry deaths”, “female infanticide” and other sub-human practices exist in the uncouth societies of this world. For the hordes of uncouth men in such socities, except a few women, all others are “whores” who deserve very little respect, including their wives. That’s why women in the uncouth parts of the world lead such a pathetic existence.

    By contrast, in the civilised societies, due to the phenomenon of romantic love becoming common, men began to even treat the ones that they loved (who later became their wives) as “godesses” and not “whores”. This is in accordance with what Mr. Johnson says. When this phenomenon became common, the status of women naturally shot up and they began to be respected as equal members in society. That’s how women in the civilised societies lead much, much better lives than the pathetic, sub-human existence of their sisters in the uncouth parts of the world. They definitely have to thank the concept of romantic love for that.

    So romantic love has had a huge role to play in civilising societies and the ones that missed the bus in developing the concept of romantic love remain uncouth, savage, sub-human, primitive, and a sheer disgrace to humanity 😡


  5. kush Says:

    Classification of Love into Human/Romantic is one of the ways of doing it. Another could be by classifying it as Love with expectations in return/Love without any expectation in return or Attached Love/ Detached Love.Basically sex was created solely for procreation and not for pleasure.Of course that does not imply breeding for the sake of breeding relentlessly but
    to bring forth progeny which is brought up on teachings of Love and not hatred.
    Problems we face is basically because sex is being viewed and used as a means of deriving pleasure and this is actually the basic human failing.

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