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#60227 - 06/12/04 05:09 PM Temporal variance of love
wrangler Offline
Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 84
Loc: Northern Virginia
I recently finished reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, in which he describes at some length his interpretation of the differences between the four Greek words for love, storge, eros, philia and agape. Naturally I started reflecting on my own relationships, and wondering into which of the categories each might fit… But I did not need much time to realize that nearly all of my relationships cannot be classified by which of the loves; rather they are better described by how much of each of the kinds of love are present. Each relationship in my life is some unique combination of contributions from each of the types of love.

Now this new understanding of the nature of affection and love in my relationships is very liberating… my sense of attraction for another person does not have to be binned and categorized and labeled; it can just exist in its own right being exactly what it is, nothing more, and nothing less. A perhaps less obvious consequence of this discussion is the subtle implication that any particular relationship should be described by one (or none) of the types of love. However, expanding the definition of a relationship to include some amount (which could be zero) of all the loves, makes it much more difficult to declare what a relationship should be. An example will serve to illustrate my point very effectively.

My relationship with one of my abusers, Robert, should be described by storge, in my case at least. Some reading this may believe that relationship should be described by no love at all, but such a difference of opinion is largely moot here, as both strive to place a narrow limit on what that relationship could have been (or even what is was). At any rate, I have previously thought storge, especially as Lewis interprets it, was appropriate because it is the love of the familiar, whether or not the object of our storge has shown us any particular kindness or done us any harm. However, in light of my present thoughts regarding the loves, I would like to consider whether my relationship with Robert (at least from my own point of view… for the present conversation Robert’s feelings or motivations are irrelevant) might have had contained some of the other types of love.

At this point I come to the real importance of expanding the definition of relationships, for it is at this point that I make a divergence from how I want to look back on the experience with Robert, and what that experience actually was. Here I land squarely on the disconnect between what feelings I wish that I had (or not had, as the case may be), and which feelings I actually had. Although consideration of the difference between those things is difficult for me, and I presume you as well, I hope that how and why that difference may have been born is readily apparent. I find it quite difficult to reflect on the things Robert did and said to me and at the same time remember that I honestly felt some amount of eros or philia for him.

But difficult or not to remember or entertain in my conscious, I did feel those things, and they were apart of my experience and relationship with Robert. And here we come to one of the most important points I may ever make here, and that is that when I start applying shoulds and should nots to my life, especially my past, I start creating an experience based, at least in part, on falseness, and worse still, falseness on several fronts. In the first place, it is not clear why I should not have felt this or that emotion for Robert, except that I base that assertion on the umbrella notion of ‘abuse is bad’. However, rather than explain why I should not have felt friendship or sexual desire for Robert, this (abuse is bad) just camouflages the irrationality of the belief. And in the second place, once the conviction that I should not have felt such things for Robert has really taken root in my heart, I will naturally begin trying to convert my memories of the experience into ones that conform to my present notions of what those memories should be. And I trust it is obvious how this would tend to move me away from truth and consequently further into confusion.

I have discussed at some length my relationship with Robert, but this has only been an example to illustrate a point. In fact, this same mechanism has apparently had influence in many other places as well, including my relationship with my mother, ex-wife, step-father, and so on. In all cases there seems to be some unexplored, almost subconscious conviction that those relationships should have been some way that they were not, and an ensuing effort to somehow remember the past in some way that is different from its reality.

And now I can finally come to the subject of this post, which is the time variance of these feelings. As I was thinking that relationships were better described by some combination of the types of loves, it quickly occurred to me that these combinations were certainly not static, but that I had been living (and feeling) as though they did not change with time. And now I had something really quite difficult to wrap my mind around, for how is it possible that I would experience the dynamic feelings of a relationship and still deny that they ever changed. Fortunately George Orwell has already explored this process in his book 1984, and I can integrate his de>
_________________________
"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." -Mary Schmich

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#60228 - 06/12/04 06:13 PM Re: Temporal variance of love
MikeNY Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/07/04
Posts: 927
Loc: NY
I understand exactly what you are saying here, and your logic fails. You are not rewriting the past. You are learning the truth about the past. Your feelings of love, which were real to you in context and perspective, were false and tainted. They were the twisted, warped, dimented lies about love which were projected upon you by a sick individual. That individual manipulated you and twisted things within you, to your very core. Every aspect of your life since then has been manipulated to at least some degree by this. You are finally starting to separate the things which were manipulated and intertwined and see how much it has truly effected your life, and EVERY relationship in it, good or bad, friends, family, lovers, people you work with, even people you disliked. You are starting to see and understand the truth. That is the healing process. There are many stages and "phases" which you will go through with this until it is complete. You are not rewriting history, you are seeing things for what they truly are. Even if you did just feel it, and enjoy it, and know it for what it was at the time, it was nothing but a lie. You were manipulated by some sick dimented person who has tried to project themselves to be within you and a part of you. That is where bad relationships, self-defeating behavior, and the cycle of abuse come from. You are not like them. You are taking steps to not be like them. You have already stopped yourself from becoming them just by doing what you are doing, healing instead of hiding. You are purging yourself of them.

EDIT:
As for the betrayal of a friend, are you sure that they betrayed you? A standard part of the self defeating behaviors is to judge and guage where love and trust are placed within the relationships of a survivors life, and to constantly monitor and test those things whille trying to learn what they actually truly are. Did your friend betray you? Or did you place them into a no win situation where they could do nothing but fail your unreasonable personal expectations?

_________________________
"Every child asks the questions which hold the answers to the secrets of the universe, WHAT?, and WHY?". --Me

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#60229 - 06/12/04 07:13 PM Re: Temporal variance of love
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
Wrangler

I haven't read The Four Loves but your thinking here is appreciated and makes sense to me. I've thought along these lines, about others, many times before: If someone has wronged me in the past and now tries to apologize and change her behavior, then I can accept that she's changed and even possibly trust that what happened before will not happen again--but that doesn't mean that a) what happened before DIDN'T happen, b) "someone else" did that, c) I am required to forgive or get over those past wrongs. There is a difference between apologizing for the past and changing for the present/future. I can accept the current reality of who she is today without discounting the hurt of the past. Both are true for me, in my mind, right now.

I've never really thought that way about my feelings about my own actions, only about the actions of others. Why shouldn't I be able to give myself the benefit of the doubt? Why shouldn't I be able to recognize change in my emotions, accept them without edits? If I felt and thought things that were damaging, if I did things that were destructive, I have to accept that it was me doing and feeling, and that I don't want to do it anymore. To say that those actions and thoughts were never really there is to take them with me wherever I go.

I think this is especially complicated for those of us who had "unacceptable" feelings of anger/hate for parents and loved ones as children and were forced to do exactly what you've just said you have a tendency to do: steer/determine our feelings rather than allow ourselves to feel what is there. We are basically taught to do this every time someone says "But OF COURSE you love your (brother/sister/mother/etc)!" Anyone telling you that "of course" you didn't/don't REALLY love your (brother/sister/mother/etc), is just doing the same thing. Even if the person telling you that is yourself.


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#60230 - 06/13/04 05:25 PM Re: Temporal variance of love
wrangler Offline
Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 84
Loc: Northern Virginia
Mike – Thanks for your reply, which has raised a very interesting question.

I wonder whether, for feelings of love (of any type) to be genuine, they must be reciprocated. Fortunately I believe this is a relatively simple question to address. Storge is the love of the familiar. Bob Edwards was the Morning Edition anchor on NPR since long before I was old enough to care about NPR. For years I have woken to his deep soothing voice describing everything from obscure musicians to some of the most important current events of this generation. Recently NRP shuffled Morning Edition around and Edwards is no longer the anchor. At this news I felt sadness and loss and knew that I would miss listening to him in the mornings. I felt a very keen sense of storge for Bob Edwards, though, since the man did not know me at all, it is clear he could not possible reciprocate the feeling.

Quote:
You are not rewriting the past. You are learning the truth about the past. Your feelings of love, which were real to you in context and perspective, were false and tainted. They were the twisted, warped, demented lies about love which were projected upon you by a sick individual …snip… You were manipulated by some sick demented person who has tried to project themselves to be within you and a part of you. That is where bad relationships, self-defeating behavior, and the cycle of abuse come from.
This is an important quote, and I am going to contrast it against what I am attempting to illustrate with this thread. Though I am about to disagree with you Mike, I am nevertheless glad you wrote it because disagreement compels careful thought and introspection.

I believe your core premise here is that Robert (my abuser) was coercive, devoid of real love, and driven by an insatiable need to gratify himself whatever the cost to those around him (myself in particular). On this point we agree completely, though I admit it is difficult and painful to accept that such an influential and prominent figure of my childhood could be characterized this way.

Although you only implied it, you also assert that Robert’s love for me was nothing, save another tool with which to manipulate and control me. I can imagine you saying that the phrase ‘Robert’s love’ is a perversion of the word love. And on this point, we nearly completely agree; I say nearly because the truth is that I really have no idea what (if anything) Robert felt. To work backwards, and argue that he would not have done what he did if he had loved me is speculative at best. However, this may be straw splitting because, whether or not real feelings of love existed within him, they were not expressed in any meaningful way; he was cruel, conniving and controlling.

You did not mention this, but I believe you and I would agree that my feelings of being loved by Robert were false. Perhaps from wishful thinking, or an unsatisfied need, or simply to cope I interpreted Robert’s behavior as an expression of affection, love and healthy desire. Such an interpretation could not be farther from the truth. The horrible reality is that he was only expressing his appetite and, in practice, loved me in the same way that I love pizza… something to be consumed… something to provide a selfish pleasure and temporary relief from hunger. Yet, I was (obviously) oblivious to this fact while Robert was abusing me; I believed I was being loved.

Here, however, is where we diverge. You stated that “Your feelings of love, which were real to you in context and perspective, were false and tainted.” There is little question that Robert was not worthy of my love and that I might have been more content loving another. However, it does not follow that, because I showered love on a monster, it was not real love. And it is on this point exactly that, if I had my druthers, I would rewrite emotional history. It is unbelievably painful and upsetting to reconnect with the fact that I did care so much about Robert. I looked forward to our time together, I sought his advice on various teenage confusions, I trusted him with personal fears and hopes, and (sadly) I felt safe with him. Those feelings were horribly misdirected, but real nonetheless.

It is also on this subject that the notion of temporal variance of feelings bites me on the ass. On the one hand, considering what I now know Robert to be, I have a pretty hard time allowing myself to have felt anything good for him, let alone love. However, the only way I can disallow that is to remember a false past, something I have actually tried, unsuccessfully, to do. Of course, now that I have stumbled onto this thread of thought, it is unlikely I continue trying to contort my memory. On the other hand, if I allow that the feelings of love (on my part, not his) were real, then I want to remember him as something that he is not. I fall into the whole ‘it wasn’t that bad’ trap. This thinking error is also headed for the recycle bin now that it has been exposed to my conscious.

I find it very difficult to remember all of the facts and feelings of my abuse history as they really were; the mix of these particular facts and feelings are so absurd and illogical and damaging that it is all but irresistible to tweak this or that detail in an effort to impose some sort of sense or reason on why teenage life turned out the way that it did. In the end though, the past is carved in stone, and there is much more progress made working through the real past, remembering new feelings or facts from the real past, than working on a false one.


Quote:
As for the betrayal of a friend, are you sure that they betrayed you? A standard part of the self defeating behaviors is to judge and gauge where love and trust are placed within the relationships of a survivor’s life, and to constantly monitor and test those things while trying to learn what they actually truly are. Did your friend betray you? Or did you place them into a no win situation where they could do nothing but fail your unreasonable personal expectations?
This taps into the idea that feelings aren’t facts. And, since they aren’t the same thing, they will from time to time be largely unrelated to one another. “She betrayed me” is, in my opinion, a contraction of “I feel betrayed by her”. And, in deciding what to do about the feeling, I suppose a lot of things must be considered. Even assuming she never actually betrays me, if the feeling frequently recurs it may be symptomatic of some other problem in that relationship; or it might simply be my own unrealistic expectations of his behavior; or it might be that some behavior of hers is somehow triggering for me… in short, feelings of betrayal are complex and worthy of attention (of some form) regardless of whether there was in fact betrayal. Of course, as survivors, I suppose we must be more vigilant still of the times when there is betrayal in fact, but not in feeling.

_________________________
"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." -Mary Schmich

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#60231 - 06/13/04 05:57 PM Re: Temporal variance of love
wrangler Offline
Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 84
Loc: Northern Virginia
Bingo, SAR. “You couldn’t have loved Robert.” Well, admittedly it doesn’t make much sense, but lots of things that don’t make sense are still quite real and true. And anyway, “makes much sense” is a pretty subjective, eye-of-the-beholder sort of phrase. I can’t count the times I have heard a depressed friend say that it doesn’t make much sense that I care about him. And even though it does make sense to me, it does not follow that its failure to make sense to him is a failure on his part. By what authority would I set myself up as the standard against which all things either will, or will not, make sense? Unfortunately many people walk around feeling like just such a standard. Alas.
Quote:
Why shouldn't I be able to recognize change in my emotions, accept them without edits?
Because, once you have the new emotion, the old one seems so foreign, so wrong, so alien to your whole being. Well, okay, this isn’t a very good reason why you shouldn’t be able to do it, but might be one of the reasons it is so freaking hard to do. Just grab any memory of some old feeling you no longer have, and try to ‘re-feel’ that feeling… in my case, can’t be done. It’s impossible for me to feel the things about Robert that I described above… I may as well try to grow a third arm. And, if I cannot feel them now, how could I have felt them then? So I would rather pretend that I just imagined feeling that way back then… that they were not real feelings. It makes me shudder to imagine loving Robert now. It seems so wrong, so perverse. My therapist has maintained an important part of therapy is reconnecting past feelings with their respective events, and, although that is not a particularly fun thing to do, I’m inclined to believe she is right about its importance.

No one ever said recovery would be a feel-good experience while it was happening. Funny how I got it in my head that it would be.

_________________________
"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." -Mary Schmich

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#60232 - 06/13/04 06:17 PM Re: Temporal variance of love
MikeNY Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/07/04
Posts: 927
Loc: NY
This all has to do with the conflicts which occur that cause all of the different types of dissociation. At the time you knew that much / most/ all of it was wrong, but that for certain reasons it felt "good" and "right". The abuser took advantage of the needs of an innocent child and manipulated everything in a perverse manor to make you want to believe that it was all "good". Now that you see things for what they really are, you, and your mind wants to justify your actions and feelings that you had which were manipulated. This causes an new conflict, and much of the anxiety and other things which are felt by survivors. Until the process is complete, where you see everything for what it truly is, and you accept the things which you did then, and have done since then, for what they truly are, and accept that some of the things which you yourself have done were not all that "good" because of how you were manipulated, you will keep trying to justify and make excuses for your feelings and actions which occured under the context in which they did. When you come to some sort of terms which are persoanlly acceptable for you, you will have reached the point in the healing process where you are able to move mostly forward in positive ways instead of being locked into and held captive by the past.

_________________________
"Every child asks the questions which hold the answers to the secrets of the universe, WHAT?, and WHY?". --Me

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#60233 - 06/16/04 12:39 PM Re: Temporal variance of love
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Indeed abusers are just so self absorbed they cannot see or care what others feel or think. And besides, the whole concern for YOUR recovery is how you feel and what you think and for YOU to learn healthy and appropriate expressions of love, not what the abuser thought. Its not important what he thought, recovery is all about YOU.

The sickest part of abusers - they manipulate the "love starved", take advantage of the needy and the naiive. Unfortunatley there are people like this in our society. I do think there is a special place reserved in HELL for people who manipulate and abuse needy kids, and an even more "special" place in hell for those who do it in the name of God (i.e. abusive priests, nuns, ministers).

The same situation you describe with Robert is true for my fiance - he had the same type of relationshp with his abuser. I dont doubt that for awhile that his abuser too was a really important person in his life. Its just so horrible when people manipulate and connive to get someone close to them and then stab them in the back in such a horrible way. It takes a LONG time to get over that loss/grief. I have had "friends" do that to me, and I am still getting over it over 10 years later. I can only imagine if a "trusted" adult abused me in the name of "friendship" and mentoring. Mind you I am the worlds biggest cynic and have been that way since i was about 4 years old. I didnt trust anyone, EVER, thanks to my abusive father.

At the time you "loved" Robert you didnt know any different. Dont blame yoruself for those feelings. You thought that he was honest and truthful and trustworthy. Dont doubt the love you felt for him, but if you do want ot analyze those feelings, try to remember that relationship was immature and manipulative, and try to AVOID adult relationships that mimic the feelings of "neediness" like those felt in a relationship with an abuser.

Adult relationships are NOT healthy if they are based in need and insecurity and a need to "feel completed". They are all about mutual respect and self growth, teamwork, and mutual support.

Also remember there is no logic to abuse, manipulation, etc. The human brain gets so twisted and contorted by trauma that you might as well give up on trying to figure this out by logic - you may never be able to do so. The key for you is to MOVE FORWARD and identify those things that were created in you as a protective mechanism to prevent further abuse (distancing and avoidance behaviour) and attack those erroneous beliefs about the world that were created by your past in order to allow you to have a more functional and fulfilling present and future. Trying to figure out the past logically is a normal human desire, a way to maybe try and avoid a future situation that was as painful as the past one. However, as I said, this stuff is so outside logic and reason you may not ever figure it out completely.

You may just have to get to the point of saying "fuck it- I cant figure this out, and what was, was.. and I need to look at what is going on NOW and work on that and put my effort there instead".

Remember you can't change the past, but you can learn from it. And also remember there is no logic to the way teenagers think either. Teenage brain is not fully formed yet there are a lot of psychological studies that show there are parts of the brain that continue to develop well into a person's second decade of life. You could be looking back now and wondering why you made certain choices as a kid or teen and analyzing your actions made with a teenage brain through your adult level brain, and you are really comparing apples with oranges. I did a LOT of dumb shit when I was a teenager, but I KNOW I didnt know any better!

I for sure know there are things I know about relating, about human interactions, about fairness, critical thinking abilities I have now that nobody ever taught me, I just suddenly became a lot smarter and wiser when I turned 26 or so. Dont blame your child or teen self for not being able to do what you can do now - it just wasn't possible.

As my mom always says about the past "you made the best decision you could at the time with the information and knowledge you had available" and even with respect to your relationship with Robert - you did make the best decision you could. You were emotinally starved by your parents and hell there's this cool guy paying attention to you, fulfilling some deep seated, unquenched need in you, it sounded really like a good deal. Its not your fault that someone more wise and powerful was manipulating and abusing you. How were you to know? Dont let ONE OUNCE of self blame fall on your shoulders for whatever you did in the past!!!!!!!! Hand ALL of that blame back to where it belongs - to your abuser.

P


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#60234 - 06/16/04 03:10 PM Re: Temporal variance of love
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
wrangler--

I haven't fully thought this through yet but now that I'm thinking about love/blame...

I think that possibly, admitting that there was real love where there is none now can take away blame, rather than cause more of it. Denying the love of the past, because of what I now know to be abuse, can result in a circular logic where I can believe that the abuse happened in the first place, or that I only thought of it as abuse in the first place, because of the absence of love. This puts some of the blame for the abuse on me and my feelings because I was wrong a) not loving this important person and b) acting against my feelings. (I know all of the ways in which this makes no sense. I'm just saying it's a possible and for me, common, emotional reaction.)

When I recognize that the love, or mix of love and whatever anger, fear, etc., I had, were out of my control, and valid, no matter how I feel about it now, I can better take the wonderful advice of PAS and her mom and stop blaming myself for my history.

SAR


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#60235 - 06/17/04 10:48 AM Re: Temporal variance of love
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Originally posted by SAR:
wrangler--

I haven't fully thought this through yet but now that I'm thinking about love/blame...

I think that possibly, admitting that there was real love where there is none now can take away blame, rather than cause more of it. Denying the love of the past, because of what I now know to be abuse, can result in a circular logic where I can believe that the abuse happened in the first place, or that I only thought of it as abuse in the first place, because of the absence of love. This puts some of the blame for the abuse on me and my feelings because I was wrong a) not loving this important person and b) acting against my feelings. (I know all of the ways in which this makes no sense. I'm just saying it's a possible and for me, common, emotional reaction.)

When I recognize that the love, or mix of love and whatever anger, fear, etc., I had, were out of my control, and valid, no matter how I feel about it now, I can better take the wonderful advice of PAS and her mom and stop blaming myself for my history.

SAR
In my own abuse history-laden-past I have been stuck in the self blame-go-round too. Despite my advice here I too still believe there's some part of me that is really bad or awful and deserved all the stuff that my dad said to me (he is a big time verbal abuser). There's a big part of me that believes everything that he said, it seems to fulfil the logical analysis of the situation.... i.e. "I was an asshole and still am therefore what he did was justified, because if only I was better if only I was smarter if only I was happier if only I didnt do this and this then he would have loved me because he is a great guy... case closed". Easy logic, right?

What I have come to realize is that self blame and rational analysis to justify it is another coping technique - turning the anger onto myself is yet another unhealthy way to cope with the situation because in order to really acknowledge the hard cold reality of my past - the fact that my dad was NOT a loving man and that he really did not have the ability to have my best interests at heart, and that he turned on me verbally and psychologically and he abandoned me emotionally through alcohol and drug use and tried to do so physically through suicide attempts is just so hard to accept. Its so painful to think that I personally was not important enough to him that he would even want to stay ALIVE is just crushing. That little child in me sometimes still wants to be saved, to be protected, to be redeemed, and I want to believe sometimes the picture perfect "my childhood was great" crap so much that I dont want to look at what it really was, and so the whole "it must have been my fault, my parents were really great and I was the one with the problem" crap makes sense and allows me to believe the "white picket fence" fantasy of my childhood.

Its hard to admit what REALLY happened to us when we were being abused as kids - the anger and rage and grief and all of those emotions are so hard to deal with and they can be so incapacitating that they could actually hinder our success in the world - at least for a time, or from time to time. Naturally we will use the coping technique of self-blame during those times we are not strong enough or centred enough or supported enough to allow ourselves to grieve and feel that we will actually get over the pain of the loss of our innocence of our childhood, of what we rightfully deserved - to be protected as kids.


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