Archive for February, 2008

Love and need

Love is not need, and the two should not be confused. The feeling that we need someone, along with the desire for that someone to need us, is harmful and must be replaced. A stable relationship is based on the mutual desire for the other to be happy. It is not based on the desire for the other to make us happy. This latter desire can never be fulfilled. The idea that someone else can make us happy, or that someone else can fill some void within us, is a red herring. We can only do this for ourselves.

Therefore, whenever we believe that we need someone, we must fight this belief. We must acknowledge that we do not in fact need them, and that if they were hit by a bus then we would still survive. Knowing that we can survive alone, and indeed that we can be happy alone, does not make our love any less. There is a big difference between knowing that we can be alone and actually wanting to be alone. If we drop need, it makes our love stronger. It means that we are with our partner because we love them and because we want to be with them, and not just because we need them. It also reduces the anxiety and fear that they will leave us, whether by choice or not.

Similarly, it is foolish to desire that our loved one need us. Such a desire arises out of fear. We may think that our sense of security is increased knowing that our partner cannot leave us because they need us. However, really, it is much more flattering to know that our partner is with us because he or she loves us. Although it might seem scary to think that our partner does not need us and could walk away at any time, we can also take immense reassurance in the fact that they choose not to.

Hence, we must always be careful to distinguish between love and need. Although they are often confused, they are very different. Love is an open and generous emotion based on genuine caring and compassion. It is unselfish and makes no demands. Need, on the other hand, is a constrictive and selfish feeling based predominantly on fear. True love cannot flourish alongside this feeling.

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Dealing with irritability

When we feel irritable, the mind is restless and dissatisfied: anger is never far from the surface. In this state, we react unreasonably to the slightest provocation, and our lives are generally miserable. Clearly it is important to deal with irritability and to stop it from arising. How do we do this?

Irritability arises when 1) we have some idea of the way that we think events ought to be happening, and 2) events are not happening that way. It is essentially a problem of not accepting situations, and to fix this problem we must learn to go with the flow and to take things as they come. As said by the Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness, “If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it….Alternatively, if there is no way out, no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you can’t do anything about it anyway.” This sound logic simply states that we must learn to accept whatever happens unless it can be changed. Furthermore, if it can be changed, we should focus on changing it rather than being irritable about it.

Why are we so bad at simply accepting unpleasant situations? For some reason, we have the mistaken belief that life can and should be perfect. This belief must be challenged. We need to realize that things will sometimes “go wrong” and that others will sometimes disagree with us. Life is not perfect. Just as sickness and death are an inevitable part of life, so are mistakes, disagreements, and all those other causes of irritation. If we want to accept imperfect situations, we need to realize that life was never meant to be perfect in the first place.

Thus, when we find ourselves becoming irritable, we must remember that life is imperfect and that we must accept whatever happens. Furthermore, we can question whether the situation really warrants such misery and agitation, and why we would want to spoil our mood for it. If we are still unable to dispel the irritability, a final option is to simply laugh. Laughing at life is a wonderful antidote to irritability that goes straight to the heart of the matter and recognizes that none of this is that big a deal. This realization is an important realization to make if we wish to lead a relaxed and peaceful life.

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