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When Love Becomes Self-Harm

Love is simple. People are complicated. Relationships are complicated. But love? Love is simple. You feel this strong pull towards someone, this thing that threatens to tear your heart apart, and it is exciting, intoxicating. You feel that this is the person that somehow was made for you. That is love, putting everything in and sacrificing whatever you have. Yes, that is love. That is the emotion and the idea moving through your body, moving through your consciousness, consuming your every thought. It gets even better when the focus of all that attention returns that same ardor.

Love is simple, but when caught up in its emotions we forget. Love itself is pure and good. There are many types of love and many ways to love. But if you strip away everything, all of the perceptions and expectations, there is nothing left but the essence. That essence does not wonder or doubt, nor does it betray; it just is.

So, is love ever a bad thing? Is it possible to love someone too much? If we're being idealistic about it, then no, you can never love someone too much. In fact, in certain cases, you can not love someone enough. But we don't live in an ideal world. We live in a world where even though we may love someone fully, that person may take advantage of that love, and that person may not reciprocate.

Love can actually be a bad thing; it can harm you. It may seem odd and wrong to say that love can hurt you, but the cliché phrase “Love hurts” reminds us that it actually can. All of the angst-ridden songs, lyrics, and stories that exist and continue to be made, are evidence of the fact that love can cause a lot of pain. There is a difference between love causing pain and love causing self-harm. That you suffer because of something your partner said or did can be painful; but this pain is being inflicted upon you, not you causing yourself to feel pain. The line distinguishing between having pain inflicted upon you and you causing pain to yourself is extremely blurry when it comes to love. And again, notice that I did not say that you suffer because of something love did or said, but because of something your partner did or said. That is an important distinction we often forget to make or are unable to make because of the cloud suffering puts over our minds and eyes. Being unable to separate love and the person you love is what does not allow many to find love in another person again. It can also make someone not believe in love. In this way, the person is harming him or herself because they are keeping themselves from experiencing something good and something that may be beneficial to their very soul. It is like you get stuck in a dark hole of coldness, loneliness, skepticism, jaded disdain for relationships and love, and it all seems superficial and worthless. Understanding that love exists independently of man’s actions can help you let go of a harmful relationship without losing hope that love will find you again.

When you love someone so much that you give everything with absolute disregard to yourself, that is when love becomes self-harm. But when I say that love becomes self-harm I do not mean love itself. Again, love itself is independent and pure. What becomes self-harming is the love you hold on to, the love that you have attached to someone, and the way your attachment to this love makes you disregard your needs (spiritual, emotional, mental needs). Putting another person first is deeply gratifying. Something about sacrificing yourself fills you with warmth and happiness. However, doing this in excess and getting to a point where you keep sacrificing and sacrificing and sacrificing, it becomes detrimental to your overall health. Depression and suffering happen despite being in love during imbalanced states of sacrifice, or when sacrificing and receiving nothing, or very little, in return. It is true that the nature of sacrifice is to expect nothing in return; however, this type of sacrifice is romantically entwined and often has hidden motives. One reason someone may constantly sacrifice himself or herself for another is to gain or keep that person’s love. So, in a way, that type of sacrifice is not the noble idea of sacrifice itself, but the result of a selfish need. Fear of losing that other person may drive someone to keep sacrificing himself or herself, and arguably it is for love, but it is also because of self-preservation, a natural reaction in aversion to pain. The question then is; how do you get over this? There are endless answers and ways to free yourself from the cycle of sacrifice and pain. You start by practicing awareness, by paying attention to the details of your thoughts, and you keep going despite the pain in your heart. Once you are aware of what is happening inside of you, it is easier to let go, and it eases the pain. Most do not make it and hold on to the relationship because they want to avoid the pain. Most forget or don’t even realize just how resilient they are and how their souls can always recuperate.


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