FEATURED WRITER Dr Bhakti Murkey Sisodia's Universal Love
Love has its funny ways. We seldom know when we fall into it. We may never know whether we stay in it, fall out of it or perhaps experience the transformation it brings in us, invoking the very best or worst of ourselves. But what truly is love? Is it the sense of belongingness we feel with our near and dear ones? Is it the magic of hormones creating passion and attraction between bodies? Is it the warmth of pure friendships and togetherness? Is it the premonition that precedes lasting companionships? Or is it simply the raw emotion that mothers feel in every inch of their souls for the little lives they nourish inside their wombs before holding them into their arms? Perhaps it is all of the above.
Some loves are mandatory, like biological. We may feel hatred for our loved ones but simultaneously are bound to love them deep within, perhaps by nature of biological (blood) association or by virtue of shared chunks of life, such as prime school years, a joint business venture, or rearing a child together, or by shared needs of old age and fragility. So, in many senses, love is involuntary, instinctive and essential.
However, the caveat of ‘strings attached’ plays a pivotal role each time we allow ourselves to feel the universal emotion of love. As we begin to allow ourselves to feel something within, we also allow the potential for vulnerability and hurt. The reasons we base the strength of our loves on is rarely in our conscious awareness. More often than not, they are our hidden conditions and unspoken expectations. As humans, can we really be selfless in the pursuit of offering love or feeling loved? What happens when our love is not equally reciprocated? What happens when its foundation of trust is breached, even though accidentally? What happens when our need for belongingness is fulfilled at the cost of smothering our dreams, tastes or even identity?
It is challenging to have authentic, lasting connections. It requires us to be open to change, let go of our reinforced traditional approaches to how relationships should be and embrace certain irrationalities around us. It needs us to imbibe the higher virtues of compassion, acceptance and forgiveness while being present with our strengths and limitations. How else would relationships survive and blossom for years? The fact that millions of people have sailed through their eventful, effortful and obvious journeys of life speaks of our innate ability as humans to make it happen.
Curiously, love is used synonymously with metaphors depicting sacrifice, tolerance, unconditional support and even pain. Whether it challenges what our parents taught us, the cultural norms that make us feel senselessly secure, the satisfaction of having made favourable life decisions so far, or even our sense of logic and fairness at times; the old gospels of wisdom have repeatedly encouraged us to safeguard emotions over objects, relationships over finances and fond memories over hurtful ones. How else would we leave the world as happy souls with virtues of integrity and contentment?
There is one love that we often take for granted in our oblivion of its profound healing powers. Yes, that’s correct; I am referring to self-love. Isn’t it interesting that we are born with an innate sense of self-love as babies? This love is documented over years of research as infantile narcissism. The fact that human beings are programmed to function with this emotion at epicentre implies that we are not originally born with the ability to criticize, dismiss or hate ourselves. It is instead the external circumstances, nurturance intermingled with some tough love, or perhaps a few adverse life experiences, which shape our perceptions of ourselves and plant invisible seeds of self-doubt, eating away on our confidence.
The third wave of psychotherapy, better known as mindfulness, speaks of reviving this very inborn accepting ability in us and creating boundless opportunities to heal ourselves and those in our lives by means of our words, attitudes and behaviours. In fact, love is one of the basic principles of emotional intelligence, which claims to have saved people’s relationships and lives in unprecedented ways.
So, as we attempt to understand love and its contagion, let us remember to see flaws in people as the actual problem, not people themselves. We operate from our unconscious insecurities, driving our thinking and behavioural patterns for generations. If our love is not enough, we must learn to love some more. As love transcends from a child’s innocent longing for its mother to adulthood’s social transactions, to a parent’s unconditional acceptance, to our faith in God’s plan; may we blossom in love and spread it in all its forms in this lifetime so that we can make this birth a fulfilling one.
About the Writer Dr Bhakti is a consulting Psychiatrist from Udaipur and has been working in mental health for a decade. She has catered to the emotional health concerns of many while empathizing with her patients and encouraging them to transform their experiences into pieces of art or literature. She believes that looking at the fun side of our simple routine and counting tiny blessings in times of despair is the key to building resilience and finding happiness.
Dr. Bhakti wrote this piece as her final assignment for a for a six-week Creative NonFiction Writing Workshop.