Larry L. Barnhart
July 1989; Updated May 1992
Once upon a time, human language only consisted of one word: GRUNT! This word was very unique because it meant different things to different people, and no two people experienced GRUNT in the same way. Many were self-righteous about their use of the word GRUNT, but when they started mistaking poison for food, which even killed some of them, they decided that a one-word vocabulary offered disadvantages too. Since then, language has been expanded to thousands of words so that new ideas can be thought-out and then communicated to others.
In today's scientific world, we still have one final frontier of language development. Instead of the word GRUNT, we now have the word LOVE. People now declare that LOVE means different things to different people, and that no two people experience LOVE in the same way. Of course, just like in the "good old days," people suffer from mistaking emotional poison for emotional food, with many becoming sick, and some even dying. Now, like then, we need to challenge the validity of catch-all terms like GRUNT and LOVE.
What are these different experiences that are often called LOVE? Extensive research has revealed five categories: DESIRE, PITY, GUILT, POSSESSIVENESS, and PROJECTION. These are definitions that make us believe our experience of LOVE is dependent on the approval and cooperation of others. As a result, LOVE becomes a very fragile and tentative experience. Sometimes people will even commit suicide when the world won't dedicate itself of to making them happy. According to them, the world is barren of LOVE.
The good news is, "You don't have to go looking for LOVE when that is where you are coming from." When everything does go our way, and we are feeling "love," what are we doing? We are APPRECIATING OUR EXPERIENCE OF LIFE! The next question is, why do we have to wait for everything to go our way before we can decide to feel appreciation? As we strengthen our will and stabilize our psyche, we become able to appreciate our lives more consistently. This brings us to the realization that LOVE is an ability to be developed -- not something we get from others, nor is it a knee-jerk reaction to temporarily favorable circumstance. (Even when others do appreciate us, if we don't have appreciation within ourselves, we will be unable to respond to their appreciation.) Therefore, LOVE should be defined as, "THE WILL TO APPRECIATE ALL THAT IS."
Of course, the process of integrating our psyche in order to have the power to create LOVE more consistently isn't easy. There are issues to deal with like "center-of-the-universe disease," "socially-acceptable schizophrenia," using the "slide-rule of sanity," "increasing accountability while decreasing judgment," and so on. As usual, the process of learning new abilities requires work.
If people create relationships without creating LOVE, why wouldn't it be possible to create LOVE without first creating a relationship? As LOVE needs to be our experience, with or without a relationship, LOVE is not a reason to be in a relationship. In short, LOVE IS SUFFICIENT UNTO ITSELF -- RELATIONSHIPS ARE BUSINESS. No one sacrifices, and both profit handsomely.
The main obstacle to achieving the ideal of equality is the "5,000 year old con game" which has been perpetuated by many political and religious leaders throughout history in the form of the "morality of sacrifice." Sacrifice has been given to us as the ideal, but wherever there is a sacrifice, there is a beneficiary. Throughout history, these leaders have been the primary beneficiaries, while others who are not so adept seek sacrifices from their "loved ones." Today, the world has been split into givers and takers with most people accepting suffering and strife as inescapable fundamentals of life.
Between competent, creative people, there is never any reason for one to sacrifice to another. If both cannot agree, the transaction simply doesn't take place. There is no resorting to the weapons of guilt, fraud or force in order to try to get more from a relationship than we are willing to give to it. In short, it is within our power to live happy, productive and satisfying lives.
For the majority of humanity, success and happiness are the primary goals of life. Most often, they are assumed to be inextricably tied to one another. While they do compliment one another, they are much more loosely connected than is usually assumed. The old myth told us that if we became successful, happiness would automatically follow. Obviously, that has not worked, so a new myth has arisen to take its place: if we become happy we will automatically become successful. Although the virtues needed to achieve one will help us acquire the other, each requires a different focus of attention. Success is the result of mastering our outer world -- happiness is the result of mastering our inner -- world. Therefore, if we want both, we must learn to focus both outwardly and inwardly with a resolve to acquire both forms of mastery.
Another thing we need to do is discover ways to reduce our level of conflict, and thereby increase our standard of living. Presently, the major booming industries in the United States are: government, lawyers, tax planners, and mental health. These are the people we hire to intervene when we fail to resolve our conflicts personally. Our investment in conflict resolution services has been growing steadily over the years as we have been shifting our focus from doing productive work to trying to use the force of law to make others work for us. As the "big four" now take up about 50% of our real GNP, we are now working half the day to take care of ourselves and our families, and we are working the other half the day to pay for our inability to resolve our own conflicts. Therefore, in order to reverse this trend, we need to consider a simple axiom: THE MORE HOUSES WE BUILD, AND THE FEWER HOUSES WE BOMB, THE BETTER WE WILL LIVE!
Finally, there are communication techniques available to smooth out and improve the communication process. First, all conversation is therapy. Even a simple discussion about the weather can serve to reduce tensions between strangers. Of course, this isn't as efficient as direct communication, but it's better than not communicating at all. Ideally, when sharing our views, it is best to simply state our opinion as being the result of our own personal values -- not as an edict from ultimate authority. Other people aren't interested in our views when they feel like we are attacking them. Also, when listening, there are techniques of reflective listening available to help whoever we are listening to know that we have heard them, plus they get a second chance to hear themselves. When this technique is used, people will often act surprised that we know what they said even though the may have just said it. In short, anything that can be said with a volley of insults can also be said with respect and caring.