Perils of Excessive Love

As is obvious, I love words. They speak volumes too us, but only if we are willing to break them open and let their meaning flow. Someone once said that to make a poem just grab a word and pull on it. It is the “pulling on it” that breaks it and lets its hidden riches spring forth.

Now we can’t do this with all words! That would get absurd. But key words, words that portend great value merit some of this “pulling”. I would like to focus briefly on the word “love.”

It is so easily used and has become so common place that often it has no value. For example, two people meet and find each other attractive, they are consumed with lust, and they “do the deed”, and ipso facto they announced, “Oh, we are in love!” Well, perhaps but only time will tell.

In my clinical practice, in my personal experience, and in my reading I have seen so many examples of horrible things take place under the name of “love.” For example, I’ve seen parents control and manipulate their children to keep them dependent on them, to keep them safe from “this evil, dangerous world”, when their real intent was merely to keep them from leaving home. I’ve seen this “invertedness” so extreme that at best the only “marrying-out” that could take place was to marry and pull up a double-wide next door to mom and daddy. I’ve seen extended families living in double-wides on a small plot of land. I’ve seen marriages gravely impaired because the primary emotional attachment with one of the partners was still with his/her mother.

A popular bromide is “love holds with an open hand.” It is often hard to love with that in mind as our own neediness is to powerful; and neediness is part of the human experience and even a component of love. But when neediness becomes paramount it could devour the other person and everyone in its path. Tangentially related, W. H. Auden asked, ‘Suppose we love no friends or wives, but certain patterns in our lives?”

C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce describes one mother’s love as being so needy and so oblivious to the reality of her son that she is willing to “love” him into hell itself. He described this “excess of love” as a “defect”, noting “She loved her son too little, not too much….But it well may be that at this moment she’s demanding to have him down with her in hell. That kind is sometimes perfectly ready to plunge the soul they say they love in endless misery if only they can still in some fashion possess it.”


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