How do we first begin to experience love? Perhaps as babies, as early psychoanalysts Fairbairn and Guntrip believed, the only way we could feel loved was by having our needs met. The language of bodily transformation was the language of love. Mommy feeds us, changes our diaper or picks us up and we feel satisfied. This feeling of satisfaction and security may be the early equivalent to feeling loved. Love becomes represented by how satisfied and safe our caretakers make us feel; how easily and well they transform our bad feelings into good ones. As a result, I believe that we continue throughout life believing on a primal level that our loved ones show us that they love us by meeting our needs, and as a result, how well they meet our needs indicates how lovable we are. This is the way we reason, early in life.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” Oscar Wilde
I love this quote from Oscar Wilde. It reminds me of how difficult it is for us to stay connected to who we are in the face of our strongest motivation– connecting with others. From our moment of birth (and even before, some research indicates) we orient toward others. An infant recognizes mother’s smells, the sounds of her voice and looks intensely and searchingly into her face. What are we searching for? Infants, and all humans, are searching for love, security and connection. According to John Bowlby, we are born to move toward and follow mother (whether with our feet or our eyes) to assure our survival. Our inborn attachment system allows us to be vigilant of mother’s whereabouts and to initiate seeking and contacting behavior designed to elicit attention, help and protection. Psychoanalytic theory develops even more deeply on the concept of attachment, theorizing that our greatest need is to love and to be loved, to become a self within the context of connection with others, and to develop, grow and have pleasure through encounters with otherness.
“It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.” (André Gide)
This statement feels painful and confusing to me. I know deeply, though, how apt it is and how becoming your true self involves wearing these words everyday. Hopefully, to accept and live who we are doesn’t involve being hated very often, but it does involve facing our fears of being hated and abandoned. We are born to be attached and connected to others. Loving and being loved is what we live for. But this love often comes at a price. As babies, attachment is what keeps us safe and cared for. One of our greatest fears in life is being