Wednesday, 22 March 2017

You Can't Love Yourself

Last night, I presented at a local NLP Practice Group. It was a smashing evening, made so by the highly intelligent and engaged audience.

The discussion raised a very interesting point about self-worth, which I want to explore further here.

The essence of the situation was that many people dream of pursuing work of value and purpose, however they 'go round in circles' and fail to achieve their dream, citing lack of money as the barrier. The average man in the street would stop listening at that point and start giving advice on how to get more money, how to save more money, how to economise and so on. But we are not the average man in the street, are we, dear reader?

We know that the issue of 'money' is a red herring for a very simple and obvious reason - 'money' does not exist. Money is a concept, a trading system created to swap pigs for wheat via an abstract intermediary. Therefore, money is not the issue, the issue is what you want to do with it.

However, the important point of the evening was the relationship between money and the value of a person. We explored the issue of self-worth and self-love, and I said that it's not possible to love yourself. A lady in the middle row challenged, "That's not true!", so I want to explain further.

A grammatically correct language structure, in English, must have a Subject, a Verb and an Object, exclusively in that order. Language is flexible enough that we can move things around, or understand the language of a tourist who asks, "Me tell way the Piccallily Surface, yes please?". Critically, we can leave words out, and the receiver still understands what we're talking about. Or do they? Actually, they fill in the gaps from their own expectations and experience, so in a way, what they actually understand is themselves.

Now, the 'SVO' language structure reflects our observation of life; someone or something does something to someone or something. Note that the subject and the object are different, they cannot be the same. A chair cannot sit on itself. A person cannot carry themselves. We use that phrase as a metaphor for the way that a person moves with confidence, but a metaphor is not the same as the literal structure of the language.

Let's explore some things that I love.

I love my car.

I love my children.

I love myself.

The word 'my' indicates a possession, a separate object that is somehow secondary to the subject. You know right away that my car is not me, and my children are not me. So, logically, my self is not me. My self is some kind of representation of me. A projection. "I love the way that I look in my new orange shirt" is different to "I love me".

The action cannot be recursive, it cannot apply to itself. I can love you, and you can love me, these are two distinct transactions. I can love someone who does not love me, someone can love me who I do not love back.

The notion of value has three dependencies; a valuer, a thing to be valued and a unit of currency. An employer does not own you, they do not buy you, they offer you compensation for an amount of your time within a contractual relationship which specifies the things that you do and the things that they will do in return.

A Ming vase cannot value itself, and in any case, who decides that it is worth a million pounds, or whatever it is?

You cannot love yourself, and you cannot value yourself, so here is the central paradox.

You can be loved by other people, and for that to be possible, you must accept that they have free will and can love whoever they like, and if they choose you then that's their lookout.

You can be valued by other people, for your time, for your skills, for your sparkling wit, and for that to be possible, you must accept that they will find their own value in their experience of you, and if they don't then they can shuffle off somewhere else, and that's fine.

If you do the things that you think other people value or like then you are trying to be who they want you to be, and you are not being yourself, and in fact this is not a way for you to pander to that other person, it's a way for you to control them. If I do what this other person likes then they will give me what I want.

If you have to do something in order to get someone to love you, it's because your default position is that they don't, and if that's someone you don't know very well (i.e. everybody) then that can't be because of them, it must be because of you. It must be because you are unloveable. However, people learn to be unloveable at such an early age, before their episodic memory starts working, that they unknowingly create scenarios in their lives to prove that they are lovable, and in so doing, prove that they are not, which is true.

It's true because you are not inherently lovable or unlovable. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there's someone for everyone and so on. You are just you, just the way you are and so on. If someone else relates to that and values you or loves you, great. That's their free choice. The vase doesn't get to choose its valuer, and you don't get to choose who falls in love with you.

The bottom line is very simple, and it's what the gurus have been telling us for thousands of years - if you want to feel loved, allow yourself to love. If you want to be valuable, find value in others. Be the change that you want to see in the world.

Now, we could break this down into a more modern metaphor, about neuroscience, and the way that our minds and bodies form an electromechanical 'servo system' which self corrects to achieve a target state by comparing inputs and outputs in order to resolve differences between the current state and the target state, and we could see from this that the way to feel loved is to see love in the eyes of another person, and if you just think logically for a moment, if everyone only loved themselves, they would still be very lonely, then you might see why we can't love ourselves. I can try to project love towards a representation of 'me', but that's just not the same thing as expressing love, and seeing, hearing and feeling the result of that love come back from the outside world. Remember, the song is "Two hearts", not, "One heart".
At the NLP group, our kind volunteer offered the question, "How can I attract more money?" and someone else restated the question as "How can I be more attractive to money?" which is a great metaphor, but actually avoids the main problem which is that attraction is an active process, and since money is an inanimate concept, a piece of paper or a number on a screen at best, it cannot attract or be attracted. Iron can be attracted to a magnet because both share certain chemical properties. A person can be attracted to another person because they share certain properties. The key is in the sharing.

The overall message, then, is this. Give, and ye shall receive.

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