The Illusions of Counterfeit “Love”
Like the Golden Buddha, we are all made up of layers of clay. The body and the ego cover our loving core, and we are usually only given rare glimpses of the infinite potential inside of ourselves or others. Stuck in this limited perspective of the counterfeit self, we think that our clay ego body and its counterfeit “love” is all that we have-and we believe the same is true about everyone else as well. Just as the illusion of the ego disguises the infinite capacity of our Divine Nature, so too does this counterfeit self cut us off from our knowledge that we are Love. Remember the story of Sir Gawain and his bride? The kind of love that characterized their marriage is what I call Empowering Love, a form of love that is unconditional; that is about giving and not about receiving, that is about being in touch with the Love that we are.
Sadly, much of what we think of as love is not love at all, but the ego’s counterfeit “love.” And many of our culture’s films and novels actually reinforce this misconception. Authors and singers continue to misguide us by describing forms of counterfeit love in films, plays, novels, and songs, and asking us to buy into this fragile, impermanent, and ultimately false idea. We leave the theater or put the book down thinking that someday this imaginary love will arrive and change our lives into the life we’ve always dreamed of. Or we return to our present relationship certain that it could never be the special kind of relationship that we know will be possible if only we were with the right person.
This counterfeit “love” not only undermines joy in all of our relationships, makes us miserable, and is the basis for discord, but it also actually weakens us physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and can even make us sick. On the other hand, genuine, or Empowering Love, the central aspect of our True Self, is dramatically different from most of the common behaviors, feelings, and attitudes that are associated with the word “love.” This Love actually makes us stronger physically, boosts our immune system, heals emotional wounds and fears, transforms troubled relationships into ones that are joyous and fulfilling, keeps us from being adversely affected by any negative energy around us, and helps us find our core Spiritual Self, all at the same time.
In this chapter, we will begin to question the familiar meanings that we give the word “love.” And we will see that our customary experiences of romantic love, passion, sexual attraction, and infatuation, when looked at more closely, often resemble manipulation, yearning, possessiveness, neediness, control, or barter. Even love we experience for our children may often include an underlying demand for control or certain expectations that they fill our own sense of emptiness, which is tied to our quest for happiness. The various forms of counterfeit “love” actually act as barriers to love. They make us feel emotionally bankrupt inside ourselves and in our relationships, and further sabotage our efforts to connect with our natural ability to love in an empowering, unconditional way.
Counterfeit “love” results from fear, scarcity, and need-all arising out of the ego belief that we are separate. On the other hand, the love from the True Self comes out of a feeling of abundance and completeness, for you know that you are part of the Divine in the universe, and thus can never be empty of Love. Empowering Love, the genuine form of Love, is spiritual love and forms the basis for a spiritual marriage. Since this love always strengthens and brings joy, it never results in pain or diminishes anyone in any way. When expressed sexually, it is a powerful experience of intimacy and of joining as One. On the other hand, weakening “love”-the counterfeit “love” of the ego-may bring temporary elation and excitement, and even a flash of sexual passion, but it never brings lasting joy. And when this form of “love” is the main basis of marriage, it inevitably leads to disappointment, despair, and misery-and often divorce, emotionally if not physically.
The Forms of Counterfeit “Love”
To be happy in our various relationships, it is of utmost importance that we become highly adept in recognizing the barriers to love that are blocking us from our loving core and our ability to love fully in our relationships. The barriers to love are illusions, just as all the thoughts and beliefs that stem from the ego are illusions. Therefore, they can be removed and replaced with thoughts and beliefs about Empowering Love. Once you recognize the forms of counterfeit love for what they are-false-then they no longer have any power over you. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to stay aware and cognizant of their false nature. Instead, you have to be constantly vigilant, asking yourself frequently, “Am I being loving from a counterfeit perspective or an empowering perspective?” That may be all it takes.
1. Infatuation or the falling-in-love syndrome that we discussed at length in Chapter One is the first form of counterfeit “love.” Based on the illusion of separateness and a fantasy of the beloved, instead of a real knowledge of the self or the other person, this form of love can hardly be anything but counterfeit. As long as we confuse such a state with love, it will serve to block our awareness of the real and Empowering Love that we are.
When we are attached to illusions of what we want to see, we don’t see anything else. As is characteristic of perception, it is always colored by what is inside us. Jennifer, for example, wanted a partner who would take good care of her-materially and emotionally. When she met John, she knew he was the one. It was love at first sight. John was a successful lawyer, and seemed to have a very good chance of becoming a partner in the prestigious law firm he worked for. Blinded by her desire for financial security, Jennifer was oblivious to John’s inability to be with her emotionally. She confused his sexual interest with loving and caring. Therefore, Jenny had unwittingly picked a partner who could be familiar to her-much like her father who was financially successful, but remote, self-involved, and unavailable. She could now repeat her lifelong quest of yearning for love, trying to get it from one who could not supply it. She fulfilled what Freud called the repetition compulsion. She didn’t know John for she saw what she needed/wanted to see in order to repeat her lifelong struggle for love. Of course, she was also unable to see the divine spark within John, and therefore did not know him psychologically or spiritually. By relying on the falling-in-love syndrome to choose a partner, she not only unconsciously chose to ignore John’s True Self, she also set herself up for disappointment. She married her fantasy, not the real person, and fell in love with the feeling of falling in love.
In the thrill of being “in love,” it is very difficult to see the other person’s True Self. We confuse our feelings of intense sexual attraction and excitation with love, and we think that by getting to know another’s body we have gotten to know the person. Passion, so often associated with love, is most commonly associated with a strong and sometimes desperate attempt to possess the other person or to get something from the other person. Sometime it is a desire for the excitement of being with someone new, or other times it is for someone who is not fully available-as in the case with Jenny, above.