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Problem Solving: Love’s Pitfalls

Jan 18

G’day all!!! I apologize for the length of time it took me to post the comments that have been submitted over the last week or so. I was on the Mainland ministering to RCMP “walking wounded” (Shhhh…..don’t tell Health Services!!!) Awhile back I promised you a departure from critically examining the “diagnosis de jour”; well here it is. I’d like to provide you with some additional insight into how we as human beings can make ourselves miserable (not that you need any… Bobby-boy?). I will concede to you up front, that the insight (approach) I will outline for you is biased. It is also the theoretical foundation of the problem solving approach that I use; and it can be taught to others. Remember the Community Psychology thing? Part of which, takes a more time-efficient perspective and prevents problems by teaching people how to use their own “magic”. This approach is easy to understand, effective, and can be learned by those without extensive behavioural science backgrounds. At this point I feel compelled to remind you that I am not prescribing this approach for YOUR problem(s). I do not write here as YOUR therapist. I am simply providing information for you, what you do with it is up to you!

In several articles on this blog I have made reference to this approach and even commented on certain problems and their solutions. As you may have recognized by the title of this one, it deals with the “special hell” of romantic relationships. Are you able to recall the number of times you have broken someone’s heart (or had yours’ broken); been the “jiltee” or were the “jilter”? Of course, as love is a “bottomless pit”, in this article I will offer only a “smidge” of its’ potential. Just to whet your whistle let me remind you that the intriguing suggestion found in the biblical injunction to “love thy neighbour as thyself” makes much more sense if turned around!! That is, you can only love another if you love yourself!! Do you recall Groucho Marx’s assertion that he would not dream of belonging to a club that would have him as a member? If you do, you are prepared for what’s to come.

Never mind “love”, to “be loved” is a mysterious thing. Have you noticed how talking about it makes it even more mysterious? Holding a conversation with your beloved on the relative merits of rearranging your sock drawer is likely to come to some consensus. On the other hand, a conversation about the state of “our relationship” has the potential to create more problems than it set out to cure. Holding a discussion about “love” is more often than not, more than disappointing. In the first instance your partner isn’t really able to give you a reason for loving you; and in the second, the reason provided is often something about you that you never found particularly attractive e.g. the “adorable” wort on the end of your nose. Once again the meaning of “Silence is Golden” is driven home.

OK, OK, focus on the mission! What is the misery making lesson here? Here it is… Do not, whatever you do, accept on faith and good fortune, your partner’s love for you. Embark upon a quest; continually and obsessively question how that person could care for you. Be convinced that there is a hidden agenda afoot that has not been revealed to you.

It is well known that love is a mysterious thing. I’m sure it has spawned more great literary quotations than any other topic. Here is just one to suit our mission. I think it was Rousseau who said to his amour: “If you are mine, I lose, though possessing you, her whom I honour”. Peruse it a couple of times. That’s right he’s telling her that if she gives herself to him then “presto chango” she is no longer worthy of his affection. You may find it hard to believe but this centuries old view of love is alive and well today. There are some of us “modern” males who hold the unique frame of reference wherein, once the female gives in to the “power of our passion” she is not worth pursuing, as she gave in too easily. Born from this perspective is the corollary that all women are “whores” except one’s Mother. “I was immaculately conceived; my mother is a Saint, and would never have given in”.

Even relative beginners in misery-making can use the foundation that has been laid so far. They may not play in Rousseau’s league but they can bet on a long life of unhappiness. The central ingredient seems to be an undying belief in one’s own inadequacy; with this belief in hand, one can now discredit the taste of any loving partner. “Obviously there must be something wrong with anyone who could fall in love with a “shmuck” such as me”. (Oh yes and by the way, the more “self-help” books you have read, the easier it will be to “diagnose” your partner.)

Are you hangin’ in there? Good, here comes the “icing on the cake”. The moment your diagnosis is made……the cat has cleared the edges of the proverbial bag. You have revealed the imperfections of your partner, and love itself has been discredited. Nothing tastes quite as good as such a diagnostic success! Allow me to recite a wonderful poem by the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing that captures this essence beautifully:

I don’t respect myself.
I can’t respect anyone who respects me.
I can only respect someone who does not respect me.
I respect Jack
because he does not respect me.
I despise Tom
because he does not despise me.
Only a despicable person
can respect someone as despicable as me.
I cannot love someone I despise.
Since I love Jack
I cannot believe he loves me.
What proof can he give?

Could it be any simpler? You might think that knowing all of this would kill the fun and put a stop to it, and all the misery it produces. No way!! Once caught in this living hell, the rest seems to come naturally. To put the “icing on the cake” you must embark on a quest to fall in love with someone who is married, a priest, a “lifer”, a rock star, a movie star, (an abusive employer)…….you get the picture. In this way you can unhappily climb forever, without ever reaching the pinnacle. Moreover, you will have your gaze so fixed on the future you will miss that uncommitted and available person, (job?), right under your nose, who is more than willing to build a relationship with you………”what proof can he give?”

Well, there it is! Wanna’ have some fun? Read this piece again “as if” YOU are our hero and the RCMP is the object of your affection. (That is, make your employer the RCMP, “Jack” from the poem). Waddya” think? I’d love to hear from you.


Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psychologist

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