A colleague recently told me about attending a high school reunion. He was really surprised when an old friend told him that his wife had just left him after 30 years. It seems that the man’s wife had also attended her high school reunion and reconnected with her high school sweetheart. She decided to leave her husband and marry the first love of her life. Who hasn’t had some sort of fantasy like that?
Do you ever think back to your own fond memories of a sweetheart and long for that feeling again? Helen Fisher, noted anthropologist and expert on romantic love tells us that there are three major drives in our brain with regard to love: the sex drive, the romantic love drive and the attachment drive. While there are many reasons we evolved this way, it seems that the romantic love drive is extremely strong… even stronger than any addiction. Think about the strength of that love. You were probably willing to go to the ends of the earth for that person. You wrote his/her name down hundreds of times. You talked for hours on the phone. No wonder we daydream about lost loves and spend time wondering if perhaps that old love was the “real” thing after all. That romantic love drive is so strong sometimes it can mask the real work of building a mature lasting love. Even if that romantic drive happened with your long term partner, often we wonder if perhaps there is something wrong not to have those feeling anymore.
When I was a young intern, my best friend also a graduate student, had a terrible time managing her feelings for one of her clients. We all wanted to help her so we were full of advice about how she should get counseling herself, meditate, perhaps even transfer her client to another counselor. Nothing seemed to help. She worried about it all the time and felt so guilty. Finally, she spoke about it to her supervisor. He listened to her for a long time as she poured out all her angst and guilt. As she told it to us, hearing enough, in his wise way, he turned to her and simply said “Why don’t you just enjoy it?
I was shocked to say the least. However, as I fully grasped the advice and realized how relieved my friend was, I understood deeply what freedom he had given her. She could have her feelings. She didn’t need to be afraid of them. She didn’t need to do anything. It seemed too simple. However, no denying the way that simple idea made the world right again for my friend. In Buddhist terms this is called being present with what is. As we relax and accept whatever feelings we are having, they become less powerful and compelling. We can be a witness to the workings of our own heart and mind. We can respond in a wise way to whatever feelings arise and not react out of them.
When that old love of yours finds you on Facebook or gives you a call or when those old feelings come knocking at your heart again “Why don’t you just enjoy it?”