In my clinical experience over the years I’ve seen many human relationships that are not everything they could be. Marriages routinely end in chronic dissatisfaction and eventually divorce. More and more I see people treating one another poorly. I suspect that one reason for that is the idea that we all owe each other something. Not because we promised or freely agreed to something. We just owe them, simply for being alive.
So many people love to hear themselves say, “We all owe each other. We should all love our fellow man, give back and take care of one another before we take care of ourselves.” On the surface, it sounds reasonable to assume each of us owes mankind something. “All for one, and one for all,” right? Well… maybe not so much: Nobody ever stops to think about how dishonest, disingenuous, hypocritical – and patently impossible – this is. The simple fact is that nobody can or will practice it, short of martyrdom or suicide.
How can we love everyone in general? How can we love all mankind the same as we love ourselves or individuals you happen to cherish? And even more importantly, why should we pretend we do? We’re not supposed to discriminate; I don’t just mean as a legal matter. I mean it psychologically as well. We’re supposed to love everybody the same. We don’t; but we’re supposed to pretend that we do. There’s the hypocrisy. And when you take that idea to heart, you start to assume that everyone owes you. It’s only fair, right? Wrong.
In the privacy and contemplation of counseling sessions, people frequently say to me, “I don’t mean to be unkind or mean, but….” They apologize for their feelings — even to a therapist — despite the fact their feelings are often grounded in reality and fact. I almost always interrupt at this point to say, “Just be honest. Always be honest with yourself. Put the truth first.” With what resources I have I’m trying to do my part to preserve the minds and psyches of individuals against the onslaught of unearned guilt created by the false idea that we’re all supposed to love everybody. And 100 percent of the time, those counting on you to believe that poppycock are standing ever-vigilant, waiting to file a claim on your storehouse of guilt.
Rise above this scam: You’re not obliged to love anyone. Not even yourself. Of course, if you want a satisfactory life, it’s necessary to love and value yourself. If you don’t, there’s no reason for living. Why even try to survive if you don’t love yourself? And as an extension of loving yourself, you will love — even cherish — significant others whom you choose to bring into your life. It makes rational sense to be open to such emotions, because the experience of loving/valuing and being loved/valued by another can be immensely rewarding, despite the built-in possibility of pain or loss.
But we’ve got to get past this childish fantasy that we’re all supposed to love everyone the same. It doesn’t even make sense on its own terms, so why foist this guilt generator on others, especially kids? Even in their immaturity, children with whom I have spoken don’t naturally expect everyone to love everyone the same. In fact, before their minds are poisoned by flawed “educational” garbage concocted by the government (standing first in line for your handouts, by the way), children are often the most honest ones. But then they are brainwashed with these absurd fantasies, often carrying them into adulthood to perpetuate the myth and indoctrinate others.
The simple prescription for a healthy psychological life is to love yourself, and definitely love others — WHEN AND IF they earn it. Never treat your regard for others as an entitlement anyone deserves. And never treat another’s love of you as something you deserve. Being loved is not a birthright. None of us are entitled to anything, other than the right to be left alone to figure out what to do, whom to love, and how to live. I said it before in my second book, “Grow up, America,” and I’m still saying it now.
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