I’ve often heard it said, for example, that in order to love another, or to find love, you have to “love yourself first” (including from prideful people that are not really loving).
It’s always been puzzling because it sounds like there are two entities: someone to love (your self) and the one doing the loving (me?). Or it sounds like an excuse for egotism (“Aren’t I wonderful, I love myself, and you need to be as wonderful as me before you love your self too!”).
When I have truly experienced self love, it is none of these. IT’s a different kind of experience. If I had to describe it, it’s more like realizing I am love – the usual “I” is not there, not in the way, you could say – a collapse of boundaries (words fail) – and love is not personal. In other words, it’s self love with a capital “s” – nothing to do with “me” or “them”. And sometimes there’s an experience of a love from an encounter that is so surprising, fresh, that one is amazed at the wonder of it. And this can happen out of the blue with a neighbor, a cashier, a total stranger… maybe the less we know them the easier for it to happen!
That being said, the mind co-opts the experience, and one is back in “where did that come from, and where did it go?” because the mind wants to see it as coming from somewhere – another apparent person – and wanting to make meaning or hold onto it.
In any case, I have no idea how this could apply to what we call “relationships” since those seem to come and go, without any sense of being able to hold to a “love” however you want to define that.
Sometimes the path of self-knowledge can be felt as a lonely one. “You have to walk that lonely valley, by yourself…” as the old song said.
But what is the “spiritual” path? You could say it’s as much as possible being honest with oneself, and sticking with facts. At some point you realize, there was never a goal or thing to get – an endpoint (realization or enlightenment) – just stuff to lose. Lose the lack, as it were. The happiness one was trying to find was there, merely temporarily infected with a self-sense that didn’t belong. A self sense pretending to be unhappy.
One of my spiritual friends said there is always a choice, at any moment, between love and control… which makes sense to me at an intuitive level. if you are already happy, and unafraid, what need is there to control? The future does not exist, or exists as something one is creating through a free will – either whay, what is there to be afraid of, or worry about? We act as if life were imposed on us, from the outside. But what if there were no outside? What is it’s all us, that is, all “I”, all self, or this?
How much do we feel that love comes from outside, someone else, or needs an object? How much does one then feel dependent on that object, or series of objects, for validation, to feel love, to feel “that feeling”.
It is never coming from them.