Classic romantic lore locates love “out there” in the lovability of what we love. Love, from this perspective, is a positive judgment about someone or something – a judgment that tends to change as what’s out there alternates between more and less pleasing. Implicit in this approach is the presumption that we can only love what we find lovable. Our job, then, is to search the world for just the right love object – the one.
In a recent lecture, “Love is Inside - Go Find It”, Michael Simpson asserts that love is an internal matter. It has nothing to do with the desirability of an object and everything to do with the capacity to keep our hearts open and our energy flowing – a capacity we can all develop.
From this perspective, love is not a judgment. It’s the simple act of opening our hearts as we engage with life. Simpson claims that we can open our hearts at any moment, that we never have to shut down, that the only limits on our ability to love are self-imposed, and that there is nothing, inside us or outside us, that we cannot be present to with a soft heart. There is nothing we cannot love.
When caught up in the dominant paradigm of locating love “out there”, we tend to treat ourselves and others as objects. We work hard to make ourselves lovable, so that love will come our way. And we work hard to get our partners to become more lovable, so it will be easier for us to feel our love. Frankly, all that hard work never produces lasting love. The love we seek remains outside our grasp.
The shift to locating love internally is a movement toward taking sole responsibility for our love and our love-ability – not unlike the healthy way we take responsibility for our own happiness, self-esteem, serenity, sense of belonging and feeling of abundance. It’s our job to keep our hearts open, no one else’s. As social psychologists tell us, if two people are responsible for a job, it’s a lot less likely to get done than if one person is.
Heart opening is hard work. It takes wakeful awareness and persistent practice. However, in contrast to the romantic approach, this hard work pays off. We discover, inside ourselves, the vitality we’ve been seeking. It’s always there – our love nature – our love-ability.