In “Civilisation and its Discontents” Freud confronts the paradox of love: given all the problems it causes (It is my premise that it is not love, but fear of love that causes the problems), why does love remain so popular? He notes that genital love affords the greatest satisfaction and provides the prototype for happiness. This might suggest that pursuing genital satisfaction is the way to find happiness but, he realises, the danger is to become dependent on the external world, the chosen love object, and, therefore, to be exposed to extreme suffering by rejection, unfaithfulness or death. He concludes: “For that reason the wise men of every age have warned us most emphatically against this way of life; but in spite of this it has not lost it’s attraction for a great number of people.” I would hardly call it an attraction. I believe our minds are hard wired by the evolution and survival of the species to form attachments. I also believe that Freud knew, as a man with attachments, that when the “wise men” spoke of avoiding attachments, they were just plain wrong.

Take this excerpt from “The Road Less Travelled” by M Scott Peck:

“If you move out to another human being, there is always the risk that that person will move away from you, leaving you more painfully alone than you were before. Love anything that lives – a person, a pet, a plant – and it will die. Trust anybody and you may be hurt, depend on anyone and that someone may let you down. The price of risking love is pain. If someone is determined not to or fears the risk of pain, then that person must do without a great many things in life – Having Children, Getting Married, The ecstasy of sex, the hope of ambition, friendship – all that makes life alive, meaningful and significant. Risk growing in any direction and pain as well as joy will be your reward. A full life will be full of pain and suffering, it is inevitable for risk brings with it failure as well as success. But the only alternative is not to live fully or not to live at all. To live in fear.”

When the wise men warn of attachments, they are doing so out of the fear of the destruction of that attachment and not attachments themselves. We are hard wired to feel whole when we are attached. To live without attachment, by believing that attachments cause suffering, is one of the vital lies.

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