Love is action, activity. Here we come to another serious misunderstanding regarding love, which should be carefully considered. Love is not a feeling. A great many people who experience the feeling of love and even acting under the dictation of this feeling actually commit acts of non-love and destruction. On the other hand, a truly loving person often undertakes loving and constructive actions in relation to a person who clearly does not like him, to whom at that moment he feels not love, but rather disgust.
The feeling of love is an emotion that accompanies the experience of cathexis. Katexis, we recall, is an event or process as a result of which a certain object becomes important for us. In this object (the object of love or the object of love) we begin to invest our energy, as if it became a part of ourselves; this connection between us and the object we also call cathexis. We can talk about many cathexes, if we have many such connections at the same time. The process of stopping the supply of energy to the love object, as a result of which it loses its meaning for us, is called decatexis.
Misconception about love as a feeling arises from the fact that we confuse cathexis with love. This error is not difficult to understand, since it is a question of such processes; but there are still clear differences between them.
First of all, as already noted, we can experience a cathexis in relation to any object – animate and inanimate, animate and inanimate. So, someone may experience a cathexis to the stock exchange or a jewel, they may feel love for them. Secondly, if we experience a cathexis to another human being, this does not mean at all that we are at all interested in its spiritual development. The dependent person is almost always afraid of the spiritual development of her own spouse, to whom she feeds the cathexis. A mother who stubbornly took her son to school and back, certainly experiences a cathexis against the boy: he was important to her — he, but not his spiritual growth. Third, the intensity of our cathexes usually has nothing to do with wisdom or devotion. Two people can meet in a bar, and the mutual cathexis will be so strong that no previous appointments, given promises, even peace and quiet in the family can be compared in importance – for a while – with experiencing sexual pleasure. Finally, our cathexes are unsteady and fleeting. The said couple, having experienced sexual pleasure, can immediately find that the partner is unattractive and undesirable. Decatexis can be as fast as cathexis.
Genuine love, on the other hand, means commitment and effective wisdom. If we are interested in someone’s spiritual development, then we understand that the absence of an obligation will most likely be painfully perceived by this person and that the obligation towards him is necessary first of all by ourselves in order to express our interest more effectively. For the same reason, commitment is the cornerstone of psychotherapy. It is almost impossible to achieve a significant spiritual growth in a patient if the psychotherapist fails to conclude a healing union with him.
In other words, before the patient dares to make serious changes, he must feel confident and strong, and therefore have no doubt that the doctor is his constant and reliable ally.
In order for a union to emerge, the doctor must demonstrate to the patient, usually for a considerable period of time, consistent and even care, and this is possible only when the doctor is able to be obligatory and faithful. This does not mean that the doctor always enjoys listening to the patient. The obligation is that the doctor – whether he likes it or not – always listens to the patient. In the same way as in family life: in a healthy family, as in therapeutic work, partners must regularly, day to day and deliberately pay attention to each other, regardless of what they feel. As mentioned above, love with couples sooner or later passes; and it is precisely at this moment, when the instinct of copulation completes its mission, the possibility of true love appears. It is when spouses do not want to be with each other any more continuously, when from time to time they want to be apart, the test of their love begins and it turns out that this love exists or not.
This does not mean that partners in a stable, constructive relationship — for example, in intensive psychotherapy or in marriage — cannot experience cathexis towards each other and towards their relationships; they experience it. But the point is that true love transcends cathexis.
If there is love, then a cathexis and love feeling may also exist, but they may not exist. Of course, it is easier — even joyfully — to love with cathexis and with a feeling of love. But you can love without cathexis and love feeling: it is precisely the realization of such an opportunity that true love differs from simple cathexis.
The key word for distinction is the word will. I defined love as the will to expand my own self in order to fuel the spiritual growth of another person or my own. True love is predominantly volitional, not emotional work. A person who truly loves does so by the power of deciding to love. This person is committed to being loving, regardless of whether there is a love feeling. If it is, so much the better; but if it is not there, then the determination to love, the will to love still remains and acts. Conversely, for loving is not only possible, but it is necessary to avoid actions under the influence of any feelings. I can meet an extremely attractive woman and have a love feeling for her, but since love intrigue can destroy my family, I will tell myself out loud or in silence: It seems that I am ready to love you, but I will not allow myself. Similarly, I refuse to take a new patient, more attractive and seemingly promising in terms of treatment, because my time is already devoted to other patients, among whom there are less attractive and more difficult ones.
My feelings of love may be inexhaustible, but my ability to be loving is limited. Therefore, I must choose a person on whom I will focus my ability to love, on whom I will direct my will to love. True love is not a feeling that overwhelms us; it is a binding, deliberate decision.
This universal tendency to confuse love with a feeling of love allows people to deceive themselves with all sorts of ways. A drunk husband whose family currently needs his attention and help sits at the bar and with tears in his eyes says to the bartender: I really love my family! People who blatantly neglect their own children most often consider themselves the most loving of their parents. It is quite obvious that in this tendency to mix love with the feeling of love there is a certain egoistic background: it’s so easy and beautiful to see the confirmation of love in your own feelings. And it is difficult and unpleasant to look for this confirmation in your own actions. But since true love is an act of will, which often transcends ephemeral feelings of love, or cathexis, it would be more correct to say: Love is so far as it acts. Love and dislike, like good and evil, are objective categories, not purely subjective.
We can now see the essential component that makes psychotherapy effective and successful. This is not a positive attitude, not magic words, techniques or gestures; it is human involvement and struggle. It is the will and readiness of the doctor to expand my self for the sake of nourishing the spiritual growth of the patient, the willingness to take risks, to sincerely get involved on an emotional level in relationships, to sincerely fight with the patient and with myself. In short, the essential ingredient of a successful, deep, significant psychotherapy is love.
Characteristically – and almost unbelievable: the extensive Western professional literature on psychotherapy ignores the problem of love. Indian gurus often simply and without ceremony say that love is the source of their strength. The closest to this issue are those Western authors who attempt to analyze the differences between successful and unsuccessful psychotherapists; usually the characteristics of successful doctors include words like warmth and empathy. But most often the question of love confuses us. There are a number of reasons for this. One of them is a mixture of the concepts of genuine love and of the romantic love that pervaded our culture, as well as the other mixtures that were discussed in this chapter.
Another reason is that scientific medicine is prone to everything that is tangible, rational, measurable, and psychotherapy as a profession was shaped largely outside of scientific medicine.
Since love is an intangible phenomenon, immeasurable and supra-rational, it is not amenable to scientific analysis.
Another reason is the power of psychoanalytic traditions in psychiatry; these traditions, with their ideal of a cold, alienated psychoanalyst, lie not on the conscience of Freud, but on his followers. According to these traditions, every feeling of love that a patient has for a doctor is usually stigmatized by the term transference, just as any feeling of a doctor’s love for a patient is countertransference; Of course, both of these feelings are considered an anomaly, part of the problem, not a solution, and should be avoided.
This is a complete absurdity. Transference, as mentioned in the previous chapter, refers to unacceptable feelings, perceptions, and reactions. There is nothing unacceptable that patients begin to love the doctor, who sincerely listens to them hour after hour and does not judge them, but perceives them as they are, as no one has probably perceived them before; he does not use them for his own purposes, and he eases their suffering. In practice, the content of the transfer in many cases is such that it prevents the patient from developing a love relationship with the doctor, and then the treatment consists in overcoming the transfer, so that the patient can experience a successful love relationship, often for the first time in his life.
Similarly, there is nothing unacceptable that the doctor has a feeling of love for the patient when the patient obeys the discipline of psychotherapy, takes part in treatment, readily learns from the doctor and through these relationships begins to develop successfully. Intensive psychotherapy is in many ways reminiscent of a renewed parental relationship with a child. The psychotherapist’s love for the patient is as acceptable as the feeling of love for a good parent for her child. Moreover, from the point of view of successful treatment, the doctor’s love for the patient is beneficial, and if success comes, the healing relationship becomes mutually in love. And the doctor will inevitably experience a love feeling that coincides with the genuine love that he showed towards the patient.
In most cases, mental illness is caused by the absence or defect of love that a particular child needs from his or her specific parents for successful growth and spiritual development. It is obvious, therefore, that in order to heal with the help of psychotherapy, the patient must receive from the psychotherapist at least a part of the genuine love that he was deprived of in childhood. If the psychotherapist cannot truly love the patient, the treatment will not take place. No training and no diploma of the psychotherapist will help if he cannot expand his soul through the love of the patient; The overall results of the practice of such a psychotherapist will be low. Conversely, an unskilled, unprofessional doctor with minimal training, but with a great ability to love, achieves the same high results as the best psychiatrists.
Since love and sex are closely intertwined and interconnected, it would be appropriate here to briefly touch on the problem of sexual relations between psychotherapists and their patients – a problem that in our times often attracts close attention of the press. In view of the need for the love and intimate nature of the psychotherapeutic process, strong and extremely strong mutual sexual drives naturally and inevitably arise between patients and doctors. The craving for the sexual end of such inclinations can be tremendous. I suspect that some professional psychiatrists throwing a stone at a psychotherapist who has sex with a patient cannot themselves be loving doctors and cannot truly understand this colossal craving. I will say more: if I had a situation in which, after careful and sound reflection, I would come to the conclusion that having a sexual relationship with a patient would be very beneficial for her spiritual growth, I would decide on this relationship. For fifteen years of practice, however, I didn’t have such a case, and I have no idea how it could really arise. First of all, as I said, the role of a good doctor is similar to the role of a good parent, and good parents do not allow sexual contact with their children for a number of very important reasons. The meaning of the work of the parent is to benefit the child, and not to use the child for their own satisfaction. The meaning of the doctor’s work is to benefit the patient, and not to use the patient to their advantage.
The task of the parent is to support the child on the path to independence; The task of the doctor in relation to the patient is the same. It is hard to imagine how a doctor who had sex with a patient (patient) would not use the patient to meet his own needs or how he would contribute to patient independence.
Many patients, especially seductive looks, have developed a sexualized character of attachment to one of their parents since childhood, which undoubtedly hinders the child’s freedom and development. Both theory and the few practical facts available to us confirm that sexual relations between a doctor and such a patient reinforce the patient’s immature affections rather than weaken them. Even if these relationships are not brought to sexual completion, falling in love between a doctor and a patient is destructive, because, as we have seen, all love entails a narrowing of the boundaries of the ego and a weakening of the normal sense of separateness between individuals.
The doctor who fell in love with the patient, apparently, cannot be objective in relation to him, the patient, the needs or separate these needs from their own. It is out of love for their patients that doctors do not allow themselves the pleasure of falling in love with them. Since true love requires respect for the individual personality of a loved one, a truly loving doctor recognizes and accepts the fact that the patient’s life is – and should be – separate from the doctor’s life. For some doctors, this means that their paths should never, with the exception of treatment time, intersect with the paths of patients.
We have already discussed the statement that psychotherapy can be – and should be, if we are talking about successful psychotherapy – a process of genuine love. In traditional psychiatric circles, such a view seems somewhat heretical. The other side of this coin is no less heretical: if psychotherapy is a process of true love, is love always therapeutic? If we truly love our spouses, parents, children, friends, if we expand our I to nourish their spiritual growth, does this mean that we are performing psychotherapy in relation to them?
My answer: definitely.
From time to time I hear about a cocktail: It’s probably difficult for you, Mr. Peck, to separate your social life from your professional life. After all, in the end, it is impossible to do all the time just what to analyze your family and friends? Usually, such an interlocutor simply maintains a boring conversation; he is not interested in a serious answer and is not ready to accept it.
But sometimes the situation gives me the opportunity to conduct a lesson or practical lesson on psychotherapy on the spot, explaining why I don’t even try and don’t want to try to separate professional life from personal life. If I notice that my wife or children, parents or friends suffer because of illusions, falsehood, ignorance, unnecessary complications – I will definitely do everything possible to expand, extend myself to them and, as far as possible, correct the situation the same as I do for my patients for money.
Can I refuse to my family and friends in my wisdom, my services and love on the grounds that they did not sign the contract and did not pay my attention to their psychological problems? Of course not. How can I be a good friend, father, spouse or son, if I do not use all the possibilities and my professional skills to teach loved people what I know and to give them all possible help in the spiritual development of each of them? In addition, I look forward to the same response help from friends and family members, within their abilities. I have learned many useful things from children, although their criticism is at times unreasonably harsh, and the teachings are not as profound as in adults.
My wife directs me no less than I direct her. My friends would not be my friends if they concealed from me their disapproval or love interest in relation to the wisdom and reliability of my path. Could I grow faster without their help? Any true love relationship is mutual psychotherapy.
My views on these things were not always like this. Once I valued admiration from my wife more than her criticism, and to strengthen my wife’s dependence I did no less than to strengthen her strength. The task of the father and husband, I considered the maintenance of the family: I brought home a good income, and that was where my responsibility ended. I wanted the house to be a stronghold of comfort, not a challenge. In those days, I would agree that it was dangerous, unethical and destructive to practice psychotherapy on friends and family. But this consent would be dictated by my laziness no less than by the fear of misusing a profession. For psychotherapy, like love, is work, and working eight hours a day is easier than sixteen. It’s also easier to love a person who seeks your wisdom, comes to you to get it, pays for your attention and gets it for exactly measured fifty minutes – all this is easier than to love someone who sees your attention as their right, whose requests can be unlimited, for whom you are not at all the power and authority, and your teachings are of no interest. Psychotherapy at home or with friends requires the same intensive efforts as in the treatment room, but the conditions here are much less favorable; in other words, more effort and love is required at home.
I hope that other psychotherapists will not perceive these words as a call to immediately begin psychotherapy with spouses and children. If a person continues the path of spiritual growth, his ability to love continuously increases. But she always remains limited, and the doctor should not undertake psychotherapy beyond this ability: psychotherapy without love will be unsuccessful and even harmful. If you are able to love six hours a day, be content with this opportunity for now – it already exceeds the abilities of most people. The journey will be long, and it will take time to increase your ability. Practicing psychotherapy with friends and family, loving each other all the time is an ideal, a goal worth striving for, but not immediately achieved.
As I have already noted, a non-professional doctor can successfully practice psychotherapy without much training if he is capable of true love; therefore, my comments on the practice of psychotherapy on friends and on one’s own family apply not only to professionals, but to all people in general.
Sometimes patients ask me when they can finish their treatment; I answer: Then, when you yourself become good psychotherapists. This answer is most appropriate in the case of group treatment, where patients themselves have the opportunity to practice psychotherapy on each other and, in case of failure, to listen to frank criticism. Many patients do not like this answer, and they usually say: This is too much work. To fulfill it, I have to think about my relationships with people all the time. I don’t want to think so much. I do not want to work hard. I just want to rejoice.
Patients often respond to me in this way when I tell them that all human interactions represent opportunities to learn or teach (that is, to receive or give treatment); these patients are unwilling to teach or learn and miss their opportunities in the interactions. Many people are absolutely right when they say that they do not want to strive for such a high goal and work so hard all their lives. Most patients, even those of the most skilled and loving psychotherapists, end their treatment at a level where their growth potential is far from exhausted. They went a short – and maybe a long – part of the path of spiritual development, but the whole way is beyond their power. He seems too difficult for them; perhaps he is too difficult.