How Love Works, Thoughts from a Los Angeles Somatic Psychotherapist

Self-Development or Self-Annihilation?
One feeds on love, the other feeds on hate.   Which are you interested in?
A friend once told me :
“No, we can’t just use love to make things better”.

I have sat with this statement for several years now and I have come to the conclusion that my friend is wrong.

Dead wrong.

Over the years, I have seen my friend’s world get smaller and smaller. I have seen them become more angry, embittered and isolated. I have seen them be a tyrant and oppress others in ways that have hurt and squelched the light and joy of those around them in their day to day more than any stranger in the news.

I see it and I recognize it because I have done it myself. I am not without the capacity to be a tyrant, to be exclusive, dismissive, judgmental, or even condescending. I CAN be all of these hate-full things and more.

Yet, I have made a commitment to myself.  I have committed to knowing love.

This is a personal conviction. It is one I live by. It is one I come back to time and again when I have forgotten and led myself down the road of self-hate and self-annihilation. Cyclical in nature, I remember the commitment I have made and I come back to it. I am not saying you have to do any of this. I am not saying anyone does. It is what I choose.

In the moments when I am being too hard on myself, rejecting parts of myself I do not like or projecting them onto others, I remember I have a choice.  And most often in these days of late, I choose to bring the love.

I acknowledge that part of myself.

I see it and I choose to embrace it with the tender hands akin to holding a newborn baby. To sit with that tenderness and sometimes the pain and the shame that live there as well. I do my best to bring that loving softness, to see with new eyes, and to act with recognition that the “other” is also me.

What you resist outside of you provides a mirror to what you resist inside of you.

The parts of you that you don’t like, that you resist to let exist in your identity as if they are something foreign, something for someone else, for the other but not you.  This is a rejection of self – the most hateful act of all.

Like a signal beckoning, the parts of you that you don’t like are a map back to yourself. That thing, that characteristic that irks you, that which you do not like, cannot stand, are afraid of, that which you resist, is the guiding light shining upon the very part of you that needs to be seen, acknowledged, and loved.

What happens when you admit to yourself that you CAN be a monster? That you CAN be a tyrant? That you CAN be as power hungry as the ones who you want to “RESIST”? How do you love yourself when you look into that mirror?

Or do you? Do you project it out and away and not let anyone who might resemble the slightest bit of that part of you to come near? To divide yourself from them the way you divide yourself from those parts in you.

This is denial at its core. To deny you. To deny all of you. To deny other’s existence. To deny other’s expression. To deny other’s development. To deny your development. To vilify, to make wrong, to shut out, to shut down, to name call, to ridicule, to dismiss, these are the tendrils of hatred.

I truly wonder what it would be like if we did in fact, just love ourselves? You and all the layers of you. How might our world and our individual and collective experience in the world be different if everyone, or at least most people, did this?

Each time you come in contact with someone who sees differently and you feel how that effects you, how do you bring the love?  Not the emotion but the actual “feeling” – the physical sensation – the kind you have when you are in the safe confines of those who love you. How do you bring that feeling to the part of you that you don’t like? To the part of you that might just be a little like them?

How do you reach down into those deeper layers of yourself hidden from your own view and pour some love onto those parts that are kicking and screaming, saying “No! I am not like you and I will prove it to you!”

How do you bring the love to those parts of you that get up on your soap box and tell others they need to think, feel, act, speak differently than they are because you feel uncomfortable, scared, indignant, or morally righteous?

To me, this is the shining epitome of the ripple effect. To love yourself in those moments has a ripple effect others will feel. The same is true for the opposite. When you throw hate, deny, or when you RESIST, others feel this as well. Those that resonate with your self-annihilation will join you, others that don’t, others that may be interested in self-development or self-love, will walk away.

The popular quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, by Mahatma Gandhi that has often been lauded, displayed, and proselytized in recent years.  It not only begs the subsequent question of what kind of change are you wanting to see? But also, how are you going to go about it?

Are you meeting someone else’s hate with your own?  In other words, are you meeting someones else’s self-hate with your own self-hate? Are you wanting to right a wrong? To free the oppressed? To make all things equal?

How do you want to go about doing that?

Is an eye-for-an-eye truly moving us toward having EVERYONE’S humanity be recognized? Be Valued?  Be Respected?

Don’t just start in your own backyard, start closer. Start inside. Start with those places in you that you don’t like. Pick up that mirror. Stop “RESIST”ing, and learn what kind of sensation, what kind of love you can generate to bring about the change you want to see in the world.

And to my friend, I would say, “Before you sideline love, let’s consider how we can deepen our understanding of what a loving action is and how might that influence the world we live in today?”

Erika Bennett, MA, LMFT 103068
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist


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