Monday, June 21, 2010

The Relation of Love and Will

It is a curious thing that Schopenhauer, old misanthrope as he is often called by the thin-skinned, should have, in this section referred to above, called sexual passion the "kernel of the will to live" and the "genital organs the focus of will." He here expresses a truth of the relationship of love and will, indeed the interdependence of them in a way which runs contrary to modem man's conventional understanding. Power—which we can for the moment identify with will—and love, even sexual love, are considered to be antithetical. I believe that Schopenhauer was right, that they are not opposites but closely related.

Our discussion of the daimonic has shown that self-affirmation and self-assertion, obvious aspects of will, are essential to love. We discuss them together in this book because they are interrelated in ways which are crucial to the personal lives of all of us, as well as specifically to psychotherapy.

Both love and will are conjunctive forms of experience. That is, both describe a person reaching out, moving toward the other, seeking to affect him or her or it—and opening himself so that he may be affected by the other. Both love and will are ways of molding, forming, relating to the world and trying to elicit a response from it through the persons whose interest or love we covet. Love and will are interpersonal experiences which bring to bear power to influence others significantly and to be influenced by them.

Love and Will Blocking Each

The interrelation of love and will is shown, furthermore, by the fact that each loses its efficacy when it is not kept in right relation to the other; each can block the other. Will can block love. This can be seen particularly in the "will power" of the inner-directed type of man, as he appears in Riesman's studies. This was the man who was often the powerful captain of industry and finance in the early decades of this century and was our link to the great emphasis that was placed on individual will power which characterized the end of the Victorian Age.

This was the period in which a man could talk of his "unconquerable soul" and could proclaim, "I am the captain of my fate." But if my soul is really unconquerable, I shall never fully love; for it is the nature of love to conquer all fortresses. And if I must cling to being the master of my fate, I shall never be able to let myself go in passion; for passionate love always has tragic possibilities. Eros, we have seen in an earlier chapter, "breaks the limbs' strength," and "overpowers the intelligence in all its shrewd planning."

An example of will blocking love can be seen in the father of a young student-patient of mine, who was the treasurer of a large corporation. He telephoned me to talk about "maximizing the effectiveness of his son's treatment" exactly as though we were at his company board-meetings. When the son became sick with a minor illness in college the father immediately flew to the scene to take charge; the same father became furious when his son held hands and kissed his girl friend on the front lawn of their resort home.

At dinner, the father told how he had entered into negotiation to buy the company of a friend of the son's but, having become irritated over the slowness of the negotiations, had called up the would-be partners and told them to "forget the whole thing." He showed no awareness that he was sending another company into bankruptcy with the snap of his fingers. This father was a public-spirited citizen, the chairman of several committees for civic betterment; and he could not understand why, when he had been treasurer of an international corporation, his subordinates secretely referred to him as the "hardest S. O. B. in Europe."

The strong "will power" which the father thought solved all his problems, actually served at the same time to block his sensitivity, to cut off his capacity to hear other persons, even, or perhaps especially, his own son. It is not surprising that this exceedingly gifted son failed in his college work for several years, went through a beatnik period, and ultimately had a tortuous time permitting himself to succeed in his own profession.

Typical of the inner-directed genre, the father of my patient could always take care of others without caring for them, could give them his money but not his heart, could direct them but could not listen to them. This kind of "will power" was a transfer into interpersonal relationships of the same kind of power that had become so effective in manipulating railroad cars, stock transactions, coal mines, and other aspects of the industrial world. The man of will power, manipulating himself, did not permit himself to see why he could not manipulate others in the same way. This identifying of will with personal manipulation is the error that sets will in opposition to love.

It is a sound hypothesis, based on a good deal of evidence in psychotherapeutic work, that the unconscious guilt which parents like this carry because they manipulate their children leads them to be overprotective and overpermissive toward the same. These are the children who are given motor cars but not moral values, who pick up sensuality but are not taught sensitivity in life. The parents seem vaguely aware that the values on which their will power was based are no longer efficacious. But they can neither find new values nor give up the manipulative will. And the fathers often seem to act on the assumption that their will therefore has to do for the whole family.

This overemphasis on will, which blocks love, leads sooner or later to a reaction to the opposite error, love which blocks will. This is tpyically seen in the generation made up of the children of parents like the father we described above. The love proposed in our day by the hippie movement seems to be the clearest illustration of this error. "Hippie love is indiscriminate," is a common principle within the movement. Hippie love emphasizes immediacy, spontaneity, and the emotional honesty of the temporary moment.

These aspects of hippie love are not only entirely understandable reactions against the manipulative will of the previous generation, but are values in their own right. The immediacy, spontaneity, and honesty of the relationship experienced in the vital now are sound and telling criticisms of contemporary bourgeois love and sex. The hippies' revolt helps destroy the manipulative will power which undermines human personality.

But love also requires enduringness. Love grows in depth by virtue of the lovers experiencing encounter with each other, conflict and growth, all over a period of time. These cannot be omitted from any lasting and viable experience of love. They involve choice and will under whatever names you use. Generalized love, to be sure, is adequate for generalized, group situations; but I am not honored by being loved simply because I belong to the genus "man."

The love which is separated from will, or the love which obviates will, is characterized by a passivity which does not incorporate and grow with its own passion; such love tends, therefore, toward dissociation. It ends in something which is not fully personal because it does not fully discriminate. Such distinctions involve willing and choosing, and to choose someone means not to choose someone else. This is overlooked among the hippies; the immediacy of love in the hippie development seems to end in a love that is fugitive and ephemeral.

Now spontaneity is a tremendous relief after the assembly-line, sex-on-Saturday-night artificiality of bourgeois love against which the hippies are rebelling. But what of fidelity and the lasting qualities of love? Passion not only requires the capacity to give one's self over to, to let one's self be stimulated by, the power of the immediate experience. But it also requires that one take this event into one's own center, to mold and form one's self and the relationship on the new plane of consciousness which emerges out of the experience. This requires the element of will. Victorian will power lacked the sensitivity and flexibility which goes with love; in the hippie movement in contrast, there is love without the staying power which goes with will. Here we see another important illustration of the fact that love and will are inseparable from each other.

A final indication that the problems of love and will belong together is the similarity in their "solutions." Neither can be adequately dealt with in our day simply by new techniques, patching up the old values, restating old habits in more palatable form, or any other such device. We cannot content ourselves by painting the old building a new color; it is the foundations which are destroyed, and the "resolutions," by whatever name we may call them, require new ones. What is necessary for "resolutions" is a new consciousness in which the depth and meaning of personal relationship will occupy a central place. Such an embracing consciousness is always required in an age of radical transition. Lacking external guides, we shift our morality inward; there is a new demand upon the individual of personal responsibility. We are required to discover on a deeper level what it means to be human.

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