Love Is An Illusion: Learning To Let Go Of Doubt
Updated February 13, 2020
For some, love is the best thing in the world. Love is the source of all of the joy and beauty to be had in life, and without love, life is a shell, empty of meaning. For some, love is a pleasant enough experience, and having a partner is a delight when the time is right. For still others, though, love is an illusion, largely manufactured by media over millennia, given credence by religion, spoken tradition, and written tradition, without the scientific backing or reasoning to lend it actual credence.
For some of those individuals, this might legitimately be the case. Love may merely be a chemical reaction aroused by novelty and shared interests. For others, however, this view of love was borne of a broken heart or disappointed hopes, and functions more as a protective mechanism than an actual deeply held belief. For those individuals, learning to let go of doubt and consider the possibility of love can lead to emotional freedom.
What Is Love?
Ah, the quandary of the poet and the musician: what exactly is love? Fortunately, scientists do have a hand in this question, as well as centuries of artists seeking to uncover the truth. From a biological perspective, love is a series of chemical reactions, creating a bodily sensation, which then transforms into other bodily sensations, and culminates in an evolution-driven attachment. From an emotional perspective, love is a feeling that evokes images of flowers, smiling, and holding hands. From a spiritual perspective, love is an experience of being willing to lay down one's life for another, of moving toward sacrifice and wholeness in communion with someone else.
All of these together can be love, while a single one of them fails to adequately and accurately quantify exactly what love is. Despite countless research studies, poems, plays, and works of art dedicated to this question-devoted entirely to determining just what love is and what it looks like-love remains stubbornly elusive, and entirely personal to each and every one of us. What love means to one person, it does not mean to another, and what love looks like to one person is entirely different from another. For this reason, love cannot be quantified, but is typically satisfied by this: feelings of affection, a willingness to sacrifice, and some form of commitment.
Losing Belief in Love
Losing belief in love can come from a variety of places. Although a broken heart due to a lost romantic connection is most often pointed to as the cause, this takes a narrow view of the damages potentially caused by loved ones as a whole, including family, friends, and mentors. A perceived betrayal-or series of betrayals-by anyone in whom you had trust has the potential to decimate your views of love and create doubt as to whether or not love is real or wholly imagined.
A ruptured relationship with a parent can cause loss in the belief that love exists. Parents or caregivers are usually the first people who teach us how to forge connections and what love should (and does) look like. If a parent is neglectful, cruel, or even consistently inconsiderate, this can erode your views of love quickly, and create the suspicion that the love so often talked about is not real, after all, but is a construct of people with an agenda-or people who just don't know any better.
Failed friendships can also damage a belief in love. Friendships are also among the most trusting, vulnerable relationships you can have. If a friend betrays you, forgets something important, or lets you down, you might also experience a loss of belief in love-particularly if it is a close friend who has let you down.
Mentors can also plant seeds of doubt regarding love. Usually, mentors or other people you look up to create doubt about love through their own failures in love, or their own losses. A respected mentor who has an affair and gets a divorce, for instance, might cause you to second-guess whether or not love exists. A mentor who gives up on a friend after years of closeness can sow doubt. When you look up to someone, you very often work to mimic their choices and behavior, and witnessing a fall-especially a romantic or love-related one-can create doubt as to whether or not love is real for them and for you.
Letting Go of Doubt
There is very often a good reason to doubt love, and disregarding that reason altogether is neither helpful for healing, nor helpful in learning new ways to look at love. Instead, finding and acknowledging the reason for your doubt is paramount. If you experienced childhood neglect, trauma, or abuse, for instance, honoring and healing that abuse is going to be the first step in healing your doubt about love. Working with a qualified healthcare professional to search back through your childhood, adolescence, and even adult life for the traces of familial pain is an integral part of healing; as you work through old trauma, years of fear, stress, and guilt can start to arise, and can cause a lot of unexpected pain and emotional distress. Having someone to work with you and guide you through the process will help keep transitions and healing phases smooth, straightforward, and appropriate.
Once you've begun healing, you can start to look at redefining your own ideas about love and what it might look like for you. Again, this doesn't have to be romantic in nature; you can identify what type of parental relationship you'd like to have, or what type of friendship you hope for in the future. You can do this in the form of a simple list, or you can journal about anything you'd like to see moving forward in your life. Journaling can be an enormously helpful therapeutic tool and may help you in your healing journey.
Finally, reaching out is the final step of learning to let go of doubt. Reaching out in search of relationship-friendship, mentorship, or a romantic relationship-is the final step, putting your hopes into action. This step can be the most difficult of all-and has the potential to be the most damaging of all, in the case of rejection, or finding yourself being let down again. Stepping into a new relationship with someone, you always run the risk of disappointment. You might not connect the way you'd hoped, you might find yourself wanting different things, or you might just not have the wherewithal to go forward in the relationship. Walking forward with trust in yourself and the possibility of love-and love for yourself-can ease some of that pain, as it doesn't put as much pressure on the relationship to succeed.
Forging Ahead with Hope-and Care
As you move forward, having let go of some of the doubt you'd previously harbored, you still have to be on guard; not every new relationship is going to flourish. Some of them might end as a matter of mutual agreement, some of them might prove difficult, as you both come with expectations, and some of them might just naturally peter out, as you move in different directions. Consequently, you don't want to throw yourself headfirst into each new relationship you encounter; making time for yourself, prioritizing your healing, and continuing to reflect on what you want and hope for is essential in making sure you continue to heal and grow in your relationship to love and your relationship to yourself.
Caring for yourself moving forward, you must recognize and live as though you believe you are both worthy and capable of love; failing to do so, each new relationship you try-even after working on past trauma-will result in pain, confusion, and failure, because you will not have the emotional breadth to give yourself to someone, and receive love and attention in return.
Despite the pain of having been neglected, lied to, disappointed, or hurt, you have a distinct advantage in the realm of love that others who have not experienced similarly difficult things might not have: you know the importance of doing-and being-better. Once you've known the pain of neglect, you can better understand how not to neglect others. If you've experienced the pinpricks of betrayal, you understand the importance of remaining true to someone. And if you've been put through the wringer via unfaithfulness, you know better than to be unfaithful.
Doubting love is difficult and painful. As you work to improve your relationship with love, however, and heal past wounds, you can not only climb out of the painful pit you've dwelled in, but you can emerge a human being better suited for emotional relationships, commitment, and care, and can move forward, stepping away from the wounds others have inflicted on you. You can pay your healing forward in your life and demonstrate to other doubters and people in the midst of healing that love does exist-and you are living proof.