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REAL LOVE Part 9: The Potential Vs. The Person


By Columnist Camille Lucy – Certified Holistic Health Coach & Reiki Practitioner:


As humans, we run the risk of falling into the trap of the rat-race, the “chase the carrot” lifestyle. I will never forget how hard I laughed during the Landmark Forum the day the teacher gave us the chasing-the-carrot analogy. The reason I was laughing so hard that I almost choked was because it was true.


See the teacher pretended to be a donkey, chasing a carrot in front of him. Here, Donkey, Donkey! The carrot enticed him forward. The donkey, of course, is you and I. Everyone. The carrot is the “next big thing.” It’s the thing we talk about. “If I get this, I’ll be happy.”

The Carrot We All Chase

The carrot is the next step you are waiting for. Wishing for. You spend all your time thinking about it, talking about it and desiring it. You’ll be so fulfilled once you get that thing, whether it be a person, a material item, a job!

Of course, the carrot can be anything. The problem is, we spend so much time focused on it, that we aren’t present in our lives. We miss today. We are too focused on a potential tomorrow.

Finally, “the day” comes, and you get that carrot. Boy, is it delicious. But something happens. It becomes boring. All the anticipation, and now that you’ve got the carrot, it’s quite disappointing. You don’t feel as you expected to. Eventually, you want a new carrot.

So you set your eyes on the next one. And so goes the cycle of chasing the carrot.

The teacher was running around the room, playing the part of a donkey trying to nip at a carrot, then stopping just long enough to eat it, then chasing a new one. It was hysterical. But, it’s also an alarmingly accurate representation of many people’s realities.

In the same way that people chase “carrots,” they dream up this perfect person and ideal relationship. Prince Charming, Miss America. Whatever he or she looks like, they’re perfect. They act a certain way, do things a certain way, look a certain way. It’s like they become puppets in our visualisations, and we are the puppeteers. As Byron Katie says, “no two people have ever really met.” 

Love is Not Always About the Person

Let’s first explore something: love is not always about the other person. We often fall in love with a space, not a person. Shocked? Love is really about us. We can only give out what is inside of us. What we really seek, though we don’t know it, is space to safely be ourselves.

Someone who allows us to express ourselves, to show and receive love, and support us to grow to the best versions of ourselves. So, while it is not the person per se that we are falling in love with, but a space they hold for us, it is about them in the sense that they need to be able to provide this for us. And we need to be able to recognise and receive it.

Falling In Love

A great example of that space is when you fall in love, it fantastic. All shiny and new. Over time, the relationship doesn’t meet your expectations. You are continually hurt and disappointed. You fall out of love. And you’re kinda angry.

Then, you meet someone new. You fall in love. Same thing, different person. You fall out of love, slightly bitter still.

You’re onto the next one. You fall in love. He or she is compatible with you, your style of communication, shares similar beliefs. You work through misunderstandings well. You stay in love.

Maintaining unconditional love is a space that is held, it is a commitment by both people to keep this energy flowing between you.

Why it didn’t work with the first two people? Well, this is because you didn’t feel that they provided love –  a safe and sacred space to exist. You could think they are the most handsome or beautiful person you’ve ever met. You can adore their humour and witty charm. But, if you cannot meet each other where you are at in a healthy way, it’s just not going to work.

With that being said, and knowing that we are not always aware of that, you’ve likely been or have known someone that chases the carrot of Love and Relationships.

Love the Person, Not the Potential

It was not until a few months before I began my new relationship, and this 90-day window of opportunity (chronicled in my book), that I came across the lesson: love the person, not the potential. And I got an instant slap-in-the-face.

It occurred to me that I had tried for so many years to make my relationships feel like something I conjured up in my head. I worked out how they “should” feel (perhaps now it’s safe to mention that the words should, could and would are very dangerous as they are implications of expectations and attachments and judgments). They were going to be the one! The fairytale ending. I convinced myself to feel things I didn’t. Or to numb what I did feel.

I was confused why I had no reactions to things that I felt I “should” have a reaction to with a partner. I remained blind to my own tactics because I was “hopeful.” Hopeful or afraid. Scared that what I envisioned didn’t really exist.  And that if it did, I didn’t deserve it. Or it couldn’t happen to me.  That something was wrong with me. I had no malicious intent, I didn’t even realise what I was doing. I believed in the relationships and in my partners.

Having now come out the other side, I can look back and observe that I was, in fact, falling in love with the potential and not the person. What he could be. What we could do together. What we could share and experience. My sight went right past them, into some la-la land.  Unfair to them (and myself)? Yes. But, I think this is a very common theme for people entering relationships. We are excited! We are in love with love. And we begin to draw up our wish list of “things” – or carrots.

It’s all fine and dandy until that wish list remains intact, and nothing gets crossed off. Or few things do, anyway. Or if items that get crossed off don’t feel how you thought they would. It’s at this point that conditional love will reveal itself, as will unconditional love.

Many times, people enter relationships because they aren’t satisfied with their lives. They want something else. There’s a void. We all crave a place to belong, whether it be a person or a place in this world. Sometimes we want to do things, and we want someone to share it with. We look to fill the empty space with a body. In this way, we are not falling in love with someone. We are falling in love with their potential to be all that we desire. We are falling in love with the idea that they may fill our voids and make us happy, once and for all! It’s not conscious, most times, nor is it malicious.

Conditional Love & Loving the Potential

Conditional love – loving the potential – is about controlling another person. But, we aren’t here to control anyone. Relationships are about encouragement, experience, and growth. To share in what life has to offer. They are meant to enhance our lives, not replace what is missing. And love is not ownership. In fact, it steps aside and observes. It waits until it is needed, then becomes a safe space for the other. It is not dependent. It moves away so the other can stand on its own two feet. It understands. Conditional love, on the other hand, seeks dependency. It thrives on its ability to manipulate and control by being needed. That makes it feel important and validated. Remember, it’s desirous of love from another because it wants to fill up voids and empty spaces.

And this is when a very difficult issue arises: attachment. It’s a fine line and fragile balance remaining connected with someone while not becoming attached to them, an outcome, or expectations. Unconditional love is free of attachment. Conditional love thrives on attachment and provides what seems like security and stability. While I would love to say that I have mastered this art of non-attachment, I have not. It’s all a process. For example, I know that loving my children unconditionally means remaining unattached to various outcomes, expectations or the like. You love your kids beyond words, right? So it’s hard to remain objective. But, all in all, attachment is the first poison that allows others in. When we are attached to a certain outcome, for example, and that outcome doesn’t happen, we are met with negativity, anger, and fear-based feelings of lack. And this is where unconditional love steps in and says…love means the good with the bad, the ideal or not. Simply stated, it’s detaching from the ego and becoming an unbiased observer, accepting the whole no matter how it looks. And not even trying to predict what it should or will look like.

We can liken the “potential” to labels, boxes and human categories and the “person” to soul connections. If you are sizing up a relationship based on its labels, you’re looking for the potential. The labels ultimately determine whether someone is appealing to us or not. If you break your label, you’re no longer worthy of affection and love. On the other hand, unconditional love for the person is like fluidly guiding and taking guidance from one another, looking forward to life together, and not relying on a false sense of stability for footing. Unconditional love feels good. Where conditional love says, “I don’t want to lose this person, I am afraid. I must keep them,” unconditional love says, “I cherish and honor you and appreciate what is, right now. I love you wholly and fully.” 

Conditional love is not “bad.” It’s just not unconditional love. It’s not really love at all. It’s fear-based. By no means do we act out of conditional love intentionally, just for shits and giggles. We just don’t know any better. And that’s okay. Life and love are a big learning process, a journey, a discovery. One that never ends.

Eat, Pray, Love

In “Eat, Pray, Love,” Liz Gilbert writes, “I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”

I can relate to what Liz wrote. I was always hopeful, envisioning the grandest version of my partner and our lives together. What I didn’t take into account, was his willingness and readiness to become that version of himself (or that perhaps he was loving my potential, and not me!) or maybe he didn’t need to reach anything, and that my vision for him was not the same as his own! We do not all grow at the same pace, at the same time.  And what is right for one is not necessarily right for another. I now understand that I must set expectations aside, and love my partner unconditionally for all that he is and all that he is not. Not because of what he can do for me, not because of what I can get out of him, but because of who he is as a person. Because of the space, he is capable of (voluntarily) holding for me. And because it feels good to love him.

If you find that you’re beginning to “design” your future with someone, chances are you’re loving their potential. Loving the person translates to living in the present moment with them. While you are excited to do things with them and share life and love, you’re not looking for someone to do things with because you have unfulfilled desires. Whether you do those things or not, it makes no difference for unconditional love. The here and now is just as nice.

Loving the Potential Not the Person

As I mentioned in a previous chapter, my ex-boyfriend often dreamt of taking spontaneous weekend vacations and doing fun things together. I later realized that he was loving my potential, our potential as a couple, and not me. He wanted someone to do things with. He wanted someone to take along for his ride. When his ride came to a stop, and no vacations or fun things were in the near future, suddenly his love for me turned to anger and resentment. It was conditional. And I had not met his conditions. It became very apparent to me through other situations like this one that he did not ever love me unconditionally. Maybe he thought he did. But, he more loved the idea of me, my potential to be all that he drew up in his fairytale story that his mind played over and over since he was a kid. He thought if he could just mould me…I would fit in perfect! I’m not all that into being moulded anymore after spending three decades being shaped into whatever form was convenient for my current puppeteers. And this is when I learned my biggest lessons on conditional and unconditional love, loving the person versus loving the potential.

I am sure he didn’t mean to intentionally hurt me, and I know most of these habits are subconscious, but I allowed myself to be hurt as a result. Not accepting someone for who they are, trying to make them fit your picture of perfection, and getting angry when your conditions aren’t met is a sure-fire way to sabotage your relationship and end up feeling not so great. It’s disempowering. And it’s unfair. Just as we wish to be accepted for all of us, it only makes sense to gift someone else with that blessing, as well. And for a relationship to last, we must throw out the “potential” altogether and look inside the person.

Stephen Kendrick The Love Dare & Lasting Love

Stephen Kendrick, of “The Love Dare” said, “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” He continues, “Unconditional love, agape love, will not be swayed by time or circumstances. You must choose to live by encouragement rather than by expectations.” 

We have every opportunity to choose to love someone for all that they are, rather than what they can do or provide for us. In this way, we are setting ourselves up for a love that can last. A real love based on how we feel about the other person. Our voids are our own to fill, no one can do that for us. And staying present, living in the moment, not only enhances our relationships but our overall well-being. Chasing the carrot will undoubtedly leave us empty and unsatisfied. And we miss all of the magic that happens along the way while our eyes are focused on a potential future prize. Real living is about being fully present in all of the everyday beauty that surrounds us at all times. Thích Nhất Hạnh said, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Each activity you participate in is sacred, no matter how small and mundane it may seem. Allow unconditional love to sweep you off your feet and make you feel alive… really alive.

Thích Nhất Hạnh explains,“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” Open your eyes, your mind and your heart, sweet child…and let the blessings flow in.

(Real) Love and Loving the Potential

Loving the potential in someone or something is a toxic setup for disaster. To truly experience life and love and all it has to offer, we must first be whole. We must practice gratitude and mindfulness, enjoying moments as they are presented to us. Unconditional love accepts everything and everyone as it is. As it arrives, as it leaves. It has no attachment to expectations. Expectations are the passageway to disappointment, a fear-based feeling. And as we all know by now, fear and love are opposing forces. Jack Kornfield said, “In the end, just three things matter: How well we have lived. How well we have loved. How well we have learned to let go.” We’ve got to live and love with all we’ve got and learn to let go of the rest, recognising it for what it is: temporary. Only love is infinite.

LOVERCISE (Excercise)

Think back to previous relationships you’ve had. These can be any relationships: family, friends, significant others. Try to pinpoint circumstances where you – or your partner – were giving out conditional love. How about unconditional love? Then, reflect on these questions:

  1. In what ways were you loving the potential of a person rather than the person himself/herself? 
  2. How did it feel being loved conditionally? How about unconditionally? 
  3. What emotions came up when you were on the receiving end of someone loving your potential rather than you? 
  4. In what ways can you now find value in loving someone unconditionally and for all that they are? 
  5. Do you wish to be loved conditionally or unconditionally? 
  6. Do you often chase the carrot in life, postponing your happiness and gratitude for a later date or time? 
  7. In what ways can you become more present in your daily life? 

The Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal is a fantastic way to change your life around, with very little effort. Drs. Blaire and Rita Justice of “Grateful-ology” said, “If you practice now, your marriage could improve, you might be exercising more, feel less depressed, sleep better, have a healthier heart, more life satisfaction, and increase your chances of living longer. This may sound like a late-night ad that comes with a free set of steak knives (…and that’s not all!), but a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits. The benefits are so great, in fact, that it’s a wonder ‘gratitude gyms’ aren’t already being franchised.”

Jot down, daily or weekly, a few things you’re grateful for. While this positive vibe is still fresh in mind, perform single acts of kindness in your travels, or tell people around you nice things about them. Focusing on gratitude and kindness has proven benefits for both parties: the givers and the receivers. It will become less important to attain the carrots of life as you shift into an appreciation for the Now and all it has blessed you with. This practice not only enhances your life, but it will also enhance your relationships, as well. Everyone benefits. And all it takes is a mere 5 minutes a day. So, what are you waiting for? Hop to it, my friend.

Next month I’ll cover “All About Honesty (Do You Really Want It?)”

In this 11-part series, I have taken excerpts and information from my book, “The (Real) Love Experiment: Explore Love, Relationships & The Self,” to teach about (real) Love and what it means. I will discuss how relationships are the backbone of our existence, how we can utilise them for the unique opportunity to see parts of ourselves needing to be healed, and how loving ourselves is the greatest gift we can give and receive. I will also discuss how behaviour patterns such as fear, omissions, trigger buttons and desires tie into our relationships and ultimately the quality of our lives. I will then conclude with the ‘Top 5 Ways to Truly Love Someone (and Yourself).’ At the end of the 11-part series, you should have a better understanding of the inner workings of your mind, heart and soul and should begin to feel more joy, love and fulfilment both in your relationships and your life in general.

About Our Reiki News & Review Columnist – Camille Lucy

Camille LucyCamille Lucy is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Certified Reiki & Raindrop Technique Practitioner, Ordained Holistic Minister, graphic and web designer, business consultant, and Vice President of a local non-profit that “rehabilitates people through animals.” She is also a writer, a Mother of 3-girls, an artist, a Life-and-Love Junkie, a Self-Expression and Development advocate, and – well, you get the point. She’s a lot of things, just like all of us. Camille is also author of, “The (Real) Love Experiment: Explore Love, Relationships & The Self.” Learn more about her and her adventure(s) at www.CamilleLucy.com or on social media at @LiveFullToday.

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column is the author’s professional opinion, based on their knowledge. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any way. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about a medical condition. Also, always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.


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