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Someone once asked me: "Do we ever really fall in love with another person, or are we falling in love with the idea we have of that person. In essence, are we then not just narcissistically falling in love with ourselves?" Some Baghwan or another said, "it is more accurate to say, ‘I experience love when I am with you’, than to say, ‘I love you’”. What they both bring up is interesting, and I think it is accurate. Accurate, but partial. It presupposes love is always rooted in the pre-rational level of development in s/he who is seeking or finding love. For it is in the pre-rational that narcissism is rooted and fixed. The need to have ourselves reflected back--approval from external sources given—is narcissistic. A need to be admired. Liked by Other. At all costs. There is also a great deal of evidence in developmental psychology today that "love at first sight" is often the result of similar childhoods--parental histories specifically--somehow recognized at the unconscious level. Recognized and drawn to. A frightening thought as we look at most romantic archetypes and culturally trained patterns. How many times have you seen people shape their behaviors so they can be loved [validated] by another? How many times have you done it? How many times have you subtly or not so subtly engaged in a dynamic intended to have them alter their behavior to fit your notion of how the love “should” look. Unfortunately, as a culture, be it in our poetry, in the love stories, in romantic film, or in pop music, it is only the “I would die for you, I cannot live without you, I am nothing without you” [all pre-rational] that gets all the play, limelight, airtime, etc. True (rational And beyond) esteem for the self is rooted in the rational. Self-esteem defined as the knowledge that we are fundamentally competent to handle whatever life throws at us and that we are appropriate to life, or that we deserve to be happy. There is a very real sense in which the depth of love you can give to another is limited [only] by the love you have for your Self. At the rational level love often follows from finding people who embody your ideals. They may embody them more than you even. Is this narcissistic—which is loving your own reflection back with moral valence of "I am therefore good/bad; right/wrong"? I do not think so. I think this is gravitating toward that which you feel is worth emulating; that which you have determined produces worthwhile results in the world. Truly rational. And the trans-rational and transcendent, where compassion, love of all sentient beings, and unconditional love begin to emerge. This does not mean the love of all behaviors of those sentient beings, but the ability to look beyond behaviors--to not confuse identity and behaviors, as they are different logical levels--and to love the being still. Love the being in the face of uninspiring--and perhaps even heinous--behaviors. Of course, the challenge for us all is that as we develop through this spiraling ascent (or deepening of the Self, if you prefer) we can only understand the level of development we are at and below. At best, we can understand that which we have experienced. We may have experienced it for but a moment, giving us some inkling of the next level, or deepening. But that peak experience is required, in the least, to perceive it. Perception often, truly is projection. We can only reflect the depth we have achieved and we can only reflect back the depth to which we can see. It is in this knowledge that we must look on others with fresh eyes, peering into their depths, knowing we may not be able to see all that they are…yet.