The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

February 2013: Love Tanks

Posted on Feb 16, 2013

As I came up with the title for this blog entry, I was humored by the double meaning or imagery generated by those two words. On one hand, I imagined battle tanks wreaking havoc in the name of love. A bit of an oxymoron, but with a ring of truth to it. On the other hand, picture vessels intended to store love—like in a warehouse, or like rain barrels capturing droplets of love. Neither image is particularly healthy.

The concept of love tanks in reference to relationships has been around for a couple of decades when co-dependency was ‘the’ hot topic in the world of therapy. It has been finessed and nuanced in several ways over the years as therapy models evolve. Now it is more common to hear about emotional bank accounts.

However, as I have mulled this over lately, it occurred to me that the idea of transferring and storing love still has (co)dependency at its roots. If you do this for me, my love tank will be fuller therefore I will be better able to fill your love tank. And if parents are keeping each other’s love tanks full, there will be a source for filling children’s love tanks. The argument goes that when the parents fail to fill each other, role reversal results when parents begin to rely on their children for filling their love tanks—causing developmental disruptions for the children.

Now there is, of course, a grain of truth in all that sand. Healthy family relationships and human development do depend upon a healthy parent partnership. But a healthy partnership depends on healthy self-awareness or sense of self—not solely on give-and-take. We cannot give to other people what we do not already have within ourselves. And yes, role reversal is a risk when there is not a healthy balance of love/nurturance within families.

The love tank concept also sounded unfair to me. What of all the single people in this world? Are they doomed to a life devoid of love if they do not have a partner to keep their love tank full? How do other relationships factor into our sense of being loved and lovable? And therein I found my nugget. It is crucial to have, as part of our sense of self, a sense of being loved and lovable—even when the evidence is not forthcoming in romantic ways, or parental ways, or sibling ways, etc. etc.

Now, here is the catch 22—it is very difficult to incorporate into our sense of self that sense of being loved and lovable (or accepted and acceptable), if we have not actually experienced being loved/accepted. When we grow up feeling unloved and uncared for, the only way our child-minds can make sense of that is to develop the explanation of being unlovable. This takes hard work to ‘undo.’ It is very difficult to retrain our brains from being convinced that we are unloved and unlovable to being a person who is loved and lovable.  However, the effort is worth it.

Find out for yourselves. May you experience a shift in your sense of self to include a sense of being loved/accepted and lovable/acceptable (evidence notwithstanding)—and see what happens.

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