This article was excerpted from Vironika Tugaleva’s book The Love Mindset: An Unconventional Guide to Healing and Happiness.
A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love. – Max Muller
People all around you are dying. Perhaps you are too. Fortunately, dying isn’t something we are all doing, nor is it something that we must necessarily do. We must all perish eventually, but we don’t need to spend our lives perishing.
People, like all other living things, spend their time on Earth either dying or growing. We cannot do both and we cannot do neither. We can make the choice to grow or die consciously or we can allow it to be made for us.
Most people, however, do not only pass up this choice, they neglect to think of themselves as growing or dying. They believe themselves to be simply “living,” as if living is a state that is fixed, static and unquestionable.
In this world, nothing can be static. Stability of any sort is simply an illusion, a mirage that arises from a trick of the eye that looks at a glimmer in time apart from its relationship to other glimmers.
In the larger picture, everything from the most solid-looking rock to the budding chrysanthemum is either growing or dying, building or degrading, learning or regressing, getting bigger or smaller, stronger or weaker.
What it means to live
In the rules of life, no human being is an exception. We all tend to agree that newborn babies are growing and that the sick are dying, while everyone else is put on a sort of plateau, a state of having completed growth and waiting to begin death. Such a state does not exist.
This state is an illusion that allows many people to slowly rob themselves of life without any conscious awareness. In this state, people don’t believe that they can grow. They think growing is for children.
If they do think they can grow, they leave growth in the hands of money, success, education and knowledge. They hear rumours that growth is a matter of mystery or luck. If you’re dealt bad cards, you wither; great cards, then you prosper. These views not only distort the truth, they also do us great harm by obscuring from us the simplicity of lifelong growth and fulfillment.
If I were to ask you what it means for a plant to live, you would tell me that to live is to grow. This is no different for a human being. Living is not a static state. The continuation of one’s livelihood immediately and automatically implies growth.
If I were to then ask you what you needed to make the plant grow, you would tell me sunlight and water. This is no different for a human being. A person, like a plant, depends on his consumption of certain things to subsist.
Whether we’re talking about a plant or a middle-aged housewife, growth depends on the organism’s intake of nourishment. To sustain life means to obtain the necessary sustenance. When we intake what we need to live, we grow. When we do not, we die. These are the rules of life. That which is impermanent must feed on its sustenance to survive.
We all know that a human being requires water, air, food, warmth and sunlight. These are all life necessities. In order for us to grow, we must intake these in optimal amounts. If we do not, it begins to show in our outward appearance.
For some life necessities, such as food, it takes some time for signs of insufficiency to become obvious to the onlooker. For others, such as air, it takes no time at all. If you were to come across a suffocating person, you would have no doubt about the cause of her crisis. However, if you were to come across a person who had a vitamin deficiency from neglecting his vegetables, you wouldn’t be likely to deduce his plight from first glance.
By the same process, you can neglect your own intake of vital nourishment and thus begin to die slowly, unhappy and unaware.
Love as a necessity of life
Perhaps you do not realize this yet, but love is also a life necessity. When we talk about what we need to live, we list water, air, warmth and food, but we forget about love. And who can blame us?
We forget about love like we forget about the sun. We often forget that the sun is what allows all the other life necessities to exist. The sun is what allows for the Earth’s air composition to contain the oxygen that we need to survive. The sun is what fuels the rain cycle that provides water for all the plants and, by extension, the animals that eat those plants. The sun is at the top of the chain of life necessities. It is not only vital to our survival; it is the origin of life.
Similarly, people focus on their need for approval, sex and success. They often forget that, without love, they would not have any of those. Love is what bonds us to one another. Love is the essential ingredient. Without it, sex is meaningless, approval is bribery and success is short-lived.
It is only when we unite with one another that we can accomplish anything substantial and sustainable. Without love, we would be just like animals that have not developed the ability to experience love or human beings who are forced to live in animalistic survival mode. We would eat our young and kill each other over territory.
Thus, love is not only a requirement for human relationships, it defines our livelihood. Love is not only a necessity of life; it is the origin of life.
When any living organism is deprived of something that it needs to live, it responds in one of two ways: passive submission or violent resistance.
Passive submission is how trees respond to incoming death. With each second that a tree is deprived of sunlight or water, the brilliant gloss of its leaves fades to make way for a flat matte. With each moment, the vibrant greens shift imperceptibly along a gradient to brown. As the days go on, the twigs become more brittle as the leaves start to curl and fall off. The branches turn downward as the plant can no longer reach its feeble arms up to receive the sun. They, too, change colour from a deep brown to a cold ash grey. With each passing sunrise, the tree slowly wilts without resistance or protest. Eventually, the last leaf falls and the last branch hardens. The plant dies, silently.
There are people all around you passively submitting to their love deficiency. As a collective, we have developed clever nouns for these death symptoms. We call them depression, low self-image, low motivation, sexual dysfunction and laziness. Without the love that sustains us, the passive submitters slowly wither away.
These people are often dismissed as inheritors of faulty genetics or improper brain chemicals. With each coming moment that they spend without the love that they so desperately need, they lose a glimmer of hope. They may realize, at one point, that love is what they need, but by that time they think it’s too late or too difficult to get what they need. Their passion dies, along with their last shred of hope, meekly and silently.
The other response to incoming death is violent resistance. This is the exact response that a fish produces when a fisherman grabs her out of the water. At first, the fish feels the hook in her mouth and begins to protest. As the line reels in, she panics. Her movements become more jerky and volatile. She thrashes side to side, up and down. She struggles with all her might, trying one strategy then the next, then the next. The less oxygen she receives, the harder she pushes. Feeling her impending doom drawing nearer by the millisecond, the fish fights without holding back or stopping, until her little heart burns out from a lack of oxygen. She dies quickly and suddenly, mid-battle.
All around you are people violently resisting their deprivation of love. We have developed clever nouns for their symptoms as well. Violent resisters display: anxiety, anger, aggression, drug and alcohol abuse, binge eating, desperation, promiscuity and self-harm. This death response is often glamorized. He who dies mid-battle is said to die an honourable death. There are whole cults formed around belligerent rock stars and junkie poets. Their self-destruction is romanticized as a logical partner of their brilliance.
When someone dies from addiction weakly, passively submitting, people shake their heads. When someone dies from addiction violently, struggling hard every moment, people widen their eyes. Perhaps they detect a hint of themselves in the self-terminating mechanism. They sense the same deprivation that they themselves suffer from and they look at violent resistance as a “cure” because it seems to exude control.
In truth, there’s no control in either submitting or resisting. Both are symptoms of the same disease. Violent resistance has simply learned to disguise itself as a therapy.
As a collective, we have so deeply normalized these symptoms that our line of defence against them is simply to remove them from sight. Day after day, more and more medications are prescribed for depression and addiction, assuming that these things run in our blood, when really they run in our patterns of awareness.
Our bodies signal to us that we’re starving for love, but since we don’t speak the language of the body, we become frustrated with its communication attempts. We silence it with medication and therapy while grudges and resentment grow like malignant tumours, reported violence spreads like a virus, and mood disorders continue to rise to their highest levels in recorded history.
We continue to treat the symptoms, but we don’t treat the problem, so the problem grows. It’s almost as if we’re collectively attempting to clean oil out of the ocean, while the spill keeps flowing and no one bothers to find its source. We just clean up the mess and accept it as a part of life.
Concealing with medication is so normalized that we hardly question it. We have collectively accepted our love deprivation as a normal state—just the way life is. From the time we’re very young, we’re taught to medicate symptoms. We’re taught that problems like addiction, unhappiness and depression can happen to any unlucky person and that all we can do is dose ourselves when they come.
This is no one’s fault. It’s simply how things have turned out. It’s not the fault of doctors, psychologists or parents. They’re simply following in the footsteps of everyone else. They study big books about how to treat symptoms and hold meetings about the best ways to eliminate them. All the while, the flow of problems continues.
Problems, like human beings, are always either growing or shrinking. Our deprivation of love is a quickly growing epidemic, which we allow to seep like a virus into our hearts and minds, blindly blaming the symptoms and not the cause.
The myth of love scarcity
There’s a popular and dangerous myth out there that speaks of love scarcity. This myth tells us that there’s not enough love to go around for everyone.
It’s almost as if life is a giant buffet and love is the favourite dish of all the people. Everyone lines up, but only the first in line gets her fair share. Everyone else either gets scraps or gets turned away.
The doling out of love is said to be a matter of being lucky enough to get it at the right moment with the right person. This is exactly why people throw themselves at married, unavailable or violent people. They get a glimpse of love and they fear that it’s the only scrap they’ll ever get, so they hold on with all their might.
This myth is also exactly why people use each other and throw one another away. They see one another as a measly helping of love and they want more. They line up once again, this time hoping for their one true love, their soul mate.
The myth of love scarcity also pins people against one another as competitors for the small game that is love. They drive themselves crazy, pushing the boundaries of their values, fighting for their piece of the pie. This myth threatens our survival. It turns us into illogical, starving animals who believe that living in desperate, helpless need is our natural state.
Miles away from you and I live people who believe there’s a scarcity of food just as much as we’ve been made to believe that there’s a scarcity of love. They grasp for a few breadcrumbs with the same desperation that we grasp for a few words of approval. They throw themselves at bread the way we throw ourselves at each other, all of us desperate to satisfy our hunger. Helpless, hungry, and blind, we die slowly while blaming it on a scarcity of resources.
All those miles away, the scarcity of food, like our scarcity of love, is simply an illusion. The nomad walks up and down the territory searching for food. She lives in constant survival mode. After her first lesson in agriculture, however, every nomad learns to plant and harvest her own food.
Through the process of sowing and reaping, she settles and quickly learns that there is no shortage of food after all. There is no problem with supply. There is only a shortage of knowledge about how to harness that supply.
A lack of knowledge
To people without this vital knowledge about food, life is full of all sorts of problems. Diseases of the mind and body infest the food-deprived beings. They blame this deprivation on the land or the industrialized man or God. They believe they’re lacking in resources, when really they’re lacking in knowledge. They starve while the land remains an untapped resource of infinite abundance.
And so we live in a culture deprived of love. It is not love itself that is lacking. It is our knowledge of how to harness the enormous supply of it that is lacking. As a result of our ignorance, our lives are full of all sorts of problems. Diseases of the mind and body, passive submission and violent resistance, spread like the plague.
For our deprivation, we blame our parents, our partners, our institutions and our maker. Love continues to shine like the sun, available to anyone who knows how to tap its vitality, while we stay blind and hungry.
Curiously, cultures deprived of food are rarely deprived of love. They balance their lack of one life necessity with an abundance of another, though they’re still not truly satisfied. The food-starved being loves with such force that it seems super-human. The love-starved being consumes with the same force.
Our culture has bred consumers and addicts. We eat too much, buy too much, and want too much. We set ourselves on the fruitless mission of filling the gaping hole within us with material things. Blindly, we consume more and more, believing we’re hungry for more food, status, or money, yet really we’re hungry for connection. The hole widens, bottomless to all of our invented pleasures, and craving only the nourishment of love.
If only we all knew that love, like food, is simple if we only learn the rules of how it works. If it was common knowledge that love is a basic necessity, we would have the motivation we need to seek the truth about it.
If only we perceived how much we struggle without love, we could understand our suffering and the suffering of others with non-judgment and compassion. We could all come together to learn about love and help each other meet this vital need. If only we recognized the myth of love scarcity as false and the symptoms of love deprivation as responsible for most of our problems. If only we were all taught from childhood that love is just like the sun—it is all around us, keeping us alive, and we need only to adjust ourselves to its nature to get the harvest we wish to reap.
Love is more abundant than we could possibly imagine. Just like there is more air than we could possibly breathe in, there is more love than we could possibly perceive. There is no risk of running out of love. There is no limit on love. The only limits are of our perception, our awareness. The only risk is of being closed off to love and living a life of failing to perceive it.