The Illusion of Ownership: Learning to Love Without Possession

Parents don't want to hear that their children don't belong to them. In fact, had I ever said something like that to my mother, she would have promptly bopped me in my mouth.

The Illusion of Ownership: Learning to Love Without Possession

Parents don't want to hear that their children don't belong to them. In fact, had I ever said something like that to my mother, she would have promptly bopped me in my mouth. How dare I say that I don't belong to her!? She carried me inside her womb for 9 long months, pushed my extra large, irregularly shaped head out of an opening much too small for it, spent thousands of dollars that she didn't have on hospital bills, food, shelter, clothing, etc. And on top of all that, still found time to show me love and affection -- even when my drawers had skid marks. How dare I say that I don't belong to the person that cared for me for so long!? Well, because it's true -- I don't belong to my mother and she doesn't belong to me. But for a long time we tried to possess each other and I'm sure that's what caused the bulk of our conflicts.

I read this Osho quote a few years ago on Tumblr and I remember my mind being blown by it. It goes "If you love a flower, don't pick it up. Because if you pick it up, it dies and it ceases to be what you love. So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation." I didn't fully accept this as truth back then but I remember thinking it was a profound idea. All the love I knew up to that point was possessive in nature so I had no experience to validate it with but that all changed when I started meditating. In meditation I found a love that isn't possessive at all. A love that didn't ask me to change. I found a love so spacious, so complete, so fulfilled, so unbothered that it didn't need anything else from me other than to marvel in my beauty. A love that had no interest in my past or my potential but was fully engulfed in what I am now. A love that understood that by attempting to possess me, it will change me, and I no longer will be what I was when it first loved me. Meeting that love showed me that Osho was right. Not only that, but I started to see how I'd let possessiveness and it's toxicity ruin many relationships. I was so used to thinking that possessiveness is just a byproduct of love but I'm so grateful to have learned that couldn't be further from the truth.

I think it's safe to say that we all crave love. I'm no parent but from observation I'd say that this craving is a big reason why people have kids -- to have something to love and that will hopefully love you back. To have something that will listen to you and be there for you. To have something to mold into what you think they should be. To "give a better life" than you had, whatever that means. But beneath all of those seemingly harmless desires is also the desire to possess and control. I remember telling my family that I wasn't sure if I still wanted kids this past Thanksgiving and my grandmother having an objection to it. She said "you need to have a few kids or else no one will be around to take care of you when you get old." It was in that moment that I knew that what I suspected about parenthood, at least in a lot of cases, was true. My grandmother is 88 years old and has been taking care of all of us for as long as I can remember so she wasn't speaking from personal experience but rather fear of how she sees her own future. I understand her logic, sure, but I'm no longer afraid of getting old, dying, or being alone so none of those are a good reason to have kids to me.

People have children (on purpose) because they are afraid to die and having kids is the closest thing we currently have to cloning ourselves. This fear of death is what causes us to become possessive of our children. We tell children what to do and what not to do. What's good and what's bad. We try our hardest to protect them from what we perceive to be dangerous and we act like that's what love is; forgetting that it is our painful experiences that make us strong & wise. I've done many, many things that people in my family would view as bad or harmful but they've led to some of the most amazing experiences of my life. Experiences that I wouldn't trade for any amount of money. Experiences that I would have never known had I allowed what my family thinks to stop me from doing them. Years and years of having your opinion disregarded as a child builds resentment and ultimately pushes the child away. At least that's how it was in my case. I felt so scrutinized and controlled growing up that I couldn't wait to get out of the house. And when I got out of the house, I didn't come back often. The real, or perceived, possessiveness I felt from my family pushed me away and made our relationships weaker.

I've never been in love. I thought I had been but the truth is, I've lied to every girlfriend I've ever said "I love you" to. What I thought was love was really just attachment to their physical beauty and to the power trip I got out of knowing that they were desired by many but possessed by me exclusively. Attachment to the false sense of security I got from feeling like I owned someone who is valuable. I would have been much better off telling them truth which was "I'm attached to you" or "I don't feel like I have much control over my life but possessing you makes me feel like I have control over something and that makes things a little less scary" or "I like how you are right now and I don't want you to change. If you do change, my "love" for you will likely disappear".

Since I "loved" other people using this ideology, I "loved" myself using the same rules. The difference is that instead of getting attached to another person, I got attached to my looks, personality, talents, and the access all those got me and I thought that because I loved those things about me, I loved myself. But I didn't love myself, I loved things about me -- just like I didn't love my exes, I loved things about them. So when they stopped behaving the way that I wanted them to, I would either try to manipulate them into changing into what I wanted or I'd just leave. As you probably know from personal experience, it sucks when people are trying to change you. It sucks because it means that you aren't good enough as you are. It makes you feel inadequate when people tell you that you need to become something else -- especially if you already don't love yourself.

Not loving ourselves is really the issue here. We don't find love within ourselves so we go looking for it outward. We find someone who awakens or incites the love that is already, always inside of us and instead of realizing that the love is already in us, we falsely associate that someone as being the architect of the love we feel instead of merely the muse. This is fine and dandy until that person no longer wants to be with us because when they leave, they take those feelings of love with them. Wouldn't it be much better to love ourselves first, before we got romantically involved with another? That way, if you and your lover split, you'll still have love because you will have already cultivated it within yourself before you two got together. That way, you won't have to feel jealous, or alone, or betrayed because you know that love is freedom and to love your ex is to allow them the space to be happy -- with or without you.

Look, I get it -- life is strange. There are a lot of unanswered questions about our existence and you can really only ever know what you alone are experiencing. Everyday you wake up and have no idea what exactly the next 16 hours have in store for you. Life is a mystery unfolding and I've learned that the difference between happy people and unhappy people is that happy people approach this mystery with love and wonder -- unhappy people approach this mystery with fear and insecurity. That fear is what makes people hop from relationship to relationship because it's a little less scary when you have a companion. That fear is what causes parents to get attached to their children and try to prevent their children from living the lives they're destined to live. That fear is what causes us to want to change the people around us instead of ourselves. But fear is the opposite of love and love cannot exist where fear exists. Since possession is based in fear, there can be no love in possession.

It was a very special day for me the day I saw a pretty girl and didn't immediately have the desire to own her or use her. For a very long time, anytime I saw a girl I found attractive, I had to have her, if only temporarily. I thought this was normal and natural for a male because that's what I had been taught, but it's not. Seeing people that way is objectification which is another byproduct of possessiveness. At one point, I didn't think it possible for me to see a girl in the same way that I see a flower. To see a girl as a beautiful creation that I can find pleasure in looking at and wondering about but not something that I need to possess. As something I can experience for a moment without needing to disrupt. I didn't give women this liberty for too long but I've learned that's what love is. Allowing things to exist without assuming that their life needs to be changed or enhanced by your presence or opinion. Love is spacious. Love is understanding. Love is the freedom to exist just as you are without anyone trying to impose onto you what they think you need. I entitled this post "Love: Appreciation vs Possession" but it's really no contest. Possessiveness is toxic and truthfully doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same conversation as love.