If Cupid was more like Santa, Valentine’s Day might not be so hard. If we were all watching for Cupid flitting through the clouds shooting arrows on Valentine’s Eve, we’d have more reason to realize we’ve been lied to about love.
Instead, the myths about love go unchallenged until romances fall apart. And when they do people often blame themselves, not the myths.
Would you blame yourself if Santa didn’t stuff your stocking as an adult? Of course not! And yet many blame themselves when love doesn’t magically appear. Or when it doesn’t last forever.
How individuals blame themselves is based on the cultural biases they inherited in childhood. The subconscious holds onto childhood beliefs until cognitive dissonance requires an examination of the facts. When it comes to love, people go into the world of romance as naive as children who still believe in Santa.
Not every culture believes in Cupid, but every society harbors cultural myths about love that can be hard to disprove from the inside. Lots of people are at a loss for how to get and keep the love they want. Lacking a better strategy, people continue to do whatever they were taught. Even if it’s the romantic equivalent of addressing letters to the North Pole and leaving out a plate of cookies.
The rituals of earning love are varied, but they tend to be more insidious than hanging stockings or putting tinsel on a tree. All cultures have formulas for earning love, and the history of those cultural biases shape the human mind.
Let’s talk stereotypes, for illustrative purposes.
A woman raised in a beauty pageant culture might believe that she’ll never catch a man unless she wears the right make-up and clothes. High heels, for her, might be a prerequisite for being loved.
A woman raised in a fundamentalist religion, might have learned the opposite. She wouldn’t even earn God’s love unless she prayed daily and kept her body hidden. High heels in her culture could disqualify her from being loved. Cultural myths about love become the social rules of romance, and function as a test for who deserves love.
The criterion changes but the message is the same—you won’t be loved unless x, y, or z.
Social norms are the standardized test for love.
Standardized tests are stressful.
Inevitably people fail to earn true love because only conditional love can be earned. And conditional love isn’t true love. Yet, when a woman fails in love, what is she likely to do?
Instead of getting skeptical about Cupid, she wonders what she did wrong.
Sometimes a great fear emerges in the subconscious. The fear says something is terribly fundamentally wrong with her, that’s why she’s unloved. That fear is the part of her that still believes the lies she was raised with as a child.
Every culture and subculture is wrong about who deserves love. Because real love isn’t earned, and it can’t be graded. In one culture a stiletto might promise love, and in another banish it. Both cultures are making a mistake—and it isn’t harmless. All social standards for love push people into contorting themselves into false ideals. Every human being has parts of themselves that don’t fit their culture’s ideals, and for this part, complying with social norms is a form of self-betrayal. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.
There’s no valid way to make someone unworthy of love.
Nor is there anything that makes someone worthy of love.
But when someone doesn’t feel loved, these facts are of little comfort. The rational mind searches for an explanation and grasps only myths. Dispelling personal myths sounds easy when it’s reduced to shoes. But it’s not.
One’s own cultural myths are invisible as long as they are believed.
Imagine if children were told that they had to believe in Santa Claus, or they’d be kicked out into the snow Christmas morning. Imagine Christmas books in which kids who didn’t believe in Santa got frostbite and empty bellies. Imagine children whispering to each other about a friend of a friend who got kicked out, or saw it happen to a sibling.
If these were the Christmas visions that danced in their heads, rational children would be fanatical in their belief in Santa. When social safety is at stake, self-preservation requires denial of any evidence contrary to social biases, no matter how absurd. Smart people in this situation wouldn’t even let themselves think about how small the chimney is compared to Santa’s big fat belly. Their survival would depend on it. Furthermore, belief in Santa and knowledge about getting tossed out in the snow get bundled and affect actual perception of reality. Believing in Santa and believing in getting kicked out become one belief, one whole story. Verification of one part of the story, feels like verification of the whole thing.
This is how it works with love too.
Even when the facts are in front of someone’s face, they may not be able to discern reality from myth. The higher the cost of questioning social norms, the harder it is to tell fact from fiction. In most cultures the cost of questioning certain myths has been astronomical; literally life and death, torture or ostracism.
Only when it becomes safe to do so, can the subconscious can reveal that our stories are just stories. The human mind is amazing, it holds both our socially programmed fears and our repressed truths. Working with the subconscious lets repressed truth surface, and allows the psyche to replace the fears of conditional love with experiences of unconditional love.
If your love story ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But if your love story hurts, if it doesn’t make sense, ask questions.
If you aren’t sure you deserve love, ask questions.
Ask, “What myths am I harboring about love?”
Ask, “What bullshit stories have me blaming myself when I feel unloved?”
You may not get an answer right away. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. It takes time for knowledge to emerge. The stories that are holding you back might not be about high heels, that’s not the point.
The point is to ask your subconscious to reveal your true love story.