Loving Oneness Now
EGO'S LOVE-GETTING SYSTEM
[A True Metaphor]
[A True Metaphor]
We are all born with an invisible ego-love-bucket. It is about the size of a small child's sand pail and it hangs on a string around our necks down to the level of our hearts. It comes with a small ladle similar to the kind used for soup. In addition, the love-bucket has a tiny tube joining the bottom of the bucket to our hearts, and from our hearts it extends throughout our bodies and ego-minds. This thin tube drains off just enough ego-love "fuel" from the bucket to keep us functioning in our everyday lives, but only if, and when, there is sufficient love in the bucket. At the time of birth our love-bucket is only half full of love and there is a deep reason for that.
The kind of "love" which half fills our love-buckets at birth (and throughout our lives) is not Real Love, because we have hidden Real Love deep within our minds. Ego-love is an ego-substitute composed of whatever pretends to be "love," in one form or another, on this planet. This pseudo-ego-love is highly conditional and, for almost all of us, it remains so throughout our lives. Even babies intuitively know how to use their ladle to their advantage; a cry or smile are equally effective. As we grow we all use our ladle for the purpose of ladling ego-love from other peoples' love-buckets into our bucket, as well as to ladle ego-love into their buckets -- but only when we feel we can spare some "love" to favored people, or when we are likely to receive some of this pseudo-love in return.
Our major motive in these ego-relationship situations is always to keep our love-bucket as full as possible.
Humans firmly believe, almost without exception, that there is a shortage of love on this planet. A great shortage. At the same time we know we cannot live without a reasonable amount of love in our love-bucket because we sense deeply that we will die of love-malnutrition if this pseudo-love in any of its many forms, fades from our lives. Without the hope of incoming ego-love from others we become apathetic, depressed and full of despair. Research on love-neglected babies has confirmed this early despair and apathy.
The love-starved ego-children inside each of us constantly cry out for this input of ego-love. These inner children feel anxious, lost and hopeless, or sometimes angry, when some form of ego-love is not forthcoming from those around us. Thus we are all co-dependent on each other for our incoming supplies of ego-love, but when that ego-love is not ladled to us by others we usually strive to take it from them in one form or another. For this purpose we use ego-devices such as manipulation, wheedling, cajoling, threats of withdrawal, despondency, or, rather strangely, anger. An angry couple are really saying to each other, "I'm going to keep beating up on you and yelling at you, until you love me the way I want to be loved--which includes doing things the way I want them to be done!"
Even before we are born our mother is the primary ego-love giver and taker. She usually looks forward to giving birth to this new source of love with whom she can ladle copious amounts of ego-love backwards and forwards in order to keep both love-buckets as full as possible. Yet, even during pregnancy, some mothers may resent that there will shortly be yet another person ladling ego-love out of her depleted love-bucket. This kind of love-depleted mother feels she simply does not have enough to go around. Her love-bucket is near empty. This kind of mother believes supplies of incoming ego-love, are very limited, so she conserves the love in her own bucket. The fetus knows its mother feels deprived of love and therefore the baby is apprehensive.
Most mothers, however, are delighted when the baby emerges because she and the new child can now organize a mutual ego-love exchange which will keep both their love-buckets nice and full. An unhappy mother or cranky baby may tend to spoil this arrangement, but this is the exception rather than the rule. If the newborn is breast-fed the breast symbolizes the ladle, and the milk symbolizes the ego-love which fills the baby's love-bucket as well as its stomach. In return, the child's presence, concentration, burps and smiles fill the mother's love-bucket to levels of intense satisfaction. Of course a variety of other interactions, from bathing to lullabies also bring about mutual exchanges of ego-love. This "blissful" love-ladling period may last a many months....
Then, the ego's "unavoidable no-no's" begin. The growing infant begins to assert his or her emerging individual wishes some of which clash with Mother's concerns and personal needs. Inevitably, CONTROL issues begin to set in and this occurs on both sides of the relationship. Both the mother and child begin to tussle about, "Who is the Boss of the Love-Buckets?" Ideally, mothers would raise their children through example, positive training, pleasant instruction, lots of praise and much ego-loving combined with an absolute minimum of negative statements and rough restrictions. Most mothers tend to bring up their children in ways similar to the way they were raised by their parents, while other mothers (who strongly react) raise their children in the opposite way to how their parents raised them. Incidentally, these early control issues and conflicts, about who controls the flow of ego-love in and out of our respective love-buckets, permeates the rest of our lives. A major method of controlling others is manipulation in one form or another.
Usually, by age five, we have struck a "deal" with Mother which establishes a negotiated, but limited flow of ego-love, to and fro. All too often this compromise (trade-off) contract is predominantly on mother's terms. She dispenses varying quantities of ego-love into her child's love-bucket in return for certain "good" behaviors and social conformities. Some of these demanded behaviors center around mother's peculiar eccentricities and distorted negative views of what life is all about (e.g., good behavior results only from punishment) while others stem from her personal mixture of ego-love needs and how that love should flow to her (e.g., obedience is love.)
If this sounds like a diatribe against our mothers we should remember that all mothers had parents too. We are all victims of victims and that is a problem which needs clarification. The perfect family does not exist, and most are very imperfect, and I am endeavoring here to help remedy this ubiquitous dysfunctionality. We are still discussing babyhood and early infancy.
Note, too, that we will get to father and other key ego-love contractors in a moment.
So, mother (or her surrogate care-giver) is our major love-bucket contractor during infancy and early childhood, and her influence lasts a lifetime—if we let it. But hers is not the only love-bucket around. Fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends, neighbors, teachers and others soon come within our range during childhood and they also set up contracts with us for the mutual ladling of ego-love. So let us investigate...
For most of us as little children, father quickly establishes his own highly conditional version of a love-bucket contract. In almost all societies and cultures fathers have pseudo-masculine roles implanted in them as boys which make ego-love giving and getting problematic. Love gets all mixed up with sex, praise, prowess, winning, control, expectations and adequacy. Father, like mother, has a need to be in a controlling position in the family, even though he may defer (in his view) much of it to his spouse. For many fathers (but by no means all) dominance over others, and compliance by others are ego-love, even for those men who are superficially easygoing. Keeping a distance is a common method which is used by fathers, husbands and men in general to avoid those kinds of love-bucket exchanges of which they are afraid, especially the warm, tender, "softy" sentimental kinds. However, I would add that the macho masculine image is diminishing slowly because most mothers and fathers are now understanding the value of raising nurturing males rather than tough hombres. If, as a woman and mother, you want gruff unfeeling he-men, just raise your sons that way. Then some day in the future they may become someone's unfeeling husband!
Our horizons widen when, as children, we get older. Love-bucket exchanges with other family members occur. Ladling contracts are set up. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and friendly adults may be sources of incoming ego-love and these may often be relatively stress-free in terms of mild controlling demands. However, brothers and sisters can be another matter because rivalries, jealousies and alliances can confuse the uneven flow of ladling ego-love in both directions. When we enter school our teachers quickly establish both rules of conduct and the punishments for our transgressions of those rules. While teachers may sparingly ladle morsels of pseudo-love into our buckets, the main method of control (discipline) is through the threat (or actual act) of ladling appropriate amounts of ego-love out of our love-buckets and throwing it away. Thus, every criticism, every reprimand, every belittling remark by a teacher or other adult is an unkind withdrawal of love, and this is true whether it occurs in the classroom, at home, or elsewhere.
If we are taken to Sunday school, church, or temple the love-bucket contracts in those environments are invariably made even more complicated and confusing. While God is Love, He is (in most traditional religions) also the Judge who metes out punishment for "sin" and this view of life permeates the whole of our society including those not interested in religion; we have our courts, judges, punishments and prisons.
Thus, traditionally, God is presented as the Ultimate love-bucket Contractor and Judge. In this belief system, Heaven, in the form of an overflowing bucket of love, awaits those of us who are good and obedient, whereas some form of sickness, hell and death are the wages of sins against God. In the latter case (we are told) God will destroy our love-bucket for all eternity. And this is what depression and despair are all about! The only "escape" from this traditional creed, (even when it is modified, softened or ignored), is to say the Judgment-Punishment ideas in this paragraph are not true, but then, from the Traditional Religious point of view, this would mean God is Dead and there is only Nothing in His place. As a side-comment on the theme of this paragraph, even atheists and agnostics usually subscribe to the Behaviorist's psychological point of view in which positive and negative reinforcements, and punishment are necessary to ensure socialization during childhood. So, almost all of us humans subscribe to a variety of sincere beliefs in the efficacy of judgment, guilt, justice and punishment as the antidote to "sin," crime, evil and delinquent behavior. [More will be said on these topicss in the Web Pages on Healing I05, J04, J05]
And so it goes... unless there is a better way. But first...
LOVE-BUCKETS--ADOLESCENCE AND ADULTHOOD
Throughout our lives there are many sources of ego-love and ego-love substitutes all of which we use to keep our love-buckets as full as possible. The main source of ego-love for most of us is to establish personal ego-relationships (ACIM calls these "special relationships") with one or more people with whom we strive to maintain mutual ladling contracts over a period of time. To "feel good" is the main motive behind most people's love-bucket filling activity. People who do not "feel good" at any moment in time, sense that their love-bucket is less than half empty and that it requires replenishment at the first opportunity. They may feel lonely, misunderstood, hollow, afraid or worried--there are a thousand ego-reasons to search outside oneself to get pseudo-love from others.
Please understand, when reading this section, that I am not undervaluing or denigrating family, friends, and other time-honored groups, institutions and activities in our society--even though I personally consider that they could all do with radical review and re-visioning. As will be seen, it is the ego-uses to which they are put that are being investigated here. The Real Answer, as we will learn, is to Love everyone and everything equally and do no harm, and within this Loving Oneness we include our personal family and friends.
Family is obviously a major contributor to our love-bucket needs during both our childhood and adult life. In many cultures the family-as-such becomes the central lifelong focus and personal anchor inasmuch as it is regarded as by far the most important wellspring of ego-love exchange. In these anchor families, parents and adult children continue to keep in frequent close contact so that varying amounts of ego-love can be ladled back and forth—in spite of any dysfunctional dependencies, demands and disagreements this closeness incurs. Adult children who have also married and had kids bring their kin into the extended family circle so that these offspring can also dip their ladles into the circulating ego-love system. The anchor family becomes a somewhat changeable, but mostly reliable source, from which each of the participants can take the ego-love they need.
Friends are another principal source of mutual love-bucket exchanges. As with family members, the ego-love contracts which are drawn up with friends may vary considerably, but are always highly conditional: "If you keep ladling ego-love into my bucket I will ladle it back into yours; if you stop, I stop!" Friends can provide us with a wide variety of ladled ego-love exchanges in any given role, such as companion, confidant, lover, kindred spirit, sports buddy, comforter, etc. Friendships may range from a pleasant acquaintanceship to an intense, intimate, loving-bonding. Jealousies and abandonment issues abound among close friends because the attachment aspects of such ladling relationships are the key component. Attachment-bonding is merely a semi-permanent contract to exchange ladles of ego-love back and forth on a regular basis. One has only to observe how often these bonds are deliberately broken and how often new bonds are substituted to see the truth of this.
Sexual romance and sexuality itself may, or may not, be included in friendships. Some romantic and sexual liaisons do not involve the participants in true friendships because the non-sexual activities in which they engage, such as movies and meals, are actually a stage setting for the sexual encounter which is unfolding. In terms of love-bucket fillers, the main ego-love ingredient is the emotional "high" which accompanies the first two-thirds or more of the romantic affair. This romantic sexual high is not so much exchanged by the couple as it is internally aroused within each separately, because of the presence of the other. Internal feelings of elation are excited by the proximity of the lover, or potential lover and, if it is happening to us personally, these heightened emotions pour from us into our own love-bucket to make us feel good. Thus the partner acts only as an external stimulus to the fact that we are filling our own love-bucket with our own deliciously aroused feelings. In fact, a partner does not even need to be physically present for the romantic/sexual arousal to occur, as happens when we fantasize about them and stimulate ourselves sexually. Thus, we can fill our love-bucket sexually in terms of ego-love all on our own! This certainly does not mean sex is wrong or sinful; it can be delightful. Just do not use it to fill your love-bucket with pseudo-love in place of uncovering your Real Love and Waking up.
Food and eating are clear examples of personal love-bucket filling which need not even involve the proximity of another person. If another person is present, any mutual love-bucket exchange usually has little to do with the food directly. Even though the cook (at home) is frequently "buying" ego-love within the family relationships to fill his or her love-bucket, those of us doing the eating are simply ingesting ego-love-food to fill our personal hollow love-buckets. Remember, no person on a regular plentiful meal schedule is ever really hungry! Rather, the excess food we eat is a love-bucket filling love-substitute gratification.
Financial gain and money are major fillers of love-buckets. When we receive a paycheck, a dividend, a capital gain or an unexpected sum of money we are pleased. Of course, a shortage of money causes us to feel our love-bucket is somewhat empty, a state of affairs which tends to make us anxious or even panic-stricken. But when the money does flow in, we "feel good" about it. If the financial gain is modest our love-bucket is only partially filled, perhaps an inch or two, but if the increase is relatively large we become elated and our love-bucket may even overflow a little. Finances and money, as love-bucket fillers, are closely tied to feelings of security. We feel very vulnerable and insecure whenever our love-bucket is emptying financially, whereas, when it is filling with money-as-love, we react with confidence and reassurance. Unfortunately, even wealthy people often feel financially insecure and will seek for more and more income, because enough is never enough in the long term.
Fame and fortune fantasies are another source of love-bucket "indulgence. "Many people dream they are going to win the lottery and that this wealth will then solve all their problems. Others fantasize they will be a famous film or rock star, an author, or a great sports person, all without putting in the necessary work to achieve such goals. I am not suggesting we should not carve out successful careers or have worthy ambitions; it is the Walter Mitty syndrome of continually imagining we are something we are not, that fills our love-buckets with empty dreams.
Fads, fashions and finery are yet another means of making us "feel good" because they can fill our love-buckets with pleasurable sensations. Some of us like to be up to the minute in the way we dress, in our wearing of accessories, or in our possession of the latest trinkets. We may fall in love with our diamonds. These superficial accoutrements are intended to bring ladled ego-love admiration from others, as well as generating internal feelings of satisfaction and personal self-esteem. Fashions and finery attract attention from others for the purpose of helping to fill our love-bucket with admiration. While, in most cases, this attention is intended to attract approval, in other instances, it has an audacious shock value as when a person has green hair or a pierced lip. Even so, our intent is always to elicit a feeling of pleasure inside ourselves which will temporarily add to the content of our love buckets. This type of love-bucket filling is almost always aimed at compensating for another inferior feeling deep within, such as unworthiness or feelings of "never-good-enough."
Figure, face, fat and fitness are all linked to the above group. Many of us are preoccupied with our physical appearance and attractiveness, especially when we have been brought up to believe we can only attract people to us if we have shapely, trim bodies and good-looking faces; that only when we are well-proportioned and physically appealing can we hope to attract others to fill our love-buckets with praise and affection. The fundamental concept behind this particular preoccupation is our ego's deep identification with our bodies. We say, "My body is who I really am and its appearance determines the way I will be judged as a person. I will be liked or disliked, loved or unloved, depending on how I look. When I look great, people will like me and love me." And so our love-buckets (we believe) will be filled if we keep working on our faces and figures. While it is desirable to keep well groomed, fit and clean, this equating of ourselves with our bodies is totally erroneous. We are much, much more than a biological android made only of flesh. Furthermore, if we believe incoming ladled love depends primarily on superficial appearances, then the sick, the disfigured and the paralyzed are doomed to have empty love-buckets.
Fantasy, fiction, films, fame and television are all popular internal love-bucket fillers. What we cannot experience or achieve in "real" life, we experience vicariously by watching, reading, listening, fantasizing and day-dreaming. Most of these activities come under the heading of entertainment—even our own internally generated ones, such as romantic fantasies. In a sense all our favorite external fantasies, fictions and films are matched to and harmonized with internal needs, wishes and counterparts, and this is true even when they are based on "negative" emotions and "needs." If we watch a catastrophe on the news, or a horror movie, with hypnotic fascination, our love-buckets are being filled with the powerful love-substitute of electrified excitement. Fear can arouse us if it is within tolerable limits and under control—which it is when we are watching television or sitting in a theater.
Possessions are a more "realistic" source of satisfying love-bucket fillers. Our egos tend to measure their own merit by the number and value of personal possessions, and, all too often the worthiness of others is measured by the same yardstick. We judge our lives as successful after we have amassed a fair amount of capital, own expensive "toys," and possess a comfortable home full of fine furnishings. We say people "have arrived" when all the trappings of well-to-do suburban life are in place and they can look to a relatively secure financial future. For many of us this is the culmination of our goals, the main purpose of life, a state of affairs that has been called "The American Dream." We also imagine others will admire us for our possessions and achievements, and some of them do. We think that once these aims are achieved our love-bucket will not only be full, but will also now have a guaranteed fullness in the future; and those people with few possessions sadly regard themselves as having near-empty love-buckets. They may also be derided as "have-nots" or "losers."
Individual interests and activities which preoccupy us are yet another source of love-bucket fillers. This category would include hobbies, regular meetings, sports activities, travel, and a host of other concerns which preoccupy a portion of our lives. All too often these activities distract us from Waking Up, but in themselves they are usually harmless.
LOVE-BUCKETS--POLARIZED FEAST AND FAMINE
With all the above love-bucket fillers and boosters available to us, one would think that we would never have a problem keeping our ego-love-buckets full and overflowing. We should all be in a seventh heaven of (false) ego-happiness and contentment, but almost all of us know only too well that this is not so. We mostly seem to be scrambling and struggling to keep our ego love-bucket even half full, let alone overflowing. Or our personal love-bucket situation is lop-sided in some way. For example we may be wealthy but find that loving relationships escape us. Like many film stars, we may be famous while successful marriages elude us. One minute we may be live in an abundance of love or money, only to lose it all the next. Why is all this so?
The reasons seem to be numerous. Others are constantly depleting our love-bucket contents by ladling out our ego-love to try to keep their buckets full. All our love-buckets contracts with friends and relatives are designed to give, or allow to be taken, as much ego-love (in the various forms mentioned above) as we receive, or take with permission, from others. Quite often the deal is lopsided in that we give more than we get. Another reason for our constant shortage of ego-love is the short-lived nature of most ego-boosters such as new possessions, achievements, fads, financial gains, sex and romance. The love-bucket may temporarily fill, but sooner or later the novelty wears off and we have to start the "fill-'er-up" ego-love-getting process all over again with whichever one or more of those listed fillers it may be. Some recurring love-bucket fillers, such as food, sex and sleep (yes, sleep is one, too) are built into us humans, with the result that the ego-love-getting process swings into action at repeated intervals. Another less obvious love-bucket depleter is our own constant use of the ego-love in it. Remember we have a symbolic ego-love fuel line (tiny tube) from the bottom of the bucket leading into our hearts, and from our hearts it runs all through our bodies and ego-minds. This enables us to siphon off the quantity of ego-love we need to keep our ego-energy up and our egos relatively intact. Some of us siphon off a lot, while others are more parsimonious.
LOVE-BUCKETS--THREAT, ATTACK, DEPRIVATION, DEFENSE, ANGER
is another darker, Shadow aspect to the love-bucket polarity of the ego and it
occurs when we perceive another person attempting to steal some form of ego-love
from our love-bucket without permission and without a fair
exchange. Many of us live in a state of anxious, defensive watchfulness
for these attacks that will unfairly deprive us of what
"goodies" we have stored up in our buckets, such as money,
possessions, close relationships, comforting beliefs and cherished habits. We
often get angry and sometimes attack back when other people attack us
(some even con us) in order to snatch away any of our treasured love-bucket
fillers. Even nations attack and go to war when they feel another country is
unlawfully depriving them of possessions, lives, land or trade. Usually both
countries feel they have been unfairly treated.
Most "criminal" behavior stems from an intense feeling of some form of ego-love deprivation. Some steal the possessions belonging to others because, deep down, they feel they have been unjustly deprived of ego-love as infants and children, and now they are fully justified in taking from those who have desirable things, what they feel is rightfully theirs. Sometimes there is the added smug, one-upmanship satisfaction of "putting one over on…" or, of "beating the system…."
Another group of "criminals"
take revenge on perceived surrogate deprivers and hurt or kill these
substitutes in place those people who hurt and deprived them in childhood. Still
other "criminals" seek out the weak and defenseless, such as women and
children, in order to abuse them and/or have sex with them by way of forcing
their victims to replenish their empty love-buckets. This imposed extraction of
pseudo-love from their prey is usually accompanied by the satisfaction of revenge,
a revenge involving abuse, hurting or killing. Even white-collar fraud is
blatant stealing, often by wealthy people who can't wait to defraud others for
another dollar--or "acquire" another million. Even huge companies may
do business in this way by cheating both customers and employees. I could go into far more
detail on the depth-psychology of "criminal" behavior in terms of
severe love-bucket deprivation (the broad answer to which is Love--which
has rarely been tried). However, my purpose here is more concerned with
so-called "normal" human behavior.
Alcohol, drugs, and medications are usually used to numb the emotional pain and soften the hard edges of our determined or desperate struggles to keep our ego-love-buckets as full as we are able. Over time this effort usually results in stress and may even cause burnouts, breakdowns and diseases.
We are all caught in the dependent ego-love-bucket trap, in that we need and desire a flow of ego-love from others and our bodies, i.e., from outside our ego-minds. Without that flow of ego-love, mostly in one physical form or another, we fall into anger, depression, and even despair (see above paragraph). Some of us may become suicidal when we feel the inflow of ego-love stop and think there is little hope it will flow again.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could simply throw away the external
ego-love-bucket and find a permanent Source of Real Love inside
WAKING UP TO REAL LOVE
That Real Source of Real Love is deep inside our Real Minds where God put it, and many humans have found it through meditation and by Spiritually clearing out the ego. There are numerous ways of ridding oneself of the ego but repression, suppression and egoic will-power are not among them. Ask yourself, is it logical that the ego can get rid of the ego? Of course not! In order to re-discover the Source of Real Love within our Real Minds we have to cease looking for pseudo-love outside ourselves, then the ego will dissolve from lack of use and disregard. Does this mean we need to become aesthetic celibate monks? Even the Buddha found that asceticism was not a Path to Enlightenment, and Jesus was never an ascetic even though he fasted once in a while. There is nothing "wrong or evil" about having and enjoying food, sex, money, relationships, or possessions. The secret is not to use people, food, money, sex, possessions, etc., as co-dependency ego-love-getting systems or as addictions, but rather to seek Real Love within our own Real Minds-as-Such which God Created -- Minds that come fully equipped with an Abundance of Everything because they are within His Mind-as-Such.
We must get to the point of experiencing God's Love flowing through us in such Abundance that we can throw away our ego-love-buckets and share our flowing Love with everyone we know and meet. Ways and means of uncovering God's Love and Abundance within your own Mind-Self are presented throughout this Spiritual Site.
Loving Oneness Now -- Copyright © 2007 Alexander Bannatyne, PhD