We arrive in this world fully programed to receive the love, attention, and nurturance that will support the unfolding and maturation of our human selves. We are preprogrammed to bond with our primary caretakers, the parents entrusted and programmed to respond with loving nurturance to our deepest needs for safety, food, and emotional affirmations.
These preexistent programs are what Jung called archetypes, nature’s tried and true wisdom encoded in instinctual patterns to ensure the survival and thriving of a human life. Despite the robustness of nature’s guiding archetypal programs, something has to happen to turn them on. With infants, a simply smile is often sufficient enough to trigger deep emotional bonding with adults. Humans, however, are fallible. We left the archetypal Garden long ago and often find ourselves deeply estranged from reading the environmental clues that activate nature’s bonding program. Winnicott, the English psychiatrist/pediatrician, softened the blow of this reality by stating that parents only had to be “good enough” for these innate growth programs to be activated in children.
The important detail to be gleaned from this powerful interaction between parents and children is its impersonal nature. Innate programs are not personal, they are the same for our entire species. We are all born with them. When caretakers respond to our archetypal programs we attach and love them. This has nothing to do with who personally our parents are, it has to do with how well our programs line up with each other.
When they align we experience deep love, but again, that love is impersonal. It’s the running of nature’s program and the powerful energetic and emotional response we have to it. Again, this powerful emotional response is not because of who the parent is, but only because of their ability to engage in an archetypal drama being activated between child and parent, a drama in which they both have starring roles.
The same kind of impersonal archetypal “love” ignites in adult romantic relationships. Nowadays, with the advent of instant connection between romantically inclined adults through internet dating sites, we can observe the rapid activation of innate mating programs running full cycle over the course of just one day.
Saying the right words, paying attention at the right moment can activate the most powerful feelings of ultimate soulmate through cyberspace. A hit on a dating site in the morning could result in a phone call at noon, a shared evening dinner, and a night of ecstasy. Of course, by the next morning, the personal reality of who this other being is begins to appear under the brightening light of the rising sun. One begins to face the power of having been swept away by an instinctual archetypal pattern to merge and mate. The being before us is truly a personal mystery, the depth of our emotional and ecstatic experience the result of having performed in an archetypal drama, of having participated in a deep mystery of nature, summoned from the hidden depths of our being.
However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, there is nothing personal in the relationship. In fact, we’d be hard pressed to call it a relationship at all if we define relationship as being truly consciously related to another. To be truly connected to another we must truly know them as people beyond the archetypal projections that ruled the night. However instinctually satisfying the encounter may have been, we can hardly call it a real relationship.
Conscious relationships require time and true knowing and acceptance of another as they truly are. Though our archetypal blueprint predisposes and pressures us to partake in powerful dramas to truly feel alive, needed, and loved, the paradox remains: deep, instinctual bonding and love is not in the least bit personal love.
It is our human challenge to reconcile instinctual and personal love. Our evolutionary trajectory is pressuring us to find instinctual satisfaction in a consciously related personal relationship.
All too frequently, that which draws us instinctively is completely opposite to what we feel consciously companionable to. That is our current cross to bear as a species. At present, we are a civilization struggling with the old archetypal patterns of blind tribalism and loyalty of blood and action vs a consciously related world that puts the true needs of the world over the self interest of the archetypally bound tribe.
In our most basic relationships, where impersonal love and obligation bind us, we must ask ourselves whether the actual relationships we are in, even with our most intimates, are in fact personal relationships at all. Sometimes primal relationships must end. They may have served their primal need, nature’s imperative, but they may never have taken root in a personal way, which is the only way we can grow and fulfill our modern evolutionary imperative: the reconciliation of nature and consciousness, animal and spirit, the full truth of who we are.
We are programmed for love, but are we truly able to advance that program with consciousness?