The Devil We Know

April 7th, 2014


“…any love is good lovin’ so I took what I could get”[1]



Mating tortoise


What makes us the same is our innate desire to give and receive love. What makes us weird, wild, wonderful, different or downright scary is determined by:


  • What we have learned about what love is and how it is expressed


–  which in turn determines


  • The form in which we recognize and receive it
  • The way in which we express it to others.


In an ideal world we grow up secure in the experience of being loved unconditionally for the uniqueness of who we are – our being. We are not conditionally judged on what we do or have love withheld in seemingly random and contradictory ways that do not seem consistent with our actions at all.


There are no enlightenment tests for prospective parents however and in any case there would not be many humans on the planet if only the enlightened and unconditionally loving were allowed to breed.



Looking for love in all the wrong places


For better and worse we humans are adaptable. If we cannot receive love in an ideal form we take what we can get. If we can’t get the best we use the rest. There are many forms love can take, that while not unconditional in nature, at least feed the hungry heart in us.


What are some of the manifestations of an ‘any love is good love’ approach and why might we choose it?


  • Attention
  • Appreciation and a sense of belonging
  • Physical contact
  • Sympathy


The first response of many of us reading this list may be “What’s so bad about those things?” Nothing if we do not become dependent exclusively upon them while abandoning our connection to our own, inner source of love and confirmation. When we no longer have this tether to our heart of unconditional love we may look endlessly outside of ourselves to conditional sources instead.


External sources of love  are dependent upon certain conditions that need to be met before love is given. It follows therefore that it is only a matter of time before we do not meet those conditions (and may not even know why) and love is withdrawn.


While examples of this behavior may seem comically transparent in small children (“If you don’t let me play with your toys I won’t be your friend anymore.”) it is usually better disguised in the adult world.


Let us go through the above list and see the link between our search for love and the connection with our sense of Self in physical and emotional health.



Attention as love – at any price?


”Well I dreamed there was an island that rose up from the sea.

And everybody on the island was somebody from TV.

And there was a beautiful view but nobody could see.

Cause everybody on the island was saying:

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” [2]


Why is attention attractive to us? Because it confirms that we exist. It confirms that we have some value. Confirmation relieves the ego’s death anxiety of non-existence. That is the ego’s concern, not our Self however. It is the ego that needs to feed on this form of love because it is disconnected from the Self.


As a result the ego is like a rat needing to constantly feed or die. The ego is constantly looking for confirmation – from outside of Self : “I am worth what the outside world thinks I am worth. They express this by their attention to me.”



Attention can take many forms. It can be as trivial as a ‘like’ on Facebook, a compliment, a recognition of achievement and so on. Attention is not always positive however. It may take the form of verbal or physical abuse, criticism or attack.



Why would we choose negative forms of attention?


  1. Because it is still attention. A world in which we are hated is still more acceptable to us than a world in which we are ignored.
  2. Because it is the devil we know. If the formative version of ‘love’ we have learned was attention via criticism, anger or even physical or sexual violence we will be more likely to recognize and gravitate to those forms in adult life.


I have lost count of the examples of children of abuse recreating it in their adult relationships. Do they like being abused? No, but until the alternative (‘the angel they don’t know’ – because it has not yet been part of their experience of life) is less scary to them than their current situation they will stay put.


Why is it scary? Because in their mind at least their dysfunctional situation confirms their existence. It provides a fool’s gold of security that the unkown does not.



 Physical touch and contact as love


“In searching for a meaningful embrace sometimes my self-respect took second place”[3]


We are warm-blooded mammals. We are a herd animal. Unless we have learnt otherwise we enjoy the contact of touch. Again, it confirms that we exist and are not alone.


Therapies like tactile massage for example have proved effective for anxiety related physical symptoms like panic attacks. The most effective way to calm an anxious child – or adult or animal for that matter – is to hold them. Such a simple act can be profound.



If the leaky bucket of our self esteem keeps running low we may settle for more dysfunctional forms of physical contact. Examples of this are creating and participating in violent conflict, mistaking aggression or abusive behavior for passion, seeking out anonymous sex that has no real warmth or emotional connection.


All of these examples have in common the need to feel something where we have become numb and separated from our heart – the center of our Self. Like drinking salt water it will never quench our thirst. What it will do however is place us and our health in danger.



 Appreciation, belonging and the good girl/boy


“You can lose your life giving the people what they want to see.”[4]


Previous blogs like this one here have discussed the potentially destructive nature of basing our self esteem on gaining approval from others.


The problem with this lies not in doing things that others may appreciate but in those instances where we harm ourselves in doing so. The more we set the example that we are not worthy of consideration or respect the more likely we will attract others that agree with us and treat us with the same lack of consideration and respect.


Of course, when we are disconnected from our Self we are unaware that we are co-creating these situations and feel frustrated and sad that others abuse our good will and not return it. Such a situation with so much energy going out from us but not returning is a good recipe for burnout and more serious illness over time.



 Sympathy as love


One of the questions I most often ask my clients particularly with health issues spanning a longer period is “What do you think this problem gives you?”


When we suffer we usually only focus on what has been taken from us. It rarely occurs to us that maybe we gain something from our situation as well.


Examples? Illness may be a (dysfunctional) way to avoid something else that we did not have the courage to say no to, a conflict we wish to avoid or a way to sabotage something good that does not align with our self worth or world view and our place in it. It can serve as a survival method to avoid criticism or attack by ‘getting in first’ and making ourselves the object of pity instead. It may also be a way to receive the devil we know of love in the form of sympathy.


If the only time we felt loved and had the attention of others is when we were sick it is logical that we would (unconsciously) recreate these situations as an adult.


It may also be that our very sense of identity is linked to being victimized by illness. Even though we might not actually enjoy being sick it has become a better alternative to a loss of that identity – the scary threat of non-existence. If we cannot see ourselves outside the context of illness how could anyone else?



Be careful what you wish for


The longest relationship we will ever have – longer than with our family, our lovers, friends and children – is with our Self. It pays to be our own best friend in our journey through life.


If we sabotage ourselves through self loathing and criticism it will make us dependent upon love outside of ourselves. Dependency (and co-dependency with someone else) is not love however and usually comes at a price. In terms of our health, that cost can get too expensive for our own good.


Deals with the devil usually are.



Till the Monday we know is refreshingly devil-free,



PS: For those in Stockholm this Monday evening, 7th April 2014, there is a Conscious Health open lecture concerning our relationship to light and color both within and without.  For location and time details click here.


[1][1] ‘You Aint Seen Nothing Yet’. Writer: Randy Bachman. Copyright: Sony/ATV Songs LLC

[2] ’Language is a Virus’ by Laurie Anderson. All rights reserved.

[3] ’Cry for Love’. Written by Iggy Pop and Steve Jones

[4] From the documentary film ‘Facing Ali’. 2009 Lionsgate films. All rights reserved.




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:



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