12.12.18 - "You Want Your Kitten To Be Happy"

Dear Sweet Babe,

Today I want to talk to you about tough love.

Love is generally seen as a gentle, wonderful, and all around “warm and fuzzy”-type thing. Of course, that understanding of love come from the romantic, Eros and Aphrodite-derived type of love. People equate the butterflies in stomach, heart-pounding, and eye-bulging type of love with a warm, exhilarating, and thoroughly enjoyable experience.  
And, don’t get me wrong, love can be just that…we just know that type of love, these days, as lust. When our body reacts to lust, our heart does indeed pump more blood through our systems, causing us to feel warmer, and that blood carries chemicals like serotonin and adrenaline through our circulatory system. Now, adrenaline is the same chemical that is present in life-or-death situations or high stress/excitement environments, and serotonin, as you may remember, is a chemical that, for many people, causes the feeling of happiness. With these symptoms, lust can feel very akin to the top of the rollercoaster, or the moment of being the recipient of a surprise party. Everything bad seems to melt away and the world seems exciting and full of goodness. 

But, I’m not talking about lustful love. Remember how we talked about the difference between lustful love and overall love? Remember how we talked about how love is a putting another person’s needs and wants first?

Well, that’s where tough love comes in.
Tough love is a type of love that doesn’t feel all “warm and fuzzy.” Tough love often feels like a hard slog. Tough love is when your mama and papa make you eat your vegetables or have fruit for breakfast. Tough love is when your teacher has you rewrite an essay because they know you can do better. Tough love feels like you’re a tree standing tall in a wind storm, bending, but refusing to break. Tough love feels like a tightrope walk with the devil; one toe off of line and you may lose your soul. Tough love is, well, tough.

Now, I want you to imagine that you have a kitten. You love your kitten, and you love it whenever your kitten nuzzles you, or purrs when you’re petting her, or, even chases a toy across the floor at eleven pm. But, one day, your kitten start scratching you when you’re petting her. Every time you try to pet her, she turns around and sinks her claws into your arm or leg. What do you do?
Sounds like a perfect time for tough love.
While still acting in love- by still putting the kitten’s needs before your own- you give the kitten ways to understand how scratching is not ok. When she doesn’t scratch you, you give her a treat. When she does scratch you, you yell at her or give her a nip back. You want your kitten to be happy (by receiving rubbins), but you also need your kitten to change some bad behavior.
This is tough love. Tough love is when you put certain constraints on their behaviors in order to foster what is best for them. You know that your kitten will be happiest if she accepts the massage without scratching, so you put constraints on her behavior to help her see that truth. It is the same when your mama and papa, who know the health benefits of vegetables and fruit, force you to eat everything on your plate, or when your teacher, who knows that you are not putting your best effort into an essay, has you do a rewrite. People aren’t giving you tough love because they want to be malicious, but because they know something that will benefit you and they’re trying to get you to see that truth.

Unfortunately, sometimes, malicious behavior can be mistaken for tough love, and vice versa. It can be very easy to be naïve and think that everyone who’s putting constraints on your behavior is doing so with your best interest in mind. It can be very easy to be jaded and think that everyone who’s putting constraints on you just wants to control you and manipulate you. The difficulty comes in looking subjectively at each instance of constraint.

So, how do you differentiate?

Simply ask yourself two questions:

  1. What is the truth I can learn from these constraints?

  2. Does this person love me?

If you can’t find a truth from the constraints another is putting upon you, or you don’t think that they are putting your needs first, then you know you’re dealing with a malicious force. You don’t have to be paranoid, but you do have to be cautious.

Tough love is a hard path to navigate, both in being the recipient of tough love and the dealer. But, I find, if you act out of love you will find many more people gravitating towards you.

So, how can you show a little tough love?


Erik SchneiderComment