“Falling in love” is what some psychologists believe is the collapsing of so-called “ego boundaries.”
Ego boundaries are believed to be something that develops as we mature. For instance, a newborn baby takes time to discover that its hands are connected to itself. After having no sense of boundaries, no distinguishing itself from the rest of the universe, eventually it realizes that when it’s hungry, mom doesn’t always want to feed it; when it’s playful, mom doesn’t always want to play. Many decades ago in his classic book, The Road Less Traveled, psychologist and author M. Scott Peck commented that a baby discerns that its will is “experienced as something separate from its mother’s behavior.” Peck noted that the child’s sense of identity develops out of the interaction between the infant and mother. It’s interesting that when this interaction is “grossly disturbed,” for instance if there is no mother or a severely disinterested one, the infant will grow into an adult “whose sense of identity is grossly defective in the most basic ways.” In one year the newborn goes from no sense of identity to “my foot, my nose, my eyes, my thoughts, my viewpoint, my feelings.” The knowledge of these limits is what psychologists refer to “ego boundaries.” As we grow older, we become painfully aware of our own limitations. Peck wrote:
“Reality (will eventually) intrude upon the fantastic unity of the couple who have fallen in love. Sooner or later, in response to the problems of daily living, ‘individual will’ reasserts itself. He wants to have sex; she doesn’t. She wants to go to the movies; he doesn’t. He wants to put money in the bank; she wants a dishwasher. She wants to talk about her job; he wants to talk about his. She doesn’t like his friends; he doesn’t like hers. So both of them, in the privacy of their hearts, begin to come to the sickening realization that they are not one with the beloved, that the beloved has and will continue to have his or her own desires, tastes, prejudices and timing different from the other’s. One by one, gradually or suddenly, they fall out of love. Once again they are two separate individuals. At this point they begin either to dissolve the ties of their relationship or to initiate the work of real loving.”
The theory is that in “falling in love”, we experience the collapsing of those ego boundaries...we are one with our beloved, we merge our identity with our lover, and there is release from loneliness accompanying the collapse of our walls. Falling in love is effortless. And that precisely is part of the problem; for real love is an act of the will, an act of choice, and will never be anything less. Now think about how this relates to our passion for God. For instance, I once heard a speaker comment that God whispered to him one day and said, “You and I aren’t compatible…and I don’t change.” Could it mean that “falling in love”—passion—is connected with the willful collapsing of my “ego boundaries”? Key word: willful. When Jesus says, “Pick up your cross and follow me,” I’d say that’s the ultimate breaking down of ego boundaries.
Are we teaching our people how to do that?
Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES
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