Everyone We Love Is On Loan

But what exactly are we borrowing?

The truth is that our connections to others are the means by which we connect to parts of ourselves that we don’t yet know or accept.

What we are borrowing is a capacity to love and to be loved that is enabled by someone or something outside to get us to do it on the inside for ourselves.  When that loan is withdrawn and that person is gone, we are left having to connect, on our own, with the self within us which the lover or friend enabled us to do.  How much we miss “them” is a sign of how much we are missing ourselves on the inside.  I’m sorry if you like romance novels, but it’s time to grow up, lay down the story book, and romance yourself. See if it is not true that in any truly great romance story, the characters had to learn to romance themselves before the great love with another could be experienced. That is what makes them great.

A good example is a pet. The innocence and dependence of a pet, and its unconditional love, causes great adoration for animals. We love animals because they allow us to love freely and easily. They let us get the love that is in us, out of us, to a safe non-rejecting and usually unconditiona devotion from our pets.  When a pet dies, people are devastated, not just because they miss the beloved pet, but because they miss the connection to their own loving which the pet provided.  The owner is disconnected from their own loving and being loved.

Two things have to be regained:  the love the person perceived from the pet and the “loving” the pet enabled the person to give.  Pets will often enable this when people can’t find it or do it with people.  The same is true when we lose a person.  How often have we heard a time of loss or death, “John or Mary can never be replaced?”  But they will be and they must be or grief will never be resolved.  It will be resolved internally or it will be attempted again with a John or Mary.

People often go on and get another pet to fill the space, just like other people get another person to do what they are trying to learn to do for themselves.  But everyone we love is on loan to teach about our own connection to our love for ourselves and our capacity to love.  We need to love ourselves and we need to give love – we’re made that way. The question is: how do we learn to do it?  Everyone we love is on loan to teach us and we’re trying to learn.

Loss is much easier when we have already learned the lesson, and we simply love freely and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to be loved.  The loss and the “missing” are less when we have learned that lesson.

If we have not, we will go to borrow people and adopt pets, which will ultimately leave, and we will find how much we have learned this lesson of beholding and loving the self.

Where do you find in you, in your own unique way, what you love in what is outside you?

Grief can be an enormous experience of recovering from loss, if we cannot or have not before we began, recreated in our own inner worlds what we have lost in another person or pet.  That’s why people treat their pets like people. For many, they are the embodiments of the same lessons to be learned.  Interestingly enough, grief is a new pathology is the forthcoming DSM V of the APA – another category for psychiatrists to line their pockets and prescribe more drugs.  Indeed, where are the psychiatrists who would be healers of grief without their pills?  This is a normal process of integration.  Does it go awry?  Of course.  Can it become an illness?  Short term, yes.  Can psychiatry cure it?  Likely not, unless it understands these dynamics and kmpws how to work with them. That will take more than 15 minute prescription appointments.

You are on assignment to find in you what you love in another, and I promise you, it’s always there in your own strengths and your unique use of them, but it takes inner self-discovery.

Think about it.  How many people do you know who go from person to person and pet to pet, borrowing what they have not discovered and owned in themselves?  How do you do it?  Let’s be quick to say that we may have to do exactly that until we catch ourselves in the process, and that is how we learn. 

You must be wondering:  isn’t there ever just a pure relationship of love?  Probably not in an absolute sense.  Every relationship has the potential of discovering in another what we do not love in ourselves.  However, this is the big caveat. It is far deeper and more expensive a loan with far higher interest when you do not basically love yourself to begin with, before you love another.  Depending upon another person for your meaning is a very large mortgage with a very high interest rate.

But aren’t we just lonely?  Don’t we just want something or someone warm and fuzzy on a cold night?  Here is a difficult answer to give.  Yes, we do, but there are times when we are not going to get it and ultimately we are going to die alone, or better said, by ourselves, no matter how many people are around.  We go out of this world by ourselves except with the union we have with our own inner life.

Think about it. No matter how good the relationship is and no matter who keeps you warm at night, there are times in the closest relationship when you look at the other person and think, “he/she doesn’t really know me, not really,” or “I don’t know who he/she is, most of the time I do, but there are times when he/she is a stranger to me.”  We have these awesome moments of realizing that our inner life is what we must know best and amazing people and beasts come into our lives on loan to teach us to find and own the real strengths of our beloved individuality that are on the inside of each of us.

So how are you doing finding, living, expanding and loving your strengths and your own individual state of flow?


1) Summarize your understanding of the role of signature strengths in the issues presented in this blog. How do the identification and engagement of strengths support you, your clients, or your UpSpiral group members in connecting with the deepest parts of oneself?  Give us an example.

2) “Depending upon another person for your meaning is a very large mortgage with a very high interest rate.” What research and coaching tools can you cite which support you or your clients/group members in moving out of a DownSpiral of codependence to an UpSpiral of greater thriving and flourishing, in the midst of loss and separation?


1) What natural strengths do you have to deal with loss? With the grieving process? What are they and how have they supported you?

2) What kinds of experiences do you have which naturally call out your personal strengths? How do you know when you are acting from your strengths? What positive emotions do you associate with exercising personal strengths? Tell us your story.

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute