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James Hollis on ‘disinterested’ love

James Hollis on ‘disinterested’ love

Interestingly, I’ve finished reading James Hollis’s book The Eden Project today, on Valentine’s day.

The blurb describes the book as a timely and thought-provoking corrective to the generalized fantasies about relationships that permeate our culture. It warns that it is not a practical guide on how to fix a relationship, but rather a challenge to greater personal responsibility in relationships, a call for individual growth as opposed to seeking rescue through others.

I would recommend the book to everyone who seeks mature (intimate) relationships. Following is a short excerpt, one of the many, which I’ve found enlightening.


‘Ultimately, the health and hope of any intimate relationship will depend on each party’s willingness to assume responsibility for the relationship to one’s own unconscious material. Sounds logical, even easy, yet nothing is more difficult. The chief burden on any relationship derives both from our unwillingness to assume responsibility and from the immensity of the project.

It takes great courage to ask this fundamental question: What am I asking of this Other that I ought to be doing for myself? If, for example, I am asking the Other to be mindful of my self-esteem, I have a project waiting unaddressed. If I am expecting the Other to be a good parent and take care of me, then I have not grown up. If I am expecting the Other to spare me the rigor and terror of living my own journey, then I have abdicated from the chief task and most worthy reason for my incarnation on this earth.

Of every projection we must ask, “What does this say about me?” And what we are asking of the Other, we are obliged then to ask of ourselves. Since projections are unconscious in their origin, the need for such work usually arises only due to the suffering that follows the erosion of the projection. Yet it is through taking on the heroic task of lifting out projections off of the Other that we may best serve their interest, that is, love them.

Projection, fusion, “going home,” is easy; loving another’s otherness is heroic. If we really love the Other as Other, we have heroically taken on the responsibility for our own individuation, our own journey. This heroism may properly be called love. St. Augustine put it this way: “Love is wanting the other to be.”

James Hollis

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The Noguchi Museum, New York

The Noguchi Museum, New York