Many people feel a deep emptiness in their life, though only perhaps when they slow down or have experienced a disappointment. This emptiness has been likened to a hole, and efforts to make it better have been likened to filling that hole, and therefore can be called the quest for fulfillment (being filled full). Fulfillment is, among other things, a sense of being enough, and a sense of one's life being enough.

With emotional security, one finds fulfillment in one's response to the world. With emotional insecurity, one seeks fulfillment in the world's response to oneself. The former works and the latter doesn't. However great the response of the world, one will still feel empty if one lacks the capacity to find fulfillment in one's own responses. This state of futile seeking I call basic un-reversal' which I describe below, but first I will describe the preferable developmental path, basic reversal.

Basic Reversal

When an infant and toddler experiences the unconditional-enough acceptance of its caregivers, it also experiences the fact that they are fulfilled by him or her. No performance is required. As an infant for a time the child does experience fulfillment from the response of others. But with development a reversal happens in which the child comes to find fulfillment in his or her experiences of the world. The world is a rich enjoyable place (albeit with a few frustrations.) This is basic reversal.

Basic Un-Reversal

When a child is met with insufficient, too erratic, or too conditional a positive response from caregivers, the basic reversal never completes. The child becomes over vigilant about the world's response to her- or himself. The deep unconscious and conscious belief becomes that a person must make another person accept or love him or her. There is a frantic struggle to win love, even where it might otherwise be available freely. But it is never, never, possible to win love. This is not a perverse decision by anyone but just a biological fact, since love is a biological as well as spiritual phenomenon.

Misguided attempts to win love take two paths, performance and dependency. Performance falls in the areas of achievement, service and denial, and beauty or uniqueness--whatever was upheld to be virtuous in the family of origin. Even if the performance is recognized, it will still not be love, and the recognition will feel hollow. Achievement or service can be fulfilling, but only when they are undertaken for their own sake.

In dependency, a man or woman keeps others involved by some inability, affliction, injury, or injustice. This is different from a request for help--dependency involves making the responding person liable for the outcome. Now for instance, small children are dependent and parents are responsible for them. But in that case, parents have authority and adequate control. An adult or teen acting out dependency, however, wants full autonomy and so responding others are stymied. Moreover, less then perfect results (which is all results) are denounced because they are not, and cannot be, the all encompassing response that is sought. This is frustrating to others and leads inevitably to rupture of the relationship. See the Karpman Drama Triangle.

This discussion has moved from fulfillment to love. The two are not the same but are inevitably connected in a life. The highest fulfillment is in love, but love follows the same law of outward directionality. The problem of love is usually seen as the problem of being lovable, but in fact the problem of love is solved by being loving (I have Erich Fromm to thank for this idea) Being sacrificing and self-denying (except for unusual situations) is not being loving but is just another attempt to be lovable. Love is more a sharing than a giving.