When someone says, “I love you,” it really means, “Do you love me?”

What I’ve just shared with you is a quite profound statement from a movie set in Dublin, Ireland, in which the complexity of romantic love is portrayed.

Long ago the German playwright Goethe, author of the play Faust, raised the issue of what love really is.

One of Goethe’s characters asks, "Do you love me?"

A straightforward question, right?

Well, maybe not quite so straightforward.

The other responds, “What could that possibly have to do with you?”

About this time the recipient of this response is probably squirming.

We all so long to be loved—and to be loved unconditionally. We want to know that someone will “be there” for us come hell or high water.

This pining in the human breast is insatiable. It can never be satisfied by someone loving us and assuring us over and over that they love us. Though they swear eternal allegiance to us a thousand times a day, we are unconvinced.

This movie is right when it says that our continual reassuring of each other that we love each other is really pleading, “Do you love me?” How much we need to say “I love you” may be a measure of how insecure we feel.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell each other we love each other. I do with Jennifer many times a day, and with my 26-year-old son Julian: we never get off Skype or the phone without both saying, “Love you.”

But it’s the motivation for this statement that’s the issue. Are we seeking reassurance that we are valid, wanted, important?

All of this is rooted in an image in the opening paragraphs of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s story of The Little Prince. A little boy of six years of age, which is the time when formal education in society’s ways traditionally has gotten underway, draws a colored picture of a boa constrictor.

A most interesting thing happens when I mention to people that children are constricted by the expectations of society. They invariably imagine I am talking about people’s ability to express their emotions.

If there’s one thing our planet doesn’t need right now it’s an increase in the expression of people’s emotion.

When I was growing up, the image of the boa constrictor perfectly matched the way my parents, aunts and uncles, and teachers expected me to behave: constricted. I was in that generation that was supposed to be “seen and not heard.”

Today it’s quite different, as children run wild without any supervision or restrictions. And yet I maintain they are equally in the grip of the boa constrictor.

That’s because it’s not the expression of emotion that’s center stage, as so many imagine, but the expression of our essence as beings that bear the divine image and likeness.

When we grow up not allowed to be who we truly are, but curtailed from expression of our true being, we are in the grip of the boa constrictor.

Whether our parents were strict or let us run wild, what they didn’t do is provide the kind of atmosphere in which our essence would naturally and spontaneously flourish.

To be allowed to run wild is really no advantage over being strictly controlled.

That’s because both ways of behaving miss our true state of being. Our real potential cannot emerge as long as we are either constricted or running wild.

Why would running wild be akin to the constrictive grip of a boa constrictor? Because to be either corseted or out of control is a betrayal of who we really are.

When we are emotionally volatile, reacting to everything around us without constraint as so many do today, we are just as untrue to ourselves as when we are shut down emotionally.

The key is to be able to feel fully, but not become either frozen or reactive, both of which are typical when we are faced with a boa constrictor.

Author's Bio: 

David Robert Ord is Editorial Director for Namaste Publishing, publishers of Eckhart Tolle and other transformational authors. He writes The Compassionate Eye daily on the Namaste Publishing website, together with his daily author blog Consciousness Rising: http://www.namastepublishing.com/blog/author/david-robert-ord.