The language around love and abuse seems to be changing – at least in my world, as observed through algorithms. Finally – finally – it feels like the truth is being not just revealed but generously shared: about what it requires to love yourself, to love others well, to heal in the absence of love and to recognise that not everything that bears that name is love at all.

There’s a reason why these seemingly complex concepts are so effectively elucidated by counsellors, healers and other experts online. That’s because they are complex only until they are acknowledged. Then they become as simple as sunlight in the summer because, look: it’s everywhere, it’s always been there, it illuminates all one always felt but could not explain, with the clarity of day. The solutions – subjective and full of anguish – take time, but the tools feel within greater reach.

            A few weeks ago, I wrote in this space about limerence – an acute state of longing into which those who have not been safely loved often escape. A few months ago, I wrote here about broken mirrors – about how we cannot see ourselves as we are if those around us hold up distorted reflections of who they prefer us to be or have judged us as. The emerging, easily digestible yet profound conversation around love and abuse, combined with my commitment to heal through various therapeutic modalities, have helped me reframe my life, and understand myself.

            Equally powerfully, age-old, untrue tenets about love – broadly, love of all kinds, beginning with the familial and extending into the romantic and social – are also being dismantled.

Here’s just one example of a fallacy that, when challenged, seeds deep inner change and facilitates healing. Who has not been told at some point: “No one can love you until you love yourself”? Now, with newfound lucidity, such dangerous lies, which blame the unloved or the traumatised, are finally being called out for what they are: propaganda in service of those who do the damage.

In actuality, if a person has been raised unlovingly, they are wired to receive only more unlove through life, because they either recognise or reject new experiences based on the blueprint they were given. Note that I say receive, not attract – nobody magnetizes pain, as compassionless theories disguised as spiritual ones assert.

Self-worth is not fundamental. It is inculcated through being raised with love. Self-respect and self-love, which are distinct but connected, also originate in upbringing. All are reinforced through experience; their antipodes are reinforced too.

Despite my sense of the change, I cannot speak for the world at large, and whether it is truly opening to such transformations. But in my own life and in the lives of others I can see the ripple effect of radically relearning this: there is nothing wrong with us intrinsically, but there is something wrong with what was instilled in us about what care, belonging and relationships are, should be or can be. With the succour of discovering that we were good enough all along comes the desire to be even better. Who do we want to become, as we remake our lives – painfully, patiently?

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express in July 2022. “The Venus Flytrap” appears in Chennai’s City Express supplement.