Lucas Mckinnon - Searching For Love Outside Of Ourselves

by GEM Magazine / Aug 19, 2015 / Comments

At some point, each of the three councillors I’ve had over the last two years thought it was important to take a second and acknowledge my psychological handiwork. It seems I had found some clever ways to cope with grief: chief among them were self-improvement and an over-dedication to the service of others. 

Bravo, Lucas, bravo.

"Take a second to admire your well-oiled and regularly maintained, high performance survival mechanisms."

Okay, good. Now let’s lovingly deconstruct them.

Six years ago, 
my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her battle was arduous, but her spirit always managed to shine through. Her nickname, after all, was sunshine. Despite surgery, chemotherapy and the rest of it, we still managed to have the occasional beer, blare Black Sabbath and play rounds of foosball until well beyond midnight.

When I started university, my Mom’s health was relatively stable. As we made our way into the fall, her energy began to fade and soon she was in a wheelchair.

Her health deteriorated and she passed away at age 43.

 My first formal piece of writing was for my own mother’s eulogy.

Without thinking, I poured myself into my studies. I excelled in academia. Perfectionism ruled over me. It seems I was channeling my grief into my assignments. I would contort my essays to satisfy both my emotional pain and still manage to produce objective insight.

University was a great place to learn, explore and grow; it also distracted me from the immense pain I was harbouring.

After my undergraduate degree, the pain of looking for answers in all the wrong places caught up with me and I began to have frequent panic attacks, crippling anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Intellectual endeavours aside, I'd also developed an equally destructive addiction: romance.

I figured that if I couldn’t find a reason to live for myself, at least I could live for others. But of course, this was doomed to fail.

You cannot escape your own needs.

I’ve learned that devoting yourself to the satisfaction of others without taking care of you is a form of self-abandonment.

Any relationship I entered imploded, mainly due to me not taking care of myself. I didn’t expect my partners to wash or feed me, but in neglecting myself spiritually and emotionally, I crippled our connection. None of my partners understood my abandonment issues or the crushing anxiety I had that love will leave. As I couldn't communicate this, I didn’t know how to work through these traumas, and I found myself again, without love.

I’ve found that addiction takes many forms – sex, drugs, shopping, even self-improvement. At the heart of it, I believe addiction is the obsession with finding meaning outside of one’s self.

The reason it never works is because meaning comes primarily from within.

A meaningful life, as I am coming to see, is a life where no one thing dominates your energy. Having only my scholarly pursuits to focus on left me mentally and emotionally destitute. And expecting romance to fill the void of a most grievous sorrow only ever kept me from loving both that particular person and myself. 

Now instead of selling all my possessions and living in isolation to overcompensate for the spiritual and emotional neglect I have caused myself, I have opted for something unprecedented: balance. 

Having a number of activities frees you to engage with life in a way where you are not trying to have all your needs met by one thing.

My career isn’t meant to satisfy my grief; neither is my love and affection for others. My grief is my grief. I try to deal with it in a way that doesn’t compromise the rest of my life.

I’ve found that everything I do is shaped in some way by the loss I’ve felt. That’s only a bad thing when I neglect myself. 

Since I started taking responsibility for my own well-being I am increasingly able to relate to myself, others and the world, not from a place of pain, but from a place of joy.

If this sounds familiar to you, my advice would be to balance your activities - this relieves the stress of expecting all your needs to be met by any one thing, which allows a more direct relationship to the activity or person.

I'd also suggest you forgive yourself and show compassion for the parts of you that try to find purpose, meaning or fulfillment in any one thing.

Peace is a practice, something I started by showing compassion to the parts of me that searched for love in all the wrong places.


Lucas McKinnon

Website -
Instagram - @thetruegoop

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