Verses 12–15a: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.”
Psychologically, to lay down our life for another means to let go of whom we think we are in the relationship and open to what we are experiencing in the moment, including how we are impacting the other. Our ego consciousness—who we think we are and how we perceive ourselves—is only one aspect of the Self that is present. To every interaction, we bring all aspects of our psyche—what we know and what we don’t know about ourselves (our conscious and unconscious selves).
Love is relational. Whenever we feel love, there is always an object/recipient of the love. The object may be another person, a pet, a feeling, an activity, nature, or a thing. Regardless, love binds. It draws us towards someone or something. It connects.
Carl Jung wrote the “need for human connection,” what he calls kinship libido, is always present. We want human connection so much that we filter, censor, and edit who we are to feel acceptable to others. Our ego/sense of self survives by disowning parts of us (e.g., thoughts, emotions, talents) that don’t coincide with who we think we should be according to external standards (e.g., family, church, the other person).
Denied aspects of ourselves tend to become filters through which we experience others. We end up attributing our unconscious thoughts and feelings to someone else. We project them onto another. Think about how the movie projector works. Our unconscious psyche is the machine and the other person is the screen.
To lay down our life for our friends means giving up the projections and owning what’s within us. We have to lay down our ideas of who we are and consciously relate to all we are. This means paying attention and relating to whatever is going on inside us. By doing this, we become capable of doing the same for another person.
To begin to reconnect with disowned or repressed aspects of your psyche/soul, pay attention to feelings of unrest and dis-ease that mask guilt and shame that show up when thoughts, emotions, desires begin to stir. Practice extending the arms of love* to whatever shows up.
*In The Four Fold Way, Angeles Arrien names the arms of love as acknowledgment, acceptance, recognition, validation, and gratitude.