What is Imitation Love? – Top Ten #3

What is Imitation Love? – Top Ten #3 

Greg explains what Imitation Love is and how most us have only ever known this kind of love, conditional love.


In questions one and two, we discussed what Real Love is and I suggested that something like 99% of us did not get enough of it. Instead, we were loved conditionally. People approved of us when we were good, in other words, when we behaved in the ways they liked.

Why We Reach for Imitation Love

Now that's understandable, but it's not Real Love which left the vast majority of us from childhood through adulthood feeling empty and not loved. That emptiness is so intolerably painful that we reach out to find whatever will relieve our discomfort, even if the relief is superficial, incomplete, temporary, and even risky. When we're in pain, we're willing to do almost anything to get rid of it.

Like what? We use money, sex, food, alcohol, drugs, the internet, lots of things. Anything we use as a temporary substitute for Real Love I call Imitation Love. And even though there are hundreds of different kinds, they tend to fall into four general categories: Praise, Power, Pleasure, and Safety. Briefly, let's discuss them. 

The Imitation Love of Praise

First, Praise. If we can't get enough of the unconditional love that makes us genuinely happy, we're willing to do a lot, almost anything, to hear people say words like this: “Oh, you're so good or wonderful or so smart or beautiful or handsome or clever or responsible or rich!” or whatever. When people compliment us, at least accept us for doing things right, we feel quite a rush, don't we? It's intoxicating and most of us spend our entire lives trying to repeat that feeling. We work hard in school so people will think we're responsible and smart. We try to say just the right things with our friends, teachers, bosses, just about everybody so they'll approve of us. We devote time, energy, resources, and even surgical techniques to our appearance. It's a huge industry, all so other people will find us attractive. The list goes on and on, the things we'll do to earn a few kind words or a glance or a touch or a line in a newspaper or an award with our name on it.

But that's the problem, the earning. The moment you do anything at all with what you say, what you do, how you make yourself look, for the purpose of getting me to like you, and then I do like you, what do you really have? Nothing. You can't feel loved unconditionally because Real Love can only be given freely without any kind of manipulation.

So here's the terrible irony: when we feel alone and unloved, in our desperation we try to fill our emptiness but the moment we do that, we make it impossible to feel unconditional love. So why do we keep trying to earn people's approval if it's so worthless? Because for just a moment it feels good. Other people's approval becomes just like an addictive drug. We know it's no cure for anything but it feels so good for a moment, so good, in fact, that we hope that if we only can earn enough of it, somehow it will finally work and make us happy. But it never does and we do the same with all the other forms of Imitation Love. 

The Imitation Love of Power, Pleasure and Safety

Without Real Love, we use Power. Anytime we control other people to do what we want we get a sense of power. 

We use Pleasure: food, drugs, alcohol entertainment, gambling, driving fast, shopping, porn, social media, anything that gives us an emotional or physical rush and distracts us from an insufficient supply of Real Love. 

We use Safety. We avoid risk. We stay in situations and relationships that are familiar, predictable. We become consumed with the pursuit of Imitation Love.

We hope that somehow if only we can get enough or we gather a great enough variety of money, power, sex, vacations, cars, clothing, whatever, we'll finally be happy. But eventually, we learn that Imitation Love always wears off. It never lasts and it never makes us truly happy, no matter how exciting it might be for a moment or two. 

I hope you'll join us in the Real Love family at RealLove.com as we learn about Real Love—how to find it, how to share it, how to recognize and avoid the traps of Imitation Love, and how to consistently find the kind of happiness that most of us can barely imagine.

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Replace the conditional love in your life with Real Love. 



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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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