How We Talk About Falling in Love


A few weeks ago, I ventured off to Ottawa to meet with Dr. Sue Johnson. The acclaimed psychologist and relationship coach has written extensively on the empathic nature of the human species, and how love is one of our basic primal needs, all very much core themes of Avatar Secrets.

We talked about vulnerability and strength, community and connection.

Somehow, as I worked my way through a stack of questions and my highlighted dog-eared copy of her book, we started talking about falling in love.

Well, not actually about falling in love. We talked about how we talk about falling in love.

It hit a nerve.

You see, it’s something I’d caught myself thinking about back when I was going through my journey in the game.

In Chapter 6 of Avatar Secrets, the voiceover goes something like this:

I don’t know if I tripped, or got too close to the edge.

I tumbled off the side of the mountain and started plummeting, in free fall, through the air, grasping at branches, leaves, anything to soften the blow.

I landed on the ground with an echoing thud, and my health meter crashed. I’d fallen.

Isn’t it something, that this is how we speak of love? Falling in love? Falling, hard and fast. Falling, head over heels.

Looking around, I realized, I had no idea where I was. I was alone, in totally new terrain.

There’s always a moment after you’ve fallen, where you don’t know if that other person’s going to be there.

This is the aftermath of falling head over heels. Literally.

We talk about falling in love not as something that is safe and protective. We talk about it as something dangerous and uncontrollable.

The image of “falling in love” conjures broken bones and broken hearts, as we lose control, or give up control, and tumble, grasping for any semblance of safety.

Here’s what Dr. Johnson had to say: “It’s interesting that we talk about love like it happens to us and we don’t do it. It happens to us, we fall in, we fall out and it’s like there is this incredible attraction, it is very mysterious nobody knows about it, it sort of hits you in the head and there is nothing you can do about it. To love is to be vulnerable, to risk, it is to open yourself up to somebody and obviously we know, they can hurt us.”

Dangerous as that sounds, Johnson adds, “Accepting your vulnerability, and knowing how to cope with it, is the opposite of being weak.”

Is there a correlation between our relationship with vulnerability, and how we approach love?

We’re afraid of being hurt, so we speak of falling, as if it’s all out of our control (and maybe we feel destined for a crash landing?).

But what if we were brave enough to jump?

What if we could fly without falling?