note: it is strongly recommended to be open minded while reading this text; with judgemental attitude it will be boring, maybe even frustrating
This many months of prolonged global health crisis, with all its restrictions, made us more aware how connections between people are important for our wellbeing, our mental health.
This time of year is traditionally dedicated to love (besides summarizing how the year has passed) so I will try to summarize this wide and complex topic in the following text (will not talk about relationships, those two are different categories that can but don.t have to go together).
Love is one of the things that connects people. It is timeless topic for all kinds of art, because of its importance; so many books, songs, movies are made with different portrait of love but most common are tragic love and lived happily ever after. With first scenario we identify when suffering and second is what we dream about.
We all have some intuitive knowledge of what love is but when asked to define and describe, we can run out of words.
Favorite topic of my pupils when we discuss emotions is love. When I ask them to define it, I get answers like: when you have feelings for someone, when you like someone, when you care for someone...
They are not wrong but love is much more than that.
I will start with what love is not.
Many people think being in love is love but those are two quite different things. Being in love is usually (but not necessarily) first stage of so called romantic love, that is, love for someone as a (desirable) partner. We all know feeling of butterflies in the stomach, desire to spend as much time with desired person as possible, being distracted from everyday tasks with constant thinking about that person (“why you did not learn anything, you knew that today is answering for grades? ooh I couldn.t I fell in love”- common teenage classroom story :) ), feeling of bliss and lack of time awareness when with desired person...
Lot of hormones activated, lot of mental games to keep us in this state. Perception of another person can be mild or severe distorted, we oversee or minimize characteristic of that person that we don.t like, some hope that he/she is the one. Cold shower: that is just evolution trying to trick us to reproduce since in that state we are prepared to do things that we would not coolheaded. Unlike love, being in love is always time limited and that is actually not very long.
After the period of being in love, there are two outcomes: person either realize that desired one is not that any more and leave (idea of) relationship or accept that person and develop love for her/him.
There are other types of bonds, that are not love: dependency, interest, abuser-victim bond... but we can find those in many relationships interpreted as love.
There are different kinds of love:
- love for the nature (that does not mean liking going into the nature for vacation but caring for the nature every day with behaviors that will not damage it);
- love for the animals, as a part of the nature and as pets (having a pet is not the same as loving it, there are people who take pets so they can feel power over someone, to vent their frustrations...);
- love for other human beings (which is what we usually mean when mentioning that word)
- love for oneself /selflove (contrary to the belief of many, self love is not narcissism; although it is said that narcissistic people love themselves much, they actually do not love themselves, deep down feel as not worthy and compensation for that is personality trait called narcissism; it can be develop in different amount but those with high score on the scale can be very toxic for other people. Real self love includes healthy self confidence and self respect; people who have that accept not only their virtues but also their flaws and are ready to face them and do something about them. Narcissistic people are fragile, easily offended, have control issues and tend to find excuse or victim for their mistakes bcs they do not want to admit to themselves their flaws. But it is ok to have flaws. We all do have them. That means to be human.)
Love for other people also have different types.
- Love for the family
We do not choose who will be our family but they are the ones who have biggest influence on how we will define, understand and express love. There is a bit of difference between how children, parents, siblings and cousins within the family love.
Children from unhappy relations/dysfunctional families have much chance to struggle with love and develop dysfunctional relationships during their lives (but this is not “destiny”, can be changed with professional help).
Even with long term disagreements and conflicts we feel some sort of love for those people, there is attachment and care. We all know jokes about how to survive holidays with the family :D. Rare are those people who cut all bonds with their family.
- Love for the friends
Friends are people who we do choose, the ones that we decided to keep in our lives after getting to know them and closest friends are something like a family: we might have conflicts with them but underlying love and decision to have them in our lives, at the end, overcomes differences. Ofc, friendships can be broken and distance made from the people that we were very close with, that depends on our evaluation on friendship dynamics.
- Romantic/partnership love includes more elements than friendship, is more intimate and intense.
- Somewhere-in-between love is more than friendship, less than romantic. It can be developed towards a person with whom one do not really want or cannot be in a relationship, for various reasons. This one is quite tough :) Some call it freelove; it may or may not include sexual component. No hidden catch, no strings attached ;)
So, as a conclusion, love is: cognitive, emotional and behavioral set toward other person.
That means it includes generally positive evaluation of some person, acceptance, respect, trust, empathy, care, support, tolerance, devotion, accountability, openness/sharing/intimacy; it also includes happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disappointments; if positive set overpowers unpleasant set love will last.
Every person makes decision with what will put up with and what are the dealbreakers based on its needs and personal characteristics.
Enemies of love are narcissism, selfishness, egocentrism, fear, toxic communication, emotional impairment...
Who and how we love to a large degree is determined with our unconscious part of psyche. There are people who are not capable for love as described; they make bonds with other people through different mechanisms.
Love is when you are accepted for who you are, when feel free to be yourself; when someone answers your phone call in the middle of the night (when put in silent mode does not count as not answering :) ); when someone is taking care of you when you are sick, when listening your problems and inner struggles and if not able to help just being beside you; when someone is driving you in the middle of the stormy winter night to another town, because your parent ended up in hospital (and you can drive also); when someone makes little surprises that will cheer you up; when someone is encouraging you to develop as a person; when someone is sincerely happy for your success in something; and many other things.
Love is not some arrow that hits you from the sky but a set of many variables that require time, effort and patience to develop and sustain.
Some people take love for granted, some are working on it and some even say is a miracle. Love will not take away all your pain but for sure can take away some and make easier some other.
We all want to be loved (even those who do not want to admit that), it is in human nature. But how much we are prepared to engage in building love, to do what has to be done in order to achieve that goal?
Don't hide in doorways
You may find the key that opens up your soul
Don't go to heaven
'Cause it's really only hell
Don't smell the flowers
They're an evil drug to make you lose your mind
Don't dream of women
'Cause they only bring you down
Don.t talk to strangers song I dedicate to those who cannot open up for love bcs of fear of being hurt.
And for the end, I have chosen Love is in the air (although pollution is in the air really) because it sounds optimistic :D.
There is no better time than now to tell someone that you love him/her or at least to show it. If it comes to regret, better to regret that you did than that you did not ;)