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Love is Kind!

Mini-Love-Lesson  #238

Synopsis: Kindness as the most important, single factor in love relating; understanding kindness more completely; the how-to’s of communicating love’s kindness; six not usually recognized ways of kindness; the wide-ranging relational and health benefits of kindness; tough kindness and more.

The Most Important Single Factor

Kindness, felt and showed, is the most important, single factor in keeping a love relationship healthy and working.  This is the conclusion of multiple researchers in the area of love relationships.  A number of other factors also are extremely important but no other single factor quite compares to the significance of kindness.  This is especially true in adult-to-adult marriage type, love relationships.  Kindness also is of very high importance in parent-child love, family love, friendship love, healthy self-love, pet love and altruistic love.

The research that shows kindness as the single most important factor appears in studies of over 10,000 subjects in 33 countries.  To learn more, check out The Science of Happily Ever After by Dr. Ty Tashiro and the publications of the Gottman Institute.

In my own work with couples facing real love versus false love issues, kindness proved to be the most significant determinant for identifying authentic love from 12 forms of pseudo-love (see our book Real Love Versus False Love).

The Kindness Conclusion

If you want a love relationship to thrive, heal, grow, last, become empowered, be fulfilling or do any other good thing, do this.  Earnestly study, learn, practice, improve, model, enjoy and manifest loving kindness in every love relationship frequently.  Also consider teaching, promoting, advancing and spreading the knowledge about love’s kindness wherever you can.

Positive Relationship studies and research into healthy, real love show that love’s kindness can be learned, grown and improved starting at about 18 months of age and progressing throughout life.  Check out kindness reports and findings at the Positive Psychopedia website.

Kindness Is…

Being kind is having and showing a desire to help bring happiness, ease pain, make life more pleasant, help good feelings happen and improve emotional states and the well-being of those targeted for kindness treatment, which can include yourself.  Kindness includes being considerate, sympathetic, empathetic, friendly, generous, helpful, warm-hearted, compassionate, gracious, genial, tender and caring.

Behaviorally, kindness has to do with taking benevolent action.  This can include acts of assistance, positive surprise, service, rescue, sharing, risk, providing enjoyment and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Love’s Kindness Is…

Loving kindness is all of the above starting from heartfelt feelings of real lovingness for the target of one’s love (see “Definitions of Love”).  Absence of love’s kindness is acting out of only obligation, duty, guilt, propriety, etc.

Communicating Love-Filled Kindness

In face-to-face, personal interactions, kindness often is best expressionally (nonverbally) communicated by kind tones of voice (gentle, soft, caring but also with laughter sharing joy, etc.), kind facial expressions (smiles, looks of concern, etc.), kind gestural expressions (open arms, thumbs up, etc.) kind postural expression (leaning forward, bending toward, etc.) combined with tactile kindness (gentle hand touch, holding, tender hugs, etc.).  Active and empathetic good listening behaviors frequently are essential combined with affirmational words indicating care, love connectedness and copasetic feelings (see “Touching With and For Love – a Super Important Love Skill”, “Behaviors That Give Love -- The Basic Core Four”, "Listening with Love”).

Giving advice, presenting instruction, analyzing, offering solutions, etc. may show kindness and care if timed well but otherwise may interfere with the expression of loving kindness (see “Pro Love and Anti-Love Talking”).

Sometimes Unrecognized Behavioral Sets of Love’s Kindness

Arguably, loving kindness is neither well focused on or broadly comprehended, let alone comprehensively taught in many parts of the world.  Therefore, recognizing and identifying larger aspects for conveying love’s kindness is difficult for many.  Here are six to consider.

1. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to do non-burdening behaviors such as cleaning up after oneself, taking care of a shared environment and any other act which a loved one would be burdened with.

2. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to be inclusive by sharing one’s authentic or personal self including physical and emotional feelings, more private thoughts, decision-making processes and idiosyncratic behaviors.

3. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to show tolerance for the less pleasant aspects of another and avoid blaming, demeaning, criticizing, etc. those behaviors while being able to lovingly and democratically talk about them.

4. It is an act of loving kindness in a relationship to do actions of assistance, service, helpfulness etc. especially when done with an upbeat spirit and in times of high stress.

5. It is an act of hard to do loving kindness in a relationship to show openness and positive reception of contrary thoughts and expressions of feelings during conflicts and disagreements.

6. It is an act of powerful loving kindness in a relationship to show strong, positive affirmational and celebratory feelings about the achievements, victories and/or good fortune of a loved one -- more than but not excluding kindness shown for suffering.

Relational Benefits of Love Given Via Kindness

Words and actions demonstrating kindness, mutually given and received, in a love relationship of any type create and strengthen a sense of well-joined-togetherness as well, or better than, all other types of behavior so far studied.  Kindness, well showed, counters and helps heal the destructive effects of anti-love-toxic behaviors such as indifference, cruelty, abusive criticism, etc (see “Destroyers of Love – The 7 Big “D’s” Most Likely to Ruin Your Love Relationships”).  Increasing Loving Kindness from adults to children has been shown to achieve significant improvements in academic performance and general cooperativeness along with improvements in digestion and inflammatory disease recovery.

Greater Loving Kindness in couple’s relationships has been correlated with improved mutual responsiveness, sensitivity, affection, positive regard, rapport, goodwill, cooperation, demonstrations of affection, sexuality, happiness, parenting and a host of other positives that make for healthy, happy couples.

Health Benefits of Loving Kindness

Kindness in love relationships has been shown to activate parts of the brain that process increases in positive mood, sense of connectedness, life satisfaction, optimism, serenity, sense of well-being and improvements in cardiovascular health.  For both the giver and the receiver, demonstrations of loving kindness have been related to better general physical health, decreased clogging of arteries and a whopping 44% decrease in premature death.

Regularly showing acts of kindness to others, especially in love relationships but also altruistically to strangers and mild acquaintances, is strongly associated with a vast number of indicators of good physical and mental health characteristics.  Programs for daily acts of kindness in an addiction’s treatment regimen significantly lowered relapse rates for example.

People measured as high in kindness, generosity and empathy demonstrate more activity in the posterior superior temporal cortex of the brain, which has been related to consideration and understanding others’ viewpoints, actions and positions, thus producing more successful interpersonal relating.

To learn more about all this, I recommend reading Why Kindness Is Good for You by Dr. David R. Hamilton and Survival of the Nicest by Dr. Stefan Klein.

Tough Kindness

Some people think that kindness shows weakness.  St. Paul’s second characteristic of real love, “Love is Kind” (which in Paul’s Greek is “cheresteuetai he agape”) is thought to contain the translation concept that love is continuously and steadfastly kind to those who are irritatingly difficult to be kind to.  In other words, Paul indicates it takes strength and toughness to do the sort of kindness he is describing.  Paul is right.  Sometimes it is a tougher but a greater kindness to say “no” than to say “yes”, to kindly deny a request than to grant it, etc.  That takes the strength and power of love-filled kindness, as does steadfast love, (no weakness or wimpiness found here).

One More Tiny Thing

If you happen to talk this “Love is Kind” lesson over with someone, and we hope you do, please consider mentioning this site and our free subscription service where anyone can automatically get our regular, wide ranging, mini-love-lessons for FREE.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question:  Who are you going to target for an act of kindness today and what are you going to do to perform that act?  How about tomorrow?  How about most days?

Poly Love

Synopsis: Uncle Charlie’s introduction to a love weirdness; The Poly Advantage; Questions and Quandaries; Personal Questions; and the Worldwide Scene.

Uncle Charlie’s Introduction to a Love ‘Weirdness’

Jackie opened the door and said, “Hi Mom, Dad, Uncle Charlie.  Come on in and meet two of the guys I’m considering marrying or at least someday living with”.

Dad and Mom looked at her a bit sheepishly and Uncle Charlie looked happily confused but interested. Uncle Charlie said, “So what are you going to do with the husband you already have”?  “I’ll keep him too of course,” Jackie replied.  “All three at the same time?”, Charlie asked, acting like he was sort of going along with a joke.  “Yes, all three, at least some of them at the same time,” Jackie replied in a serious, contemplative tone of voice.

Uncle Charlie looked more puzzled.  “Ah hah,” said Jackie turning to her mother and father.  “You haven’t told him I’m a Poly, have you?”  Jackie’s father spoke up saying, “ I would just get him confused trying to explain it, because I haven’t quite figured it out yet myself”.  Jackie then replied, “Come on in to dinner and I’ll see if I can explain it to you without too much confusion and maybe even without too much embarrassment.”  More people arrived and were introduced as friends and part of Jackie’s “poly” network.  At dinner Jackie explained. “Poly love, or more officially Polyamory, is about two or more people openly loving each other, usually in an ongoing relationship, while acting supportive of their lover’s other love relationships.

“Here’s a basic concept.  If you love somebody you want the one you love to have what they want and need.  Many of us want and need more than one romantic or mate-like relationship.  Therefore, if someone we love intimately wants or needs others we want them to have those relationships.  Since you can love two or more parents, two or more siblings, two or more children,  two or more friends at the same time why not two or more lovers or love mates?

“There are different societies around the world who have lived this love style for hundreds even thousands of years.  More accurately poly love styles, in a variety of different ways, but none of them make for exclusive one-on-one living or for being dishonest about it.  Polys tend to argue that our culture’s way is ‘phony monogamy’ but actually it’s serial polygamy or polyandry with lots of dishonesty.  Affairs, adultery, unfaithfulness, cheating and the like, occur in over half the marriages pretending to be monogamous.  So much doesn’t get shared that deep sharing realness and real intimacy of the heart hardly have a chance.”

Uncle Charlie, an open-minded and bold sort of fella said, “So, let me ask the big question in my mind. What about sex ?  I can’t help but suspect all this Polyamory stuff is all just a mask for a form of ‘swinging’?”  Jackie laughed openly and everyone else giggled or blushed a bit.  “Sex is usually included but not always.  With some, Poly love is done more like long-lasting, deep friendship while relationships in the swinging world tend to be more shallow and brief, though that’s not always true.  But with us Polys it’s really not primarily about sex.  That’s more for ordinary singles, swingers and of course cheaters.  We Poly people are about the people we love having what they need and want, and that can include lots of sex with lots of people, though it usually is confined to a much smaller number of very special people”.

Uncle Charlie looking a bit devilish said, “Again let me ask, altogether at once?”  Jackie responded, “That can happen and does with some Polys.  For other Polys sex is a more private, one-on-one sort of thing.  Again it’s much more about healthy, real love that’s open and honest”.

The Poly Advantage

One of the other dinner guests then spoke up, “The Poly way has a great big advantage.  It is non-deceitful, non-possessive, non-controlling, non-restrictive and non-exclusive.  When you lust or feel love for another, which I think every spirited, really alive person does, you don’t have to hide it from those closest and dearest to you.”

Another guest at the table who had been quietly listening said, “The Poly way saves us from cheating and all the lies that go with it.  If you have a forbidden desire you get to talk about it instead of hiding and feeling bad about yourself about having the desire.  It also means having a whole lot more love in your life, and with it a whole lot more joy –  at least that’s the way I experience it”.

Then Sandra shyly spoke up saying, “Let me tell you my experience.  Before I became a Poly I was always afraid of losing whatever love I had, so I always had to secretly have a second lover on the side.  Time and again that meant someone found out what I was secretly doing on the side and there were horrible fights and a horrible breakup and a whole lot of time spent suffering and also in recovery.  Then the whole thing would start again. That nearly killed me.  I mean literally.  I nearly suicided twice.

“Then I got introduced to the Poly thing.  I learned I really have what it takes to love and be loved a lot.  It just seems natural to me.  What was messing it up was dishonesty and a value system which made sexual fidelity and monogamy more important than what I think of as natural, real love or truth.  When monogamy or sexual singularity are more important than love it can destroy love.  I’ve heard it said that whatever we make more important than love ruins love, and I think that’s true for me at least.  Now I see that anyone dumb or insecure enough to want to abandon me over who else I love probably isn’t right for me anyway.  Breaking up would hurt some but see I have deep and abiding love with the most wonderful set of other people, so I know I’m not going to be unloved. It’s more like the family you can count on, and I wouldn’t trade anything for it.  I know it’s not for everyone but it works way better for me than what I was doing before”.

Questions and Quandaries

Well, the evening went on with lots of humor, occasional tender, caring feelings and a surprising amount of frank, open honesty.  Some talked of their failures at being Poly and the failures of others they had known who tried it and found it wanting.  There was quite a lot of talk going on about children with some parents strongly testifying how much seeing their parents go Poly had done for them.  Others, of course, were very dubious about that part.

A lot of the other ways that a Poly lifestyle can be lived also got mentioned.  Handling jealousy and insecurity, plus the role of healthy self-love in doing so was focused on for a time.  How a Poly love lifestyle was being a great benefit to bisexuals in the Poly community was generally agreed on.  The question of “is Poly love real love?” resulted in people saying “sometimes yes and sometimes no”.  All acknowledged that false forms of love could happen in Poly relationships just like in monogamous relationships.  Also everybody agreed Poly love took just as much or more work as any other kind of relationship.  While it seemed like a sort of salvation for some, it was seldom easy, especially at first.

Some put forth the idea that it’s the English-speaking peoples that have the most trouble with Poly lifestyles, while maybe northern Europeans, the French, Polynesians and certain special indigenous people in China were more likely to do well with it.  Jackie’s parents testified to the fact that their daughter was happier this way than she ever had been before and that was what mattered to them.  Uncle Charlie said this dinner party had been the best conversational circus he had ever gone to, and he had never experienced so many surprising thoughts that he would have to think about a lot more and he was going to do just that.

Personal Questions And the Worldwide Scene

So, dear reader, how do you think you would go home from a dinner party like that one? What might your personal questions be?  If some of your close friends or family were to be revealed living a Poly lifestyle what would that mean to you?  Since all polls and other indicators show the Poly lifestyle to be growing with Poly clubs in every major city and many minor ones, Poly national and international conventions popping up all over the Western world, parts of the Far East , South America and especially North America, seminars talks, group discussions, Internet sites, online magazines and lots more, it seems likely you are going to run into it sooner or later personally.

Perhaps you already have.  It seems like a lot of people keep their Poly involvement kind of quiet because, after all, it is a rather personal thing.  As to love and lifestyles, the world seems to be changing one relationship at a time.  Concerning yourself, those closest to you, family, children, neighbors, etc. if any of them want you to come with them to the gathering of the Polys what you think you are likely to do if you haven’t already?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Are you more puzzled, threatened, dismissive, angered, worried, curious, amused, conflicted, inspired, excited, encouraged or just don’t know what to think by the Poly lifestyle?

Special note: Thanks to the several people who have requested this topic be addressed.  Sorry we didn’t get to it sooner.  For those new to the topic you might want to Google “Polyamory”, there’s lots of information at lots of different sites. Yes, there is likely to be more on this topic from time to time, along with information about other “alternative” lifestyles and how love is being carried out in those lifestyles, along with the “traditional”.

Love Is Patient

Mini-Love-Lesson #237

Synopsis: Loving Patience, what it is, its psychology, many benefits, disadvantages, the dynamics of impatience and ways to develop greater Loving Patience are very helpfully presented here starting with an ancient Indian teaching tale truth.

An Ancient and Crucial Truth!

To journey together in love, we have to walk at the slowest person’s pace.  That is what the Dakota medicine woman’s campfire tale taught one night before we guest scouts retired to our tepees when I was an impulsive youth.  This ancient, tribal wisdom is just as true today as it was then.  It echoes Paul’s first of 16 tenets on love – Love Is Patient.

In Paul’s ancient, biblical Greek it is “He agape makrothumia” which includes the concept that love is repeatedly forbearing of others and their frustrating ways.  Versions of this truth can be found throughout the teachings of various world religions and more positive philosophies.  “Impatience shows no love, “If patience is absent, real love may be absent too” and “With patience, love withers not” are examples of sundry, sage’s precepts I have encountered.

What Is Loving Patience?

Patience is the ability to calmly wait while enduring ongoing, negative stimuli.
Loving Patience is the ability to calmly wait while remaining loving (good-natured, kind, helpful, tolerant, accepting, non-judgmental, etc.) in the face of the slow, tedious, frustrating, annoying, aggravating, disappointing and/or unloving behaviors of others, or even of one’s self.

The Psychology of Patience

I think the best thing psychologists have discovered about patience is that it is obtainable by those who attempt to acquire it.  It also is teachable to trainable pets and children who have reached certain stages of development.  This mostly is accomplished by using positive rewards and reinforcements for incrementally increased waiting.

Studies suggests patience comes in three forms.  The first is Interpersonal Patience which has to do with calmly dealing with others who are unhappy, upset, angry or in other ways exhibiting negative and unwanted behavior.  The second can be called Severe Situational Patience which has to do with calmly dealing with life’s more arduous and ongoing hardships, setbacks and difficult situations.  The third can be termed Annoyance Patience.  This has to do with the ability to take-in-stride life’s more minor annoyances, irritations, delays, diversions, distractions, worries, hurts, hampering events, nuisances, harassments, vexations, etc..

To learn more about all this and the psychology of patience, I recommend checking out the Association for Psychological Science (APS) reports on patience studies.

All three types of patience have to do with what is sometimes called owning one’s power and not giving it away, being proactive more than reactive, and remaining inner and self-directed instead of other and outer directed.  Those, in turn, have a great deal to do with healthy self-love (see “Self-Love and Its Five Healthy Functions”).

The Many Benefits of Loving Patience

Practicing Loving Patience is an immense help to the health, well-being, improvement and fulfillment of love relationships of every type.  Perhaps that is why Paul put it first in his list of real love’s characteristics.

In a love relationship, practicing patience can build empathy and that, in turn, decreases interpersonal hassles while communicating acceptance and non-judgmentalism of a loved one or one’s self.  Patience often leads to long-range understanding and a fuller comprehension of what to do about disharmony.  Plus, it aids in the development of general positivity.  Patience, well demonstrated, helps block other’s misinterpreting you as angry or upset at them when you actually are being only concentrated, serious, worried, concerned, etc.

Showing loving patience helps others identify you as a person not to fear, avoid, manipulate or keep secrets from.  Therefore, Loving Patience assists people to be authentic and more fully self disclosing in a love relationship.

Demonstrating impatience can greatly harm and even ruin what would otherwise be loving and bonding, interpersonal, good experiences.  Repeated demonstrations of impatience may increasingly turn people against you, exclude you, or subconsciously passive/aggressively attack you.

Showing love through patience when someone is not functioning as you would wish may take longer and reach fulfillment later than you expected.  However that assists in developing higher and greater, mutual, team functioning and achievement along with increased emotional closeness, plus the likelihood of return patience when you need it.

Loving Patience is often wonderful for avoiding intolerant and destructive sudden reactions, incomplete understandings, wrong conclusions, mistaken impressions and impulsive anti-loving habit behaviors.  In every type of love relationship, Loving Patience is much more likely to lead to more constructive, accurate, comprehensive and harmonious interactions than is impatience.

For all concerned, having Loving Patience is far more healthy than impatience and its accompanying stress illness dangers.  Patient people usually live healthier, longer and happier than impatient people.  Most of all, they tend to have much better and longer, lasting, love relationships.  To learn more about love and health, check out Love and Survival by Dr. Dean Ornish.

The Dynamics of Impatience

In interpersonal impatience, one person wants one or more other people to change to operating at their own rate and/or in their manner of behaving.  It is, therefore, an imposition of one’s own standards on another.  Acting impatient often sends a message of “do things my way, not yours”.  It also can be a communication of “you’re operating in a way that is inferior to mine” and “my ways are more important than yours”.  Relationally, it frequently is disharmonious and can have a strong emotional divisive effect.  None of this is loving, democratic or as pragmatic as simply lovingly requesting someone to change something more to your liking, such as “hurry up a bit please”, “I’d like you to try doing something in an alternate way if that’s okay with you”.

Impatience often has a short-term gain and long-term loss, interpersonal dynamic.  If being impatient gets other people to do what you want more immediately, that is the short-term gain.  If it makes them resent you and act against you when they can, that is the greater and longer-term loss.

The Disadvantages of Patience

Like all things human, even Loving Patience is not perfect.  Having patience at the wrong time or for too long may lead to missed opportunities, too slow a reaction to a crisis and being misidentified as uncaring, indecisive and unassertive.  Worst of all, you may, through patience, accidentally reward and, therefore, reinforce some bad behavior.  Patient people also can be more targeted for deception and manipulation by the sociopathic.

How to Develop Greater Loving Patience

Learning to calm yourself while waiting longer and longer is the essence of practicing and developing patience.  Learning to make patience loving, requires loving thinking and loving self-talk while you practice the behavior of positive waiting.  Positive waiting requires breathing slowly and deeply, purposefully relaxing tense muscles as you also focus on being loving to yourself and whoever else is involved (see “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”).

If worry or fear has triggered impatience, reassuring self-talk and distraction actions usually are helpful.  Becoming more mindful and self-aware of what you let trigger your impatience also can be quite useful.  Purposefully spotting when, where and why you are impatient and choosing those times to practice more Loving Patience is often hard but necessary.

Talking all this over with those you love (children included) to see if they will reveal their deeper feelings when you are both patient and impatient with them usually helps tremendously.  Remembering that two of the 12 major ways to demonstrate love are supported by developing patience.  Those two are Toleration Love and Self-Disclosure Love.  For more on this, check out Chapter 5 (How Do We Grow Intimate Love) in Recovering Love by yours truly.

One More Thing

Talking all this over with others can help you and them implant the knowledge and develop it further.  When you do that, we would like it if you would mentioned this site and our free subscription service.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question: If we don’t lovingly ask our loved ones to be more patient with us when we desire that, how can we expect them to ever lovingly respond?

Ready or Not for Love?

Are you really ready for love?

Explore the following ‘willingness’ issues and you are likely to help yourself be ‘more ready’.  You also may get in touch with the areas of love- readiness you might do well to understand more, need to strengthen, and the areas in which you are most love-able and love-potent.  Which willingness areas can you say “Yes” to, which ones elicit a “Maybe”, and which ones get your “No” or “Probably not yet” response?

Do You Have STRONG :
1.    Willingness to do the work of learning to love well?

2.    Willingness to do the work of practicing loving well?

3.    Willingness to do the work of unlearning unloving, negative thoughts and feeling systems and the negative behaviors that go with them?

4.    Willingness to risk (to let fear and safety NOT be primary)?

5.    Willingness to love yourself healthfully?

6.    Willingness to live love-centered (NOT money-centered, status-centered, power-centered, etc.)?

7.    Willingness to explore and experiment with new ways?

8.    Willingness to be open to both getting and giving love?

9.    Willingness to choose and use the power of love over all other forms of power?

10.    Willingness to be transformed by love (because that’s what happens) into an ever growing, better self?

11.    Willingness to work at using real love to help heal others, and to use real love to heal you of old wounds and the negative thoughts, feelings, and behavior systems those wounds empower?

12.    Willingness to let love deeply connect you with others, life, nature, spirituality, and other love forces in the universe?

Add up your “Yes” responses, your “Maybe” responses, and your “No & Probably Not Yet” responses.  If you have mostly “Yes” responses you probably are well on your way to ‘readiness’ and enriched living through love.  Mostly “Maybe” answers suggest you could use some work on your love readiness and it is advisable to proceed carefully in love matters.  Mostly “No & Probably Not” responses suggest that before you enter your next great love adventure you may want to emotionally strengthen yourself, look much further into understanding the dynamics of healthy real love and how to avoid love trauma and tragedy.

Please know this is not a definitive test just a little guide for examining your possible love readiness.  It also can be used by couples, or friends and family, and others to help each other look a bit deeper into the area of love readiness.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Loneliness and Love Absence

Mini-Love-Lesson  #236

Synopsis: The why’s and good reason for loneliness and it’s pain; wrong things to do that don’t end the pain; our epidemic of killer loneliness; social media and some very good news about what can be done about loneliness and the absence of love are all here.

The Why’s of Loneliness ? 

Why do we get lonely?  Do we need loneliness?  Does it do anything for us?  What is the purpose of the pain we experience when we feel acute loneliness?  Did nature, evolution, a deity or all three put loneliness in our lives for some good reasons?  Will our loneliness go away if we understand the why’s and what for’s of loneliness and act on that understanding?  What are the best things to do about loneliness, lovelessness and their agonies?  Are these the right questions that will get us to the best answers about loneliness and the absence of real love in our lives?

The Purpose of Loneliness and Its Pain

Considerable research shows loneliness works like a hunger for something we need for our psycho-biological well-being.  Ultimately loneliness is a hunger for love and the life connections that can lead to love.  When we satisfy that hunger, our physical brain and systems in our bodies work better.  When we don’t satisfy the hunger of loneliness and love hunger, we move toward brain chemistry malfunction, greater disease susceptibility, we become de-energized, less productive, less creative and less socially adept.  When we satisfy this hunger, we reverse all that and also do better at cooperation, feeling a sense of fulfillment and a long list of the other benefits of positive companionship.

Using  the concept that all emotions give us guidance, we can see that loneliness tells us to seek positive connection and nurturing interactions with others.  This includes being accepted, cared about, liked, affirmed, safeguarded and ultimately loved (see “Dealing with Love Hurts: Pain’s Crucial Guidance”).  When we achieve the nourishment of being connected and love-bonded, our brain and body chemistry responds very positively and we definitely are healthier, live happier and longer because of it.  This, by the way, turns out to be true not only for humans but for all mammals so far studied, plus many birds and perhaps some other life forms as well.  In short, to live well, we need each other and loneliness tells us when we need to do something about that.  So, to avoid toxic loneliness, actively seek emotionally meaningful life connections with others.  Then work to grow some of them into real, love relationships (“Behaviors That Make And Grow Friendship Love”).

The pain of loneliness tends to grow stronger when we do not succeed at following the guidance message loneliness is attempting to give us.  In a way, loneliness is like a good friend hounding us to do something positive to end the loneliness and not just suffer it (“Loneliness and Love”).

Doing the Wrong Things to End the Hurt

Some people try to end the pain of loneliness and love hunger in very unhealthy ways.  They turn to drugs, drink, or the destructive distractions of enthralling danger and fascinating dysfunction.  This easily can be done with sex, gambling, several forms of false love and excitement junkie behaviors.  All those things might work but only for a while.  Unless the behavior has healthy, real, love possibilities it is probably not going to pay off well.

Some people try to escape the pain of loneliness and love hunger through quantity instead of quality seeking.  Popularity, mass approval, fame, having high status connections, and the like, can result in ego boosts but very seldom in deep and love-bonded, meaningful, love relationships.  Others try to purchase friendships and love not realizing only false friends and false lovers are for sale.

Then there are those who live in crowded loneliness thinking they have many friends but they still feel lonely.  In truth, what they have are basically only acquaintances.  Acquaintances are better than nothing and they have the potential of becoming more if the right things are done to deepen some of the acquaintance relationships.  Remember, it is not about quantity it is about quality.

Tragically, the ultimate escape from the pain of loneliness and love hunger too often is suicide.  For some, the pain of loneliness and love starvation is just too much for them, or so they think.  Sadly, they may see the efforts required are far too difficult and the likelihood of success much too dismal.  Getting  new friends and growing new love often is hard and slow but with the right know-how and practice, it definitely is doable.

Unfortunately, all too many of the lonely and love malnourished have arrived at the conclusion that no one could or will ever like or love them because they are somehow crucially flawed.  Therefore, their future is one of nothing but painful loneliness and love starvation.  This is not true. Time and again in counseling I have seen people learn the skills of friendship-making and love relating.  When this happens, almost universally they go on to love-filled and friendship-filled living.

Preventively, this is where pets can come to the rescue.  I, and quite a few of the counselors and therapists I have trained, report love of and from a pet dog has made a life-saving difference.  For those living in lonely despair, for those who have lost a major love source and for those stranded in social isolation, for whatever reason, pets can make a huge, real, love difference.  Dogs seem to know how to do love especially well but we see cats, parrots, horses and monkeys do quite well at giving and receiving love too (see “Pet Love”).  Initially after a love bond with a pet has formed, it is not too long until the pet owner usually begins doing better connecting with people and then starts attaining a life of greater health, happiness and general well-being.

Our Epidemic of Killer Loneliness

If too often and too strongly you are lonely, you are more likely to die prematurely.  That is because loneliness does bad things to your brain chemistry and brain functioning and then to your body.  In many places around the Western oriented world, research shows loneliness and its detrimental effects are growing to epidemic proportions.  With this epidemic of loneliness, stress illnesses especially are increasing and related life expectancy is leveling off or beginning to decrease.

The research done by the UN, WHO, the US CDC, the National Health Service of the UK, countless medical schools and universities, and a plethora of epidemiologists confirms the veracity of these conclusions.  In England and Scotland, special anti-loneliness programs are being started by the health service, partly modeled on the cultural behaviors in countries in the world where the loneliness epidemic has not taken hold.  So far, they seem to be working well for many.

The Very Good News

The good news is you can hear the guidance message of loneliness which is to push yourself into connecting with others including pets; learn and do what it takes to make and keep real friends and then grow healthy, real, love relationships of several types.  It is likely you will have to overcome both internal and external obstacles, or you would have done it already.  Defeating loneliness is being done successfully by a growing number of people as they work to build their network of liking and loving others.  Do you think you can top and act on that?

Can Social Media Help?

So far, the research results are mixed.  It seems to be that if your connections with others via the Internet are marked by some emotional realness, positivity and backed up with some healthy self-love (see “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”), healthful sincere connecting may occur.  It also helps if the connections are more face-to-face with the assistance of Skype or similar visual services.  Note: the highly important psychobiological contributions of loving touch still will be missing (see “Love Hugs for Health & Happiness”).

Some of What You Can Do

If you do not have a pet, really consider getting a good loving and lovable one soon ( see “Pet Love”). Next, Look up some how to books on loneliness or friendship making, pick one, read it and do at least some of what it says.  Then start another.  Frequently older books are better than new ones.  For an in-depth approach, I recommend adding to the how-to books Love and Loneliness by the wise and highly readable, existential psychotherapist, Dr. Clark E. Moustakas.

Next you will have to pick an action to take and then risk doing it at least three times, not expecting any success at all.  Learn from what happened and improve the action, then do it again.  After that, add another action and start doing it again and again, not expecting or counting on anything improving whatsoever.  As you go, keep studying the how to’s of healthy, real love and enjoying everything you can about this process.  This is what it takes in experimenting and practicing before success starts to happen unless you are extraordinarily lucky.  Also know it really can help to get the assistance of a good counselor, personal coach or therapist as you tackle loneliness and/or love absence and their life-impacting difficulties.

One Other Thing

Talk about what you have just read with someone and that likely will help to implant these concepts as well as motivate action.  While you do that, we would like it if you would mention this site and our free subscription service.  Thank you.

As always Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question: is it more our duty, or our privilege to grow our own love giving and getting network?