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Protective Love


Mini-Love-Lesson #287


Synopsis: The courage of those who love protectively; our species reliance on the protective love of the cooperative; the 4 cardinal points and formulas for understanding protective love and its psychology; the protective usefulness of fear, worry and anxiety; avoiding over-protective love, plus empowering your own protective love are all concerns of this mini-love-lesson.

Among the stories about us humans, there literally are hundreds of thousands of verified accounts which tell of mothers, fathers, other family, friends, comrades and even humanitarian strangers who bravely defended and tried to save loved ones and others. No one knows how many gave up their lives in these actions of courageous love.

Many nobly give their lives in other ways. Those who defend the downtrodden, the disadvantaged and the persecuted are great practitioners of protective love.  Included in this esteemed group are those who search for cures for illnesses, maybe out of love for a lost or suffering victim of that illness.  Also of note, are the many who watch over and give care to those unable to take care of themselves. Then there are the troops who stand guard, ready to defend and protect.  Many are the others who care about safety and protection and work on better safeguarding devices and procedures.  There are so many more who devote their lives to protective love in large and small ways to the betterment of us all.

Love, real love, is protective! False love seldom is heroically protective but only pretends to be so. Protective love is of cardinal importance to the survival of our species.  Not too long ago, humanity was viewed in a survival of the fittest framework which emphasized conflict and competition.  More recently, our existence has been seen as actually more dependent on cooperation, mutual protection and on love itself.

Protective Love is understood to be hardwired in our brains and has been evolving over millions of years.  There is anthropological evidence that this protective drive predates human existence.  A great many species exhibit protective behaviors (which look like love) not only for their young but for others of their own kind and even for other species.

Cooperative, group, protective behavior also has been observed by naturalists studying higher order animal families, tribes and pack’s defensive actions in the field. An example are the musk ox under wolf-pack attack, who form a circle around their calves; they face outward with their horns lowered ready to gore any wolves hungry or brave enough to attack their circled wall of horns. Another observed example was larger male apes that worked together by standing between predators and the smaller young and females, and even threw stones and tree limbs at predators driving them off. Then there is man’s best friend and the many authenticated stories of dogs saving their master’s lives by attacking threatening bears, lions and tigers. Sometimes these dogs, even when severely wounded, continued to defend their masters even to their death.

Protective Love Is a Cardinal Love

When we shine a light on the meaning of cardinal, we see it indicates immense importance, essential influence and the highest order of significance.  When we combine cardinal with love, we see it points to love’s most potent aspects.  Then, if we add the element of protection, we have a formula that leads to the survival of our species.  

Protective love has the high standing of being a cardinal love because of four major reasons: 

1.  Love motivated protection and rescue has ensured survival throughout the ages.  If it were not for protective love, none of us would be here.  If that is not a cardinal principle, we do not know what is.  Arguably, the survival importance of protective love is true for all higher order species as well.  Protective love is essential to our continuing existence and advancement – protecting self, others, nature, and all that makes life worthwhile is our challenge.  

2.  Another reason protective love is cardinal has to do with our brain.  Our brain is essential to life and our way of being human.  Our brain is built for processing protective love.  That is evidenced in our neurophysiology, neurochemistry and neuro-electrical functioning.  Thus, our brain is central to our behaviors of giving and receiving love.   

3.  Protective love is cardinal because it encompasses many of our grandest, human actions.  Protective love has been the chief, driving force motivating millions of life-saving actions, courageous rescues and heroic defenses.  Steadfast and enduring, safety-focused actions done on the behalf of those we love epitomize the cardinal nature of protective love.  The altruistic and humanitarian efforts which bring safety to the endangered, healing to the wounded or sick, along with relief to the beleaguered are other manifestations of the cardinal essence of protective love.

4.  The final reason protective love is considered cardinal involves how wide ranging and broadly influential it is. Every way love can be conveyed can be done for safety’s sake. Every love relationship, at times, can need some protective and safety-oriented help.  Every time there is an absence of protective love action, where it might be useful or needed, damage to a love relationship may occur.   However, every time protective love is expressed or enacted it is likely to make a love relationship better.  Every time we are doing protective love, we are doing love relating.

The psychology of protective love is fairly simple. Love involves the high valuing of who and what we love. Therefore, it is natural to want who and what we highly value to keep existing, to function well, and be present in our lives.  Furthermore because of love, we want for the well-being of who and what we love. So, we act to be protective of who and what we highly value.

Protective love not only is an inherently powerful force, it also is empowered by some of our other strong emotions. One of these potent influencers is fear and its cousins worry, anxiety, apprehension and sense of threat. Those emotions can guide us to be cautious, watchful, on guard and safeguarding in our actions so that we can see danger coming and do something about it before it reaches us. Wisely handled, our fears can be self-protective and help us be protective of our loved ones. It is only when fear becomes too big or goes on too long that it becomes a damaging stressor. Fear, worry and anxiety can be our friends providing us with warnings we need to keep us and our loved one’s safe.

Another source of empowerment for protective love is our desire for our loved ones to do well, advance, grow, prosper, actualize and be happy. Anything that might be a threat to those positives, we tend to protectively act against. In short, we want the best for who and what we love and we can be quite powerfully protective about that.

When protective love becomes our dominant guide for how we go about love, danger lurks there. Protective love, even as wonderful as it is, has a focus on the threatening negatives of life and love relating. It is about defending against what can go wrong and shielding us and those we love. Healthy, real love works best when it is dominated by a positive focus on what can go right.  Doing love well usually requires a positive focus.  Protective love, therefore, must be secondary and assistive and must only be the primary way to go about love in times of distinct threat, marked danger and eminent distress. When protective love takes up too much time, energy and effort, it can crowd out the great, positive joys of love. 

As always – Grow and Go with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question: Do you know somebody you might like to tell about, or talk over with, these ideas?  If so, you probably will grow from doing that and so will they.  You also might tell them of our free, mini-love-lesson website.

Love Success Question: Who could use some more of your protective love attention?

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