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Synopsis: Learn about aiming high to achieve high-level love; inside and outside the box thinking about love; the positive psychology of above normal love; and the how to’s for achieving above normal love (As you read, ask yourself with whom might you like to talk over or mention this mini-love-lesson to?).
Aim High, Go High‘The higher you aim the higher you are likely to go’ is a truism in many areas of life, so why not also in the area called love. Do you ever think about having an ‘above normal love’ for and with another person, a child, a lover/spouse, your family, a deep and dear friend, or maybe even with yourself? How about an above normal love relationship with life, nature, a cause, a purpose, your work, your spiritual focus, etc.? (see “Living Well via Loving Well”)
Have you, like me, heard a fair number of people say things like “I know hardly any marriages that are happy”? Could it be that some of those are unhappy because the people in them didn’t know how to aim high enough? Or maybe it is because they didn’t know how to aim at all. There are some who say many people have not been taught how to think about love very well at all. It also is thought that what they think largely may be an ‘inside the box’, mostly old-fashioned, failure-prone way of thinking about anything, but especially about love.
Inside-the-Box Thinking about Love
Inside the box thinking about love tends to include ideas like the
following. Love is unknowable. It’s dangerous to know about love
because that will spoil it. Love is all a matter of luck, fate, the
stars, heaven and things you can’t influence or control. Love is
automatic so you don’t have to think about it. Love is feminine and
it’s women who take care of it. Love is a weak, silly and frivolous
thing. Thinking about love is a waste of time, especially for men.
Love is something you have to surrender to and let it take you wherever
it takes you.
Knowing anything about love is impossible, so don’t even try. Love is something you find or you don’t. Love is magic and you are helpless and at its mercy. Love is just a polite term for sex. If you have to work at love, it’s not real love. Love is really an irrational madness that just gets you trapped and hurt. We are not supposed to try to understand love because that might get in the way of what it is meant to be.
Now, if any of those statements represent ideas, teachings, notions or possibly subconscious programming in your head, please, please examine and re-examine what you have come to, or maybe been brainwashed to think. Notice none of those concepts helps you know what to do that could make things better. None of them enables or empowers you to do love well or even make improvements. They all seem to promote a kind of learned helplessness. Some un-learning, therefore, may be in order.
This ‘in the box’ kind of thinking about love has two powerful things going against it. The first is science. A host of discoveries in a wide array of fields including the brain and behavioral sciences, biomedical research and even behavioral economics are showing that love and its dynamics are knowable and that love even is more incredible, amazing and wonderful than we thought. Those discoveries also are learnable, useful, helpful and healing for both individuals and relationships.
The second big thing going against ‘in the box thinking’ is religion/philosophy and the teachings of Wisdom Masters down through the ages. In their teachings there is a tremendous amount about what love really is, how to do love successfully, what not to do and a whole lot more (Check Plato, Ovid, St. Paul, Buddha, Rumi).
Outside-the-Box Love Thinking
Ponder these five short questions. What do you suppose above normal
love looks like? What might have to happen to make above normal love
likely in your life? What would you personally have to do to create and
grow above normal love in your life? (If you think you already have
above normal love, think about making it even better). What would
having an above normal love do to your life and the lives of those you
Having a Psychology of Above Normal Love
Let’s take a short look at how yours, mine and everybody’s thinking
about love has been shaped by popular psychology. You may not have
known it but, concerning love , the authors of movies, TV, magazine
articles, novels, sermons, syllabuses for many courses and classes, plot
outlines, etc. might have been influencing and controlling how you
think and don’t think about love.
Those authors and other influencers largely worked from what modern psychology was discovering and teaching. It was new, exciting, intriguing and different from a lot of what had been taught before. However, this became what we are calling an ‘inside the box’ way of thinking. So, let’s look at that a bit.
Until rather recently, official psychology only was focused mostly on the negative and the mediocre. The mediocre was called ‘normal’ and the ‘negative’ was neurotic. The negative also came to be known as abnormal, meaning bad and undesirable along with terms like insane, psychopathological and mentally ill. For ‘normal’ there were additional terms like sane, sound of mind, average and in the courts compos mentis. The mind set was there were only two categories of psychological concern, bad and average.
Only in the area of intelligence did psychology focus much on ‘above average’ and that mostly was only in educational psychology. So, if you thought psychologically, you thought about what was pathos or sickness, what was wrong, what was the problem, what was the inferiority or deficiency. Or you dealt with what was normal, and within the norm, average, the usual, ordinary, standard, conformist, etc. If it deviated from that, it was ‘abnormal’ and, therefore, bad and undesirable. Even superiority in almost anything was suspected of being an abnormality or somehow bad and undesirable. There were those who tried to think about what was better than average (out-of-the-box) but they were suspected of being abnormal and deviant too.
These two, standard mind sets blocked and warped looking for the above normal in everything including in the area of love. Love sickness and what can now be thought of as ‘false love’ were studied by some. Thus, in the modern world your thinking and my thinking probably unknowingly were shaped, blocked and warped accordingly. We were then sort of trapped inside a modern, cultural thinking box along with almost everybody else.
Healthy, real love by its very nature is an area of excellence. Therefore, it is not in the purview of normal or abnormal psychology. In the 1960s the seeds of an ‘out-of-the-box’ revolution began. What was called humanistic psychology, and especially its self-actualization theory, brought a fresh, new view. Then along came a research psychologist named Harry Harlow who in an animal lab discovered that positive, love behavior in monkeys was as important as ‘food’ for keeping baby monkeys alive.
Later, as president of the American Psychological Association, he chastised the whole field of psychology for not paying attention to love and especially to love’s positives. Years before his findings, in the area of pediatrics, there already had been discovered much the same thing regarding human infants but psychologists did not much read pediatric research.
Most recently, the newer field of Positive Psychology has been invented creating a great, new third area of focus – that which is above average, good, healthy, ascendant, etc. Love studies, or as the Russians call it Loveology, can be seen as a very logical component of positive psychology. This is a field which is all about the ‘above normal’, or as I like to call it “the flowers in the garden not just the weeds” (“In The Garden of Love”).
We say all this because it is very likely, without you knowing it, your thinking about love, along with ours and almost everybody else’s, has been destructively confined to ‘in the box’ understandings and behavior concerning love. Now, however, you can get out-of-the-box and learn what is being revealed concerning doing love well, better, in improved ways, more healthfully, more successfully and more wonderfully. You can get out of the old mind set and go on to one that works much better. Doing that helps us understand that healthy real love is incredibly important to our survival, well-being and advancement and the above normal ways of love make just about everything in life better.
How to Achieve Above Normal LoveBecause you are already reading about ‘above normal love’ you are already doing some of what it takes to start going after above normal love. It first takes new learning, un-learning and really thinking about love. Along with that, it may take correcting mistaken, not useful and self-defeating ways of understanding and behaving. After some learning and thinking changes, it will take acting in new ways having to do with love. You see, love must be understood as a ‘doing’ as well as a thinking and feeling kind of thing. There also is learning what not to do and practicing more successful-prone behaviors.
Here is an exact example of achieving ‘above normal love’. Suppose you read that Ovid in the first century taught “if you would be loved, be lovable” and that to make love lasting takes skill. So you might wonder what skills are needed for that? (By the way, wondering is a necessary part of thinking about love). As you try to answer that question, you discover that in the Christian New Testament, Paul of Tarsus wrote what can be seen as a list of what ‘to do’ and ‘not do’ to do love. One of his items was “love is patient ”.
Then you might hear about modern psychologists discovering that if you learn and practice what is called ‘reflective listening’ and ‘active listening’ skills, you likely will be seen as quite patient and caring as well as lovable. So, you learn and practice these skills and if you do well you find your is love getting better, stronger and more likely to be lasting. In this way, you accomplish and achieve a greater amount of ‘above normal love’.
Couples, families, friendships, support groups and other collections of people together can go after learning ‘above normal love’. That often enhances and quickens the process. Joint learning is usually done with reading, thoughtful discussion, co-behavioral experiments in practicing of what is learned, co-planning love tactics, creating love strategies, giving heartfelt and spirited mutual support as you go, etc. Learning together also can help better love bonding together. Remember, it is adding the ‘doing’ part that leads to great personal and relationship growth and the likelihood of a life full of ‘above normal love’.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J Richard Cookerly
♥ Love Success Question: Which of the following might you start reading so you can better travel toward or enhance ‘above normal love’? The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Love by Helen Fisher, All about Love by bell hooks, Love and Survival by Dean Ornish, The Meaning of Love in Human Experience (for helpers) by Reuben Fine, Why Love Matters (for those who help children) by Sue Gerhardt, Recovering Love by me, Real Love False Love by Kathleen McClaren and me, and more Mini-Love-Lessons at this site.
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