Synopsis: Addressing love as the performance of an art; feelings guided love; is love now learnable?; what’s to learn; and a comprehensive yet clear and simplified look at the major behaviors of love in only three categories and 12 kinds of action – all are explored here.
Loving Your Art of LoveSome say they truly and dearly love dance. Others that it is just in them to act and that they love their life in the theater. Still others insist that they love music and especially performing, and it is just something they feel they cannot live without doing. Let us suppose that what they say is true. Now there arises some questions. Will strong feelings be enough for attaining a degree of competence? Will it perhaps take strong feelings plus talent to do well at their art? If someone wants to get good or better at their art, what must they do besides have strong feelings and some talent?
One answer to that question comes from research that concluded they must put in 10,000 hours of learning, practicing and performing. If they want to be really good, maybe more. However, if they are unusually talented maybe it will only take 7000 hours.
Why should it be any different for love? The art of love or loving is a phrase and a title that repeatedly shows up in many of the writings of the great sages, wisdom masters and great students of love down through the ages. So many emphasize the doing of love and not just the feelings of love. Even many of the luminaries of love understanding who do not use the phrase "art of love" emphasize the work of doing love as being necessary to succeed at love.
At the feelings level, one’s love of an art motivates involvement in that art. However, feelings are never enough. Continuous learning, practicing, experimenting for improvement and a host of other doing it things must be added to be able to do one's art well.
So it is with love. Yes, love feelings come naturally but mounting evidence shows that good love relating takes learning, practicing, perfecting and performing the actions that send and receive love. If you want to do love well with a heart-mate, a child, a family member, a friend, with yourself, your deity or anything else, it probably will take learning, studying, practicing and performing the behaviors that "do" love.
A good number of spiritual leaders, philosophers, savants, etc. down through the ages have tried to teach that love is not love at all without the doing. And now in addition come results from a sizable number of social and behavioral scientists doing studies in a wide variety of fields, along with the work of some brain scientists and a considerable number of practitioners of couples counseling, family therapy, and other forms of relational therapy – some who do some pretty good research themselves. Those results pretty much agree that if you work at a love relationship learning, and practicing the identified successful behaviors of love, you can do it remarkably better. Even the animal psychologists have data showing much the same thing in primates and several other species. Higher-order animals that do not learn and practice the showing and receiving behaviors of love almost invariably fail at their relationships with others and become isolates or outcasts among their own kind.
What About Love Guided by Feelings Only?Lots of people do their love life guided mainly only by their feelings. They seem to have bought into the romantic myth that love is automatic, and it is all a matter of nature and feelings and perhaps fate or luck or something like that. Therefore, for many of them, love is cognitively unknowable and unlearnable and they often think feelings will provide all the guidance needed. Many also believe that trying to learn love will just get in the way.
The success rate of people who do love by those ideas is not encouraging. That is especially true when compared to the record of people who live by the you have to work at it approach to love. If you grew up in a highly, healthfully, loving family, you may have subconsciously learned quite a lot about doing love well, and have a pretty good chance of doing so. If you were not lucky enough to grow up in such a family, purposefully learning and getting good at the "how too’s" of love gives you your best chance. Remember, about 50% of many Western world countries’ marriages end in divorce, and it is thought that another 25% could be doing far better than they are. There are similar results for parent-child relationships, family relationships, friendships which do somewhat better and then there is healthy self-love relating for which the results are not good either, except for those who work it (see “Is Love Ignorance The Problem?”).
Do We Know Enough About Love to Make It Learnable?If love was so unknowable, why did St. Paul write so much about what is love and what is not love? Why did Ovid in the year one write about how to make love lasting, and Buddha kept emphasizing living by love’s Four Immeasurable Mindsets, Aristotle taught the ways of love have to do with compassion, virtue, affection and kindness, Rumi spend his life writing poetry about love and its ways? And in more modern times, why did such widely diverse leaders of modern thought such as Eric Fromme, Soren Kierkegaard, Harry Harlow and Thich Nhat Hahn work so hard to discover and teach the ways of doing love?
Not long ago in Russia it was decided that we finally know so much about love that the field of loveology was officially certified as a legitimate field of study in which you could get undergraduate and graduate degrees (see “Is There Really a New Field Called Loveology?”). In Europe, the US and several South American countries, graduate-level institutes are sponsoring "love studies" in a wide array of fields ranging from anthropology to zoology. Especially in the brain sciences there are research projects going on investigating brain processes and love. Already a great deal has been discovered which has opened the door to many new questions and avenues for further study never before explored or, in some cases, never before even thought about.
So, the answer is yes; we know more than enough about love to make it learnable though there is yet so much more to learn.
What Must Be Learned About Love?From a psychological point of view, there are three, big, integrated areas that are to be focused on. Those three areas are: #1) to be able to do constructive thinking about love, #2) to be able to have healthy awareness of love’s many emotions and how they usefully inform us, and #3) to have knowledge of and practice, i.e. do, the major behaviors that accomplish love. Number three is the one that has to do with the performance Art of love and, for our purposes here, is the most important one. However, let us first briefly touch into the feelings or emotional aspects of love and then the thinking aspect.
Right now, can you quietly and internally search deep into your psychological heart and sense your loving feelings toward someone you have love for? If so, what are those feelings like right now? Are they tender, powerful, uplifting, sad, protective, nurturing, heavy, light, or what? If they have a message, can you hear what that message is?
It is OK if nothing comes right now, it may come later. That is a sort of exercise that uses mindfulness for tapping into the love you have for someone and the feelings that come from that love. Love is not a feeling but it gives us feelings of many types including loving, loved and lovable, along with a great many others. It shows how the love within you might be usefully available and purposefully accessed.
Let's take a quick glance at thinking about love. Try focusing on the thought that love can be done by you as a wonderful performance art that you are going to greatly enjoy learning about and participating in. Think how developing that mindset might lead you into some greatly enriching experiences.
Now, for the performance part – the most important part for our purposes here and the part I suggest you focus most on. It is the actions or behaviors of love that accomplish the most. It is what you do or perform that fulfills the five major functions of love (see “A Functional Definition of Love” ). Like any performance art, it is the actual performing of the behaviors of the art that are the art.
To help you with that, here is my favorite simplified outline of the major behaviors of love to learn about, and start practicing and working to improve.
THE MAJOR BEHAVIORS OF LOVEDr. J Richard Cookerly
Love can be understood to be accomplished at three levels, each of which have four major components. They are as follows:
I. Basic Core Love Actions
1. Tactile Love
Touch love is the first and most basic way of giving and receiving love. One can endlessly learn new and better ways to touch with love.
2. Expressional Love
Facial expressions, gestures, posture changes, voice modulations, proximity shifts, etc. can, and do, send love messages often far better and more powerfully than words. They also have infinite variations.
3. Verbal Love
Artfully delivered words of love sometimes can be the most meaningful and most magnificent way to deliver love’s most impactful communications. Work with words of love for depth, height and breadth of love expression and more lasting effect.
4. Gifting Love
One can give objects, experiences and favors significantly showing love. All three can be of enormous importance and made special by personal variation and design.
II. Higher Functioning Love Actions
5. Affirmational Love
Love behaviors and words that affirm the high value and importance of the loved. These often are essential for building up, strengthening and actively appreciating the loved. Thus, they often bringing out the best in a loved one.
6. Self-disclosure Love
Often essential for deep core connecting, growing closeness and creating intimacy. This involves the self revealing of personal thoughts, feelings (both physical and emotional), behaviors history, hopes, fears, failures and successes and everything personal and private.
7. Tolerational Love
Tolerating the less pleasant and sometimes harder to accept aspects of the loved but not to the point of harm, or self-destruction, or enabling a loved one's self harm or self-destruction.
8. Receptional Love
Acting to lovingly, appreciatively and positively receive acts and words showing love and positiveness toward you. This is essential for love cycling in ongoing relationships, growing love mutually and a sense of bonded connectedness.
III. Cardinal Love Actions
9. Connecting Love
Actions that cause and promote heartfelt connection feelings with the loved, including bonding behaviors and experiences, feelings of having ongoing unity, deep attachment, strong allegiance and loyalty with one or more networked loved ones.
10. Nurturing Love
An interacting group of behaviors that act to promote, aid, assist, motivate and reward (A) the healthful growth, positive development and constructive advancement, (B) the maintenance and sustaining of ongoing well-being, and when needed the repair, restoration and healing of the loved.
11. Protective Love
Any and all behaviors that aim to safeguard, defendant or, if needed, rescue the loved from harm, reduced well-being, useless hurt and destructive occurrences while also aiming to not be overprotective and, thus, block growth for improvement and strengthening.
12. Metaphysical Love
All healthful actions that are done to spiritually, meditatively and/or metaphysically promote and support the well-being of the loved.
One More Thing: There's a lot here you might want to enjoy talking over with others to help your own thoughts and understandings go further. If you do that, please be so kind as to mention this site and our many mini-love-lessons.
As always – Go and Grow with Love.
Dr. J Richard Cookerly
Quotable Question: If you are not happily hungry to learn about love a lot, are you maybe condemned to only learn from your love mistakes – or not at all?