Synopsis: Explore love in your unconscious; a popular mistaken definition of love that may reside there; deficiency in dictionary definitions of love; what the Rabbi said; feeling love and doing love or not; warnings about attraction, romance and sexual passion; and a definition of love called brilliant by some; along with a bit about love’s five major functions.
Our Unconscious Beliefs About LoveOur culture gets into our head and we do not even know it. We get subconsciously programmed to do and not do many things, see and understand reality in certain restrictive ways and operate from beliefs we consciously do not know we hold. We all have non-conscious and semi-conscious biases, prejudices, habit patterns and warped opinionated perceptions. That is what consciousness raising is all about – raising into conscious awareness, what is going on in our non-conscious minds. Brain and mind research shows there is quite a lot of that in everybody. Some very important parts of that non-conscious content has to do with love.
If we are influenced by mistaken, distorted wrong definitions and understandings about love, they may lead us astray, blind us to other needed truths and even cause us to make hurtful and harmful decisions concerning love. There is ample evidence that this is how it works with love’s most usual and popular way of being understood.
The Most Popular Wrong Definition of LoveMore and more serious researchers and scholars who are looking into the phenomenon of love are arriving at the same conclusion. Concerning love, we got it wrong! We commonly teach and push a very distorted, deficient idea about what love is and what it is not. Not only that, but this mistaken teaching may be leading lots of people into inadequate, defective and destructive ways of love relating.
Different learned thinkers in different fields put this mistake in different ways. Some simply say this error is in teaching that love is all about feelings and little else. Others say that love is just an emotion and still others say that we know love when we feel it and that’s all we need to really know about love. A good many other scholars and researchers emphasize that the problem has to do with what we leave out and what we need to include in our definitive understanding of love (see “Is There Really a New Field Called Loveology?”).
To understand the major part missing, let’s look at what just one of our modern sages said about love. He is Rabbi David Wolpe, identified by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most important and influential Jews in the world. He wrote a TIME published, short essay entitled Why Are We Defining Love the Wrong Way? He, along with a growing number of advanced love scholars, observes our commonly published and pushed definitions of love leaves out a much needed emphasis on the major thing love is really all about. That is the doing of love. Rabbi Wolpe holds that love, to be defined accurately, must include love as the enactment of the feelings of lovingness. Those are thought to include kindness, affection, empathy, caring, compassion, connectedness, nurturing, protectiveness, championing, positive passion and a good number of other constructive, loving emotions.
Brain researchers can add the brain processes of love are those that lead us to feel these emotions and then to behave in ways that are motivated by these positive and constructive feelings. Psychologists and animal comparative researchers, along with brain scientists, can add scientific support to this action-oriented understanding of love. Much of their research shows that both the behaviors and corresponding brain chemistry/processes motivate very similar, loving actions in a wide range of higher-order species, including humans. Thus, love must be at least partially defined as a natural phenomenon.
Dictionary DeficienciesDictionary type definitions commonly include statements like “love is an intense feeling of deep affection for another” or“love is an emotion of bonding with another or a desire to bond with another” and “love is a complex integration of emotions comprised of feeling pleasurable sensations in the presence of the love object including sexuality, attachment, dependency, nurturing and companionship” (see Definition of Love Series).
Especially egregious are understandings of love that primarily are sexuality focused and those that include jealousy, possessiveness, motivations for violence and also those that see love as the opposite side of hate. Those we suggest, along with love as lust, are more appropriately components of various forms of false love or manifestation of deficiencies of healthy self-love.
Feeling Love Without Doing LoveA person may say and truly believe they love or are in love with someone but if their actions are too indifferent, overly selfish, abusive or otherwise harmful and destructive, it probably is not real love according to this action-oriented understanding.
It is true some people are in circumstances where they can do little or nothing for some of those they love. That does not stop them from wanting to act for the well-being of those they love. It also often does not stop them from trying. When circumstances prevent love action from occurring, there usually is a resulting sadness and frustration. This also can be true for those who have lost loved ones. This is why it is good for those who can not act on behalf of those they love, to talk to their spirits, pray for them, write them love letters, light candles on their behalf and perform other communicative acts. Especially helpful can be two chair gestalt therapy, psychodrama or hypnotherapy exercises designed especially for this situation (see “Thinking Love to Improve Love”).
What about Feeling Attraction, Romantic and Sexual Passion?All of these feelings may and may not have to do with real love occurring. Sometimes these feelings precede real love developing but they frequently can represent only infatuation, lust, limerence and other forms of false love, etc (see Real Love, False Love). That is one of the reasons that feelings, or emotions only, based definitions of love are inadequate. Feelings alone are not adequate indicators of real love, no matter how strong they seem. It is only when the love feelings are accompanied by loving actions, done for the well-being and happiness of the loved, that we can even begin to reasonably think real and healthy love could be in evidence. Attraction especially is not to be confused with love. Likewise, falling in love at first sight only occasionally turns into the real thing. Therefore, it is wise to abide by the ancient statement love is patient and wait for the repeated evidence of love’s actions (see “7 Other Definitions of Real Love Worth Considering”).
Our Definition of LoveHealthy real love is a powerful, vital, natural process of highly valuing, desiring for, often acting for and taking pleasure in the well-being of the loved.
Please take special notice of the words powerful (of great strength), vital (life assisting and necessary) and natural (from, of and in nature).
Feelings with ActionsLove is not an emotion but a natural phenomenon in life that for humans is probably brain based and/or to be considered a bio-psycho-social phenomenon which produces loving feelings and motivates loving actions. These actions tend to be highly positive, beneficial and constructive to and for the loved and to and for the love giver.
Loves FunctionsThe functional definition of love posits that love can be understood by its functions which are seen to be:
1. To connect us, 2. To safeguard us, 3. To nurture and improve us, 4. To heal us when needed and 5. To reward our actions of love with joy and happiness (see “A Functional Definition Of Love”).
So, if you highly value, desire for, often act for and take pleasure in the well-being of a beloved and you function to connect, safeguard, nurture, act to heal when needed, and enjoy the doing of these actions, for and with those you love, you may be experiencing healthy, real love.
You can learn a lot more about all this by consulting the other, dare I say, fascinating and extremely informative Mini-Love-Lessons concerning love’s definition found at this site (see “A Dozen Things Love is and A Dozen Things Love is Not”).
One more little thing. Might you get quite a lot out of discussing with others all that you have just read? If you do that, please mention this site and its wide-ranging trove of mini-lessons about love. Much thanks!
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Love Success Question: In love relating, if you attend mostly to things having to do with feeling love and not so much to doing love, what will be the result?