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Showing posts with label behavior. Show all posts
Showing posts with label behavior. Show all posts

Loving Others "As" You Love Yourself ???

Love others as you love yourself is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest teachings.  There are several good reasons for this.

One reason has been hidden from common awareness and understanding.  In fact, in some places and times this reason even has been banned from being taught or even discussed.
This reason is that the teaching, love others as you love yourself, can be seen as speaking of a democratic (anti-authoritarian) system where everybody gets to be a winner and no one need be a loser.  It works this way.  If I love others and not myself I am the loser.  If I love myself and not others, others go unloved and are the likely losers.  If I love neither myself nor others we are all the less for that.  Only if I love you and also myself do we have an ‘I win, you win, nobody loses’ outcome.

Let’s look at the word ‘AS’.  In English it is a very small, short word.  In many languages ‘AS’ is a larger word and commands more attention.  Here the word ‘AS’ can be seen relating to several things.  ‘I love you as I love me’ can mean I love you at the same time I love me.  It also can mean I love you and me to the same degree.  It may mean I love you in the same manner or ways I love myself; in this understanding of the great teaching we both get to do healthfully well.  This understanding also suggests a system by which we both can grow stronger and become better for the world we live in.  The word ‘AS’, therefore, points to a lot of important meaning in the teaching to loving others as you love yourself.

What about sacrificial love you may ask?  Let me suggest sacrifice is good in emergencies but not so much otherwise.  If we have enough time it’s best to figure out how to love self as we love another so no one need be the loser.  Think of it this way.  If I cut off my right arm for you it makes our next hug poor.  Better that I keep both of my arms, exercise them and then for both you and me hugs, and a lot more, will be far better.  Unfortunately there is a fair amount of needless self-sacrifice in the world.  This is partly because self-sacrifice has been taught as a ‘high holy virtue’.

It’s true that sometimes it is, and that kind of sacrifice sometimes represents great loving and important, helpful action but not always.  Some people tend to be self-sacrificing about almost everything and much of that is just not healthy nor is it needed.  Then there are those who pretend to be self-sacrificing martyrs so as to obtain ‘higher holiness kudos’ and/or guilt leverage for manipulating others.

It is a bit complicated to love others while at the same time loving yourself. Consider these ramifications.  If you are loving others approximately to the same degree you are loving yourself, and in more or less the same manner, you are keeping things balanced and probably indicating to others you are deserving of good treatment.   Know that if you treat yourself sacrificially or in other ways treat yourself poorly you may be teaching others that it’s OK to sacrifice you and treat you poorly.  Not only that, you may be unknowingly influencing them to treat nearly everybody that way.  You also could be an influence for others learning to needlessly and harmfully sacrifice themselves. 

When we love others as we love ourselves we model for others an ‘I win, you win’, approach to human interaction and love relationships.  Acting to love others while modeling healthy self-love can help others, especially children, learn self-care, self-esteem and self-confidence while influencing them to act in ways that are good for others.  It also helps children learn to respect their parents because the parents are modeling self-respect which is a part of healthy self-love.  Thus, it is that this seemingly simple teaching has a great many components to contemplate.

It may help to know a little history of this teaching or concept.  Around 3000 years ago, or so, a Hebrew wisdom-master taught the revolutionary idea “love your neighbor as you love yourself”.  The question was asked who is my neighbor?  The answer evolved to be –  Everyone!  It is now understood that anyone you have anything to do with and anyone you may have some effect upon, no matter how remote or small, is your neighbor.  This understanding leads to the concept ‘our village is our planet, and our neighbors are the life forms that live with us on it’.  In the future, who knows, it may even reach out to include our solar system and far beyond.

About 2000 years ago the man called Jesus (in English) took this teaching and made it one of only two Commandments he ever pronounced.  These two commandments, according to many theologians, are what Christianity is founded upon.  In effect ‘love others as you love yourself’ is one half of the constitutional law of Christianity.

Sadly the ‘as you love yourself’ part mostly either has been ignored, purposefully avoided, downplayed, or given a de-powering interpretation.  It often also has been replaced by teachings like ‘put yourself last’ and ‘all self-love is selfish and evil’.  From a psychotherapist’s point of view these anti-self-love teachings have been disastrous for the mental health of many.  Put yourself last and see self-love as evil promotes the development of low self esteem, low self-confidence, taking poor or bad care of yourself and becoming in character weak, subservient, submissive, and vulnerable to users and abusers.  Furthermore, these anti-self-love teachings influence us toward feeling guilty for honest and accurate pride in doing things well and in our own intrinsic worth; they actually are counter teachings to “as you love yourself”.

You may ask how did this come to be?  Some think that authoritarian religionists under the influence of monarchists and royalists promoted the de-emphasizing of the ‘as you love yourself’ part of this second great Commandment.  Probably because it was seen that the ‘love yourself’ concept points to self strengthening and, thus, to dangerous, independent, self-directed living which, when carried far enough, can result in anti-monarchy democracy.  That could threatened the social advantages and control of both the religious and royal masters of pre-democratic times.

With these corruptions the teaching became something like ‘be good to others but not to yourself’ because that is the devil’s way which is sinful, selfish, uppity and against God’ unless, of course, you are high born or called to high religious orders.  Still today among some who have and want authoritarian power the ‘as you love yourself’ idea is seen as a threat to be de-emphasized or ignored.  On a personal level today many still suffer from the concept that their okayness is granted by others (parents, a man, a woman, what others think of them, etc.) instead of by their own evaluation of their intrinsic value, accomplishments, character, etc.

With that background in mind some questions are in order.  How will you deal with the idea of loving others while at the same time, and to the same degree, and in the same manner you work to love yourself ?  Are you willing to do some work to healthfully love yourself so that you can healthfully love others better?  If you have strong anti love of yourself programs in your head what will you do about those?  If when acting to healthfully love yourself and be good to yourself you feel conflict, guilt, shame or any other bad feeling who might you go to for help?  What can you actually do to balance loving others better and more as you also healthfully love yourself better and more?  How might you go about studying new, different and better ways to love others and new, different and better ways to love yourself?

As always – grow and go with love
 
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly



Love Success Question If soon you were going to do an act of healthy self-love and a very similar act to show love to a chosen, special ‘other’ what exactly would you do, and when would you do it?


Image credits: “Group Hug” image by Flickr user ms.Tea (Tracy Ducasse).

Elder Love

Synopsis: This love success lesson focuses on – plan ahead questions; love for health and spirited living; mindset issues; elder self-love; don’t retire instead encore; age segregation; with love older better sex.


Plan Ahead Questions

As you grow older what are you going to do about love?  As you grow older what are you going to do about getting loved and giving love?  All kinds of love are to be considered here.  So, as you grow older, and then even more old what do you know about elder romantic love, sexual love, family love, friendship love, spiritual love, love of life, healthy self-love and all the other possible ‘loves’?

Whatever your age, what are you doing about loving those around you who are or may soon be classified as ‘seniors’?  What do you want others to do about you and love?  The sooner you have well-informed answers for these types of questions the better you can build toward a love rich, elder years life.

Here is another important question.  Is there something inside you that has sort of been telling you that as you become ‘elder’ you have to give up on love?  That is a sort of subtle, societal, subconscious programming that gets into the heads of a lot of people as they grow older.  A variation of that programming tells us we have to give up on certain kinds of love.  Many have been taught that it is not socially proper for elders to be interested or active in certain kinds of love or love with certain people.  Especially is that true if anything sexual might be involved.  Gerontology research mostly says – WRONG!  It is not healthy to think this way or abide by this type of thinking.

Love For Health and Spirited Living

The more healthy, real love older people get and give the longer they live and the healthier they stay; also the more spirited is their life.  One recent study showed that lonely, less loved, older adults were 45% more likely to die in any given year than were seniors who felt meaningfully connected in love relationships with others.

Being older with one or more meaningful love relationships and having an active social involvement is related to biological processes that increase health, improve and keep our physiological systems functioning, decrease inflammatory difficulties and help people avoid stress-related, unhealthy hormone development with its resulting physiological damage.  That summarizes the findings to date of an extensive, on-going, major English research project being conducted in epidemiology.

In the US it has been found that well loved, meaningful relationships significantly assist elders to normalize blood pressure and avoid all the difficulties that go with it.  Furthermore, meaningful, positive love relationships reduce the development of destructive chemical compounds in the human body that seem to occur more commonly in the lonely and less loved.  Other findings show that more spirited, zestful, energetic living occurs with more loving.  The ‘loveless’ live much more dispirited and the well loved and loving live much more ‘inspirited’ and ‘inspired’.

So, the message is clear.  If – or – when you’re an elder and you want to live healthy and lively keep putting lots of loving into your life.  To do that you will probably have to examine closely what your mindset is about age and aging.

Mindset Issues

You may have grown up in a family, or a neighborhood or a town in which it was common to think certain ways about older people.  In some parts of the world this is very positive and older people are honored for their wisdom, maturity and the good things they have offer those younger than themselves.  In other areas the general attitude is disdainful, disparaging, demeaning or even denigrating toward elders.  Possibly you grew up around people who were just neutral, vague, unconcerned, disinterested and dispassionate about older folks.  Whatever the case, what you grew up around may have given you a mindset toward your own aging that is not of your own choosing.

Especially important is examining to see if you were programmed to have negative images and stereotypes about being older because that can have a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ effect on your own life as an elder.  It also can greatly affect how you treat older people and how you may block yourself from receiving their enrichments.  Your mindset can have powerful negative or positive effects on your health and lifestyle.  If your mindset is positive it can assist you to an old-age that is lively, strong, agile, spirited, healthy and well loved.  Especially important are the following mindset areas.

Elder Self-Love

Coming out of his United Presbyterian Church Etheridge greeted and in a quite chipper mood conversed with a surprisingly large number of people.  He bragged unabashedly about a painting he had completed and he unashamedly flirted with females.  To the close friend who had driven him to church that day he said he was going to walk home because it was such a beautiful day.  He declined a dinner invitation because he had a speech to prepare and because he had a ‘hot date’ to get ready for that night.  Then he zestfully set off walking home which was about half a mile away.  Etheridge was 101 years old.

There is an almost endemic problem with elders living in overly youth-oriented cultures.  It is that in such cultures elderly people begin to lose healthy, self-love and with it self esteem, self-confidence, self-respect and a sense of self-worth.  In societies that revere and do well at loving, the older one gets the prouder and more healthfully self loving one may become.  When self-love diminishes there often is a diminishment of self-care, acceptance of assistance, increased social isolation, increased sense of inadequacy and increasing feelings of not being lovable or worthy of love.  As noted, when this happens biological health is negatively affected and illness and accident proneness also tend to increase.

Those elderly people who ‘own’ a healthy self-love tend not to experience negative biological effects nearly as strongly as do others.  Their psychological state tends to continue growing, remain strong, and be what some call healthfully ‘youthful’.  So, if you grow older rejecting any and all societal negative interpretations of your aging self you probably are doing yourself a big, biological and psychological flavor.

Don’t Retire – Encore

Another big mindset issue has to do with work and more exactly retirement.  It’s a sad fact that many people after retirement rapidly deteriorate and die much earlier than they might have.  Retirement seems to trigger a subconscious process in which people’s thinking about who they are triggers their biological functioning into dysfunction.  Retirement for all too many means starting to think things like “I’m no longer productive, contributing, proficient, influential, helpful, important or significant”.  Many try a lot of recreational activities and superficial socializing, and that helps for a while, but because it’s not seen as of substantial worth its helpful effect often diminishes after a while.

What to do about this?  Start an encore career or involvement.  Those who move on to encore actions tend not to deteriorate, tend to live longer, and tend to feel really good about their lives, perhaps even better than ever.  Those who have a purpose, donate themselves to a worthy endeavor, get intrigued with new learning or working on a challenge, a major pet project, or a cause do far better than the rest.  Many do this as volunteers giving time and energy to worthy endeavors.  Some do it to bring to life and nurture their long, dormant talents in the arts.  Some join writer’s workshops and begin writing ‘their book’, articles or blogs.

Still others get into consulting, advising and teaching in an area they already know.  Another group keep their careers going and never retire because they really love what they’ve been doing for many years.  They may cut down on the amount of work time or specialize in the most fun part of whatever their career was and leave the rest alone.  All this can be seen as an aspect of healthy, self-love but it also can involve a person’s love of life.

So, what is your encore involvement going to be?  It’s never too late to start an encore involvement, and probably it’s never too early to start thinking and planning what it will be.

Age Segregation

When older people allow or cause themselves to be age segregated they may live too limited and not in ways that are good for them.  There is a teaching in the East that translates something like “to become mature and wise, associate with your elders.  To retain youthfulness, associate with youth.  But to live best, associate with people of all ages”.

Some social scientists and certain public health theoreticians suggest being segregated by age groups is anti-natural, quite artificial and probably a big societal mistake.  Learning to be comfortable around and be enriched by people of all ages is a problem for those who mostly have been age segregated most of their lives.  Those who went to the type of school that practiced having no age grouped classes, and move ahead at your own speed education are thought to do better with age integration.  Do you agree that love can flow to and from people of any age and to live that way is a highly desirable blessing?  Do you agree that to live too age segregated may seem comfortable but it actually may be too life limiting?  Are you going to be sure not to live too age segregated?

With Love – Older Sex, Better Sex

Lots of older men and women think they have to give up on sexuality, so they do.  Certainly changes often are in order as one gets older but giving up on sex is totally uncalled for and decidedly not the healthiest way to go.  You see, sex is really good for you and maybe even better for you as you get older if you go about it in an age workable way.  What do you consider to be sexually normal and desirable for people of an older age?  Are you using standards that are too much the norms of youth or even middle age?  If what you consider to be sexually normal or desirable actually is more appropriate only for youth, you’re likely not to do so well.

Men in particular who have been societally programmed to believe sex is all about ‘penis in vagina’ intercourse and about climaxing have a particularly hard time adjusting to the rather different, best sexuality possible for elders.  When males learn ‘whole body sex’ and ‘love centered sex’ they do far better. (See category: Sex and Love )  Both men and women who think their body has become too unattractive or too ‘ugly’ could best start doing their sexuality in darker places or with more sexy clothing.

Women who think they can not lubricate sufficiently don’t need to believe their sexuality or femininity is lost but rather is usually just in need of more and longer erotic actions, plus the use of lubricants.  Erotic fantasy sharing, movie watching, reading, learning to think and act in ‘no pressure to perform or succeed’ ways, and to have an ‘everything can be enjoyably and okay’ mindset, plus the mindset of ‘there’s lots to enjoy in addition to, along with, and besides intercourse and orgasm’ – all or some of these often help people learn new and better ways of how older people can go about sexuality.

There are cultures in which older people seem to have great sex lives and very few sex problems.  Both men and women who engage in the sacred sex practices of two of the Hindu religion’s major divisions, the Tantric and the Shakta, tend to keep their bodies mostly healthy and their sexually functioning quite well every year of life, no matter how long they live.  You might want to investigate those.

Here’s another aspect of elder love with sex which shocks some, angers quite a few and delights others.  I know a small group of mostly females mostly in their 20s, 30s and 40s who especially like and seek sexual experiences with considerably older men and women.  People in that group say things like “older sex partners are more total and complete, and know a lot more about being loving”, “the mature know what they’re doing and the rest are just kids – cute but awkward, clumsy, unsophisticated, ignorant, sometimes stupid and sometimes dismally arrogant.  Who needs that”!  A 23-year-old I know bragged about spending weekends with a couple in their 70s saying it was the best sexuality and the most loving experience of her life.  She also told that the next week she was traveling with a professor of philosophy in his 80s and she can’t wait to get him in bed and then to talk and talk and talk.

For older participants who are ‘mixing it up’ with younger adults, the evidence seems to show outstanding results can occur.  Older men and women having sex with people 20 or more years their junior seem to get younger physically as well as mentally. (See Does "Cougar" Love Work?)  The younger participants often get more maturity and wisdom, and often some finer life experiences, so everyone usually benefits.

Sex and love go together and sometimes bring about what is called a May/ December romance and even enduring, healthy marriages.  Historically for hundreds of years this used to be the norm.  He was anywhere from 30 to 85 and his bride was anywhere from 13 to 27.  Less of an age difference was seen as shockingly unseemly.

Nowadays, in certain circles, couples who have much of an age difference are disapproved of or even rejected.  However, the evidence shows in many relationships, of the romantic type, where healthy, real love is a major component, age similarity is not needed.  The more democratic approach of letting people choose their own love-mates, irrespective of prejudicial categories of all types, seems to be more in alignment with nature and what is healthful.

Still another elder love/sex practice not talked about in many circles is the ancient, even biblical custom of what is sometimes called partner sharing.  Martha makes love, not just has sex, with both her retired husband and his also retired widower brother.  Sometimes all three go on vacations together.  They’re thinking about sharing a house and expenses together too.  Sarah was so thankful to be taken in by her elder sister and sister’s husband after her own husband passed away from a long illness.  At first they all just cuddled into the night, but that lead to other things which have been working out quite well for all of them for quite a few years.

It is to be noted that ‘partner sharing’ among older people mostly is done very quietly and secretly.  It seems to be much more common among social liberals, often ex-hippies, than among conservatives and traditionalists.  As mentioned, partner sharing is an old custom with early biblical references.  It was for ages a primary way to take care of the problem of widows and widowers, those who had been abandoned, the disabled, the infirm and also destitute relatives.

In patriarchal cultures it was recommended as virtuous for keeping alive family bloodlines because every female taken in was expected to bear the prime males of the house at least one child if possible.  In today’s world the practice of partner sharing, especially including romantic love and sex, seems to benefit a certain number of energetic, lively elder people who have lost their spouses.  Some social scientists think this partner sharing among lively, older people is likely to slowly keep growing in popularity because with the help of the health sciences there are more and more lively elders.

To wrap up then, the importance of lots of love in your life, all types with lots of different people is vital, healthy and enriching – no matter how old you are!

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly



Love Success Question Is your picture of your own life as an elder full of ‘vim and vigor’, zest, joy, sexiness, productivity and delight – or more the opposite?

Validation Love Stamp Giveaways

Synopsis: Your stamp explained; who controlled your validation; who owns it; okayness elections; self love stamping; your giveaways and get backs; owning and self validating as an adult.


It’s like there is this stamp that validates you as OK, as loved, as good enough or maybe even as better.

When you were growing up your parents, or whoever was raising you day by day, either ‘stamped you’ as OK or not OK.  According to how you got stamped you were either lovable or not lovable, wanted or not wanted, accepted or rejected, worthy or unworthy, good or bad, etc.  Then maybe when you got to be a teenager Mother Nature influenced you to turn the stamp over to your peers, age mates, or to older teens, etc.

It could be that somewhere along the way you thought you ‘fell in love’ and you turned your okayness and love-ability validation stamp over to your boyfriend or girlfriend, along with the stamp pad and all the ink.  In a new, huge way your lover was your validator of whether you were lovable and OK, or not.  You might have been taking the beginning steps on the road to getting good at self validation – until you felt you fell in love, and then that special other person’s validation trumped your own and everybody else’s.

Then again, maybe you were one of those people who only could get okayness from those with some kind of higher or special status.  Consequently, you might have done everything you could to conform to their ‘popularity standards’ no matter whether or not those reference points were full of pressure, peculiarity or even perversity.  Maybe like so many you got stuck at one of these levels where the opinions of others count way more than your independent, self derived opinion of yourself counts.  If so, that makes you what is called outer-dependent and other-dependent instead of inner-dependent and self-dependent.  The problem with outer-dependency is that it counters healthy self-love development.  Arrested development of healthy self-love gets in the way of healthy love relationship development which is enriched by co-equality, mutuality and democratic partnership –  in other words, development of the best kind, according to many specialists in this field.

I like to go back to the great, ancient, marvelously encompassing, superbly enlightening, incredibly comprehensive, three or more thousand-year-old admonition which simply instructs us to “Love Others as You Love Yourself”.  No wonder the one we call Jesus chose that and proclaimed it to be one of his only two great commandments.  It covers and explains so very much.  I suggest loving others as you love yourself is the secret key (hidden in plain sight) to the success of love relationships in general.

This admonition strongly relates to the idea of ‘validation love stamps’.  You see, if as an adult you give away your validation stamp to others for them to certify you as OK or not OK, as lovable or not, etc. you probably are not doing a very good job of the “As You Love Yourself” part of that extremely important and applicable, wisdom teaching.

Let’s look at one way of understanding the validation stamp process.  In childhood your okayness and love-ability validation comes from your parents and those who raise you.  For your survival you are dependent on them and their validation.  As adolescence is approached your okayness and love-ability, along with acceptability for inclusion, validation begins to come from your peers.  This inclusion desire sometimes seems to become of supreme importance.  However, when achieving true adulthood your primary validation comes from yourself.  Another way to say this is to say that as a true adult you get 51% (or more) of the vote on your own okayness.  If all the world votes you as OK, and you do not, you win.  Likewise, if all the world votes you as not OK, but you vote the opposite, you win the vote but not okayness.  This is only true if you have become primarily self validating.  If you stamp yourself as OK, you are, and you feel it and you act that way.  This does not mean that you ignore the rest of the world.  A wise person takes in counsel, viewpoints, etc. of others but doesn’t give them a personal stamp of primary approval.

The history of the great contributors to the world is a history of those who retained their stamp of self approval even when it seemed like most of the world was trying to take it away from them.  Certainly your most beloved and dear family members, and your closest, trusted friends, and maybe occasionally even your enemies should get votes in your okayness election which, by the way, happens everyday.  However, in most situations it’s best if your own, independent vote on yourself out-votes everybody else’s.

This means, in regard to validation, it not only is okay for you to get back what you perhaps gave away but it’s essential to your health and well-being to be the keeper of your own validation stamp.  Every validation ‘giveaway’ can become a ‘get back’.  Those who really love you want you to have the ability to validate yourself.  Their praises and compliments, etc. often help but your self-validation will count more.  That doesn’t make you egotistical, stuck up or a snob.  It just will make you self-accurate and able to more freely do your love from a self-dependent, co-equal stance.

A few words of caution are in order.  Sometimes it is ‘the internal voter who was programmed into our head’ from our past who we give our validation stamp away to.  If we’re thinking “what would they think, or say” and none of them are in our life anymore, it’s time for an ‘inner election system redistricting’.  Concern about peer approval subconsciously may relate back to the in-group of kids from your seventh grade.  By-the-way, we still can honor and value our parents, grandparents and everybody else in family and friendship networks without giving them too many votes in our okayness and love-ability elections.

In olden times if the king, or some other ‘royal’, stamped you okay, you were.  If a royal stamped you not OK, you weren’t; and there wasn’t much you could do about it.  That sort of thing is what motivated a lot of people to come to the New World and get with this idea we call democracy.  Today you may give away your validation stamp of approval, okayness and love-ability to all sorts of groups who will be glad to take it in order to control you, get money, sex or other valuables from you, and even make you one of their minions.  This can happen in business, religion, politics, status seeking, money, the arts, sports, fashion, the professions and in just about any group you can think of.

Remember, you don’t have to let them possess your stamp or control your sense of inner self-validation.  Until quite recently, and still in many circles, being married was a validating stamp for women.  For men validation was, and still is, mostly about power and status symbols of some kind or another.  Classifications and symbols can be nice but they may not tell you much about substance.

So now, the challenge is to think this over and examine yourself as to whether or not you are unnecessarily and unhealthfully giving away your validating love stamp to others to make you OK or not OK.  Perhaps you are doing a good job of internal self-validation, in which case, what you just read will be a good reinforcement for that.  If not, I suggest you start asking yourself who you give away your stamp to, and what are you going to do about that?

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly



Love Success Question
With those you love are you influencing them to ‘own’ and ‘practice’ their own self-validating?

Connection Matching - A Love Skill

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson teaches you about love matchers at work; ‘head’ matching; ‘gut’ matching; ‘genital’ matching; ‘heart’ matching; and jointly growing your connection matching.


Love Matchers At Work

Imagine that you are at a college sponsored weekend workshop for people who want to learn how to improve their love connection matching.  You’re in a small group discussion and you hear the following things:

‘Head’ Matching

Sophia says, “I thought he was just right for me. He was super sexy, oh so sweet and kind, and amaze!, amaze! he showed his emotions very easily and well for a guy.  The problem emerged later.  I hate to say it but he just wasn’t smart enough, and the love that I thought would follow the infatuation just didn’t show up.  We couldn’t really talk except in very simple ways.  I discovered that a love-mate I might spend the rest of my life with has to be bright and relish the exuberance of intelligent discourse, or at least be interested in learning to do that . I need that kind of stimulation; it’s just who I am.”

Learn from Sophia.  Are you in need of a good intellectual or mental match for making a good, lasting love connection?  For a mate, a good friend, or a good close family member you really ‘click’ with, will you do best with a good ‘head’ match to go along with a good ‘heart’ match?  If your mental matching isn’t right or compatible enough what will that mean for your relationship?

‘Gut’ Matching

Jacob remarked, “Regretfully, I broke it off with Ava although in many ways, at least on the surface, she seemed perfect.  Ava was bright, and wonderfully educated and we could intellectually talk for hours.  Also Ava was super-sexual, even more than me.  Besides those attributes she was fairly affectionate, rather thoughtful, forgiving and understanding, and I guess you could say kind of loving.  Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

“Well, unfortunately Ava had no guts.  She was a coward about everything, except maybe sex.  Also her range of emotions seemed kind of narrow.  Besides getting scared about all sorts of things, and being sort of sweet or sexy, she was emotionally mostly flat.  She just didn’t get passionate or emotionally involved about much of anything, and wasn’t willing to ‘step out of her comfort zone’.  That’s the reverse of me.  I get excited about all sorts of things.  So our time together got to be rather boring.  Ava helped me realize I need my love-mate to have and show lots of strong feelings and get emotional about all the big, important things in life.  Otherwise, life just passes you by, and I refuse to live that way.”

Learn from Jacob.  Are you in need of a love-mate who, at the psychological ‘gut’ level, shows lots of spirit, knows and shows their emotions well, is somebody who can feel deeply and maybe also quite bravely explore life?  Or maybe you need a person with a milder ‘gut’ makeup.  Being well matched at the ‘gut’ or emotions level as well as at the ‘heart’ love level can be ever so important.

‘Genital’ Matching

Olivia commented, “I broke it off with Mason because, truth be told, sex is a lot more important to me than is was to him.  Until I admitted that to myself, I thought I was going to marry Mason.  I kept thinking sex would get better and become more essential in his life too.  We talked it over and I let him know I wanted more powerful intimacy, lots of variety, and big sexual adventures.

“He said all the right things but his actions didn’t change much.  It was like our parts just didn’t match.  I think my heart knew all along, because I never felt like we really connected at the core heart level either but I kept thinking we would. . I guess I was fooling myself because so many outside parts did seem to match up pretty well.  We were from the same background and both my mother and my friends liked him.  But this big, important, very personal side of me just didn’t fit with that  part of him.”

Learn from Olivia.  How well matched can you and your love-mate get to be erotically?  Poor matching at the psychological, ‘genital’ level can and often does lead later to ‘cheating’, affairs, bringing home an STD, and a growing vulnerability to other seductions.  It also can lead to repeated fights or passive/aggressive friction, and abrasive draining ways of relating.

‘Heart’ Matching

Noah smiled and said, “You all are really helping me think Isabella and I may be really right for each other.  We connect well at all four levels.  Head-wise we talk about all sorts of things and seem to be a really good, intellectual match for each other.  Gut-wise, we cry and laugh and really share our feelings – pretty much all the time.  She’s better at it than I am, but I’m opening up more and more.  And what you’re calling the genital level, well, we are a little na├»ve there but were excited about exploring all sorts of erotica together.

Best of all is how we are at the heart level.  I’ve never felt so much connection and deep respect for anyone like I do with Isabella.  I see how wonderful she is and I’ve never felt so many good emotions as when we’re together.  We’re so much more alive than we were before we met.  We even differ with each other well.  We both want to learn how to love each other in the best ways, and we’re working at that like by being at this workshop.”

Learn from Noah.  Are you working at and getting good at connecting at the heart level?  It’s important to connect at all four of the levels talked about here, but most important of all is connecting really well at the heart level.

Growing Your Connection Matching

Hear what Emma had to say.  “When William and I first met he was all about what you are calling ‘head’ stuff.  He was Mr. High IQ.  But he did it in a fun and interesting way. He got me into reading all sorts things I’d never even heard of, and got me excited about ‘the world’.  Then I discovered he had another well-developed part.  He opened me up to wild, crazy sex and what a scary, wonderful universe that turned out to be.  Then it was my turn.

“Sort of by using sexuality, I led him into getting into his emotions and sharing all our intimate feelings together.  Then intellectually and emotionally we started studying love because we knew we were ‘falling into it’ with each other.  So, I guess you could say William got me into the head and genital stuff and I got him into the heart and gut stuff.  I think it often works that way with men and women”.

Learn from Emma.  Are you good at opening yourself up to what a love-mate, or for that matter a friend might be able to introduce you to, and can you recognize what your own inner, psychological ‘head’, ‘heart’, ‘gut’ or ‘genital’ levels have to offer?  In a love relationship are you willing to work at connecting with another at all four levels?  One of the many, beautiful benefits of becoming a loving couple is how both people can open up new worlds to one another.

Know that most couples don’t match exactly, but rather have high, medium or low connection matching in the four areas we are exploring here. What predicates the development of a really good, healthy, love relationship is the willingness and ability to develop and expand areas that might need some improvement for better connection matching.   In choosing a love-mate it usually is so helpful to consider how good your connection matching is or what the distance between you might be in all of the four areas.

Know that there are many lasting, excellent, love unions where people only connect at the heart level and possibly the genital level too.  In those situations other connection matches can be made with deep, good friendships which satisfy needs at other levels.  Know also that when two people in a love relationship decide to work at exploring and developing their connection matching at all levels they can do it.  And in doing so they can greatly expand the world they get to live in together.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
When thinking about psychological connecting in a relationship at the ‘head’, ‘heart’, ‘gut’ and ‘genital’ levels, which do you think you’re best at and which might you most need to develop further?


Yourself As a Great Source of Love Gifts


Mini-Love-Lesson  #261


Synopsis: You may be your own best source of behavioral love gifting; what the idea of love gifting yourself to others is all about; and how your love gifts are important to love relating are aptly dealt with here.


Your Most Personal Gift of Love?

Do you agree that the more personal the gift the better is the gift’s love effect?  Do you know that among the most personal of gifts can be the gifts of yourself?  Are you aware that especially this can be true for growing healthy, real, love relationships?

Your finest love gift can be yourself, along with your real self, your growing and improving self and your best self.  Those things can be true because the more you give of yourself to someone who loves you, in a sense, the more they have of you, know about you and the more they can experience love with you.  Also, the more you give of the personal, real you the greater the growth of closeness and heart-felt bonding can occur with you.  Conversely, the more you do not give of yourself the more likely there will be an emotional distancing and disconnection.  So with that in mind, let’s ask two questions.  Do you know much about giving of yourself and do you know what the real you has to offer?

The Real You and Your Many Fine Gifts

Those who would do love with you want to know the real you and experience the real you so they can do real love relating with the real you.  Therefore, if you love someone, the challenge is twofold.  First, is to  be real and not fake.  Second, is to work to become your best self and, as you do that, keep giving of yourself to whomever you would love.

So long as you are truthful and sincere, your words and actions reveal and consequently give of yourself.  Conversely, if you are untruthful and insincere, your words and actions likely will manifest only fake love and make real love less likely.  If this effort to hide the real you is discovered, only a phony you will be revealed.

The many fine gifts you have to offer are accomplished by doing behaviors.  They are done through the behaviors of truthful talking and sincere and/or experimental action-taking.  You are capable of making a lot of different love-giving, truthful statements plus doing a great variety of sincere and experimental loving actions.  This enables you to do a lot of different kinds of love gifting.  So, let’s take a brief look at just five of the less thought about gifts of love you have to offer (see “Love Active Enough?”).

The Gift of Affirmation

You give this gift by first looking for what you can honestly see as worthy, of value and/or positive in another.  Then spend a little time appreciating what you have observed and time to find the words you can use to speak of it.  Then with those words you can give honest praise, compliments and perhaps thankful statements to the person you are gifting with your affirmational love.  This can be done privately, or in front of others or in the form of a possible keepsake type note.

Affirmation is one of the most important ways to love a great many people especially if they could use some increase in self-valuing.  By the way, whatever you find to appreciate in another reveals a certain amount of your own, inner workings and so that is a gift of yourself (see the “Affirmation Love” chapter in Recovering Love).

The Gift of Listening with Love

Have you heard the old saying that proclaims we were given two ears and only one mouth because listening is twice as important as talking?  This especially has relevance when a loved one seems to need or want to tell us something, share their emotions or just know by experiencing it that they are being heard.

It is very important to know loving listening can not be done just mentally.  It must have heart in it.  This heart-full quality must be well and often expressed via quiet but very active expressional love behaviors, via facial expressions, gestures posture changes, voice tones, etc.  Passive, inactive, blank and stone face listening can be quite anti-loving.  Link “Listening with Love”  Link “Listening With Love and IN and OUT Brain Functions”

The Gift of Loving Touch

Whether it is a gentle, soft caressing or a good solid, full-body hug, a simple comforting hand holding, a one arm buddy hug or a loving full body massage – love via touch is known to change our body and brain chemistry for the better.  Loving touch brings closeness, relational love bonding and is very assistive in both physical and emotional healing processes.  When loving touch is done well and often, the research shows it to be quite assistive in life lengthening (see “50 Varieties of Love Touch” and “Touching With and For Love – A Super Important Love Skill”).


The Gift of Receiving Love Well

It is a gift to receive a gift of love well.  This means focusing on it, appreciating it and what went into it to come into your life, as well as the thoughts and feelings behind it.  Gifts come in several categories.  Object gifts basically are things, experience gifts are like a surprise birthday party, favors and assistance gifts are like someone paying off your student debt, and gifts of yourself are like what we are focusing on here.  It is important for the health of love relationships to notice, sincerely appreciate and actively receive them all.  This is the gift of good reception (“How Receiving Love Well Gives Love Better”, “Removing Your Hidden Blocks to Receiving Love Fully” and the “Receptional Love” chapter in Recovering Love ).

The Gift of Self Disclosure

Letting someone you love know you in personal, intimate ways is one of the finest of love gifts.  It is essential for growing closeness and for creating some of the deepest of love experiences, plus it often comes with a very sweet joyfulness.  Letting someone know your private, personal, not usually shared thoughts, feelings, behaviors, know the positives and negatives of your past, present and possible future and every other little and large thing about you is some of what is giving the gift of self-disclosure for love.  Of course, it is important that you receive with love the self-disclosures of those you would do love with.

If you have been taught to think poorly of yourself and what you have to offer, or you just have not discovered what a bundle of miracles you are, you may not realize how much you have to offer and how much it is needed and wanted.  Perhaps the want and need for what you have to offer is in other circles than the ones you are traveling in now (see “Intimate Love”, “Intimate Love, What Everyone Needs to Know”, “Growing Closeness – A Love Skill” and the “Self-Disclosure Love” chapter in Recovering Love).

Manifesting Yourself Where and With Whom?

If those you focus on now do not seem to care much about you or what you have to offer, you have some choices to consider.  You can try to get through to them in new, bigger, more powerful ways.  You can go looking for others who will want to see and relate to you in deeper ways, value you, and grow to love you as you do love with them better.  You can learn to love yourself better and in more self-dependent ways if needed.  You also can do all three of these, or any two.  It is also important that you self-disclose to yourself the many miracles that make you up and the many ways you can experience the good of yourself, along with the many fine ways you can come to be.  The better you do this the better you can do well with others and the better they are likely to do with you.

One More Little Thing

You might want to go looking for compatible others to talk over what you have just read.  That may take some searching in new and different places, or perhaps not.  In any case, if you do talk this over with others please mention this site and its many mini-love-lessons.  We are grateful and thank you for that.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Quotable Question: If you don’t give of yourself to others you love, how much are they likely to give of themselves to you?

Love Is Not Provoked to Wrathful Anger

Mini-Love-Lesson  #245


Note: This is the 8th in our What Is Love?: A New Testament reply series based in Paul’s description of love and relational science. 


Synopsis:   The great importance of this teaching for love relationships; powerful and weak interpretations; a fuller understanding of wrathful anger; the high and often overlooked significance of “not provoked”; the power of emotional equanimity for achieving this way of love; some help from a bit of Hindu/Buddhist/Christian integrated teaching – all potently come together in this discussion informed by relational science.


Most Important?

Speaking from a relational specialist and therapist’s point of view, this might be one of the very most and important things on Paul’s list of what is and is not love!  To me, therefore, it deserves your considerable attention.  But then again I’m biased about this.

Please first note that this proclamation of Paul’s has two foci.  One is what we might call provokability and the other is, in this translation, wrathful anger.

Why Is This So Important?

No one knows how much human misery and destruction wrathful anger has caused.  Some think that more than one half of the harm humans do each other would not happen if we did not allow ourselves to be provoked into intense anger, rage, hate and other forms of wrathful anger.  How many love relationships are harmed or destroyed by episodes of anger acted out?

We know from research that most spousal murders, cases of battered children, incidents of familial physical abuse, elder abuse, acrimonious divorces and friend related physical fights resulting in hospitalization involve fits of unrestrained anger.  The vast majority of all this harm involves people who said they loved one another.  Additionally, there are all the couples and families who, via frequent angry fights, limit and block the amount of happy, healthy love they could otherwise have.  On top of that, are all the seriously stressed and often traumatized, bystander children who witness those angry parent and family member fights (see “Anger and Love”).

Paul’s assertion proffers that with real love all of that agony and destructiveness can be made preventable.  As a therapist, I have had a lot of first hand experience seeing couples, families, parents and others with severe anger problems prove Paul to be right.  In my work with the families of murdered children, hardest was where the victim and an almost murderer were within the same family.  But even there, the ways of anger could, with family therapy, be replaced with far better behavior.

I came to this work because I grew up in an alcohol influenced, fighting, Irish family destroyed by endless rage attacks and counter attacks. As could be expected, after that I had my own anger issues to overcome.  The good news is, with a lot of hard work, I and countless others like me worked and grew out of a life of angry self-sabotage and relationship sabotage.  Now, it has been a long time since I have allowed myself to be provoked to wrathful anger.

To get to the how-to’s, we first have to cover a few basics.

What Did Paul Really Mean?

Paul wrote his teachings and inspirations in ancient Greek and for this one he used “ou paroxunetai” which has been translated into English a diverse number of ways.  From a psychological point of view, some of these translations seem a bit questionable.  They include “love does not become angry”, “does not easily become angry”, “is not touchy and vindictive”, “does not blaze out in passionate fury”, “does not fly off the handle”, “does not get upset with others” and “is very slow to take offense”.

Another group of interpretations renders this, in what seems to be a softening and somewhat understating way, making Paul’s pronouncement seem milder than was perhaps meant.  They include versions like “love isn’t irritable”, “isn’t easily irritated”, “doesn’t aggravate easily”, and “is not prone to being quickly upset”.

Lastly, another group of scholars translates telling us “love is not provoked to anger”, “is not easily provoked”, “is not quickly provoked”, “is not provoked to wrath”, “is not stirred to wrath”, and “is not easily or quickly provoked to wrathful anger”.  These scholars include a focus on the provoked concept while others seem to avoid or miss that point.  This, in a psychological sense, appears to be crucial to having an in depth understanding of and the dynamics of anger, along with the workings of anger therapy and ways of conquering wrathful anger.

I have been told the Greek, root form Paul relies on is “paroxuno” to which our word “provoke” is thought to be historically connected.  Couple that with the Greek “ou” which is considered to imply something like “take what follows in the strongest way” and, consequently, we see no reason to make this teaching seem mild or less than powerful.  Thus, we discern “love is not provoked to wrathful anger” and/or “love is not easily provoked to wrathful anger” to be the most powerful and useful of all the English translations we are aware of.

What Is Wrathful Anger?

To get an understanding and sense of “wrathful anger”, look at these somewhat synonymous words and terms: fury, rage, malice, vengeance, ferocity, savagery, vehemence, furor, outrage, hate, spite, unforgiving bitterness, acerbic criticism, intense and pervasive ill will, asperity and violent anger.  Basically, this is the kind of anger that does not just cathartically release frustration or empower the expression of an opinion but rather it is the kind of anger that causes real harm and destruction.

What Does “Not Provoked” Really Mean?

To provoke means to stimulate, give rise to, evoke, arouse or trigger a strong, usually negative emotional reaction.  It also can mean to incite, goad, spur, prod, badger, urge, encourage or agitate anger, unhappiness, violence, hate or any other destructive, hurtful or harmful reactive behavior.

Provocation, connotes something a bit different than saying you, him, her, they or it made me feel bad.  That connotation implies a provoked person had something within them that could be provoked or triggered in the first place.  Therefore, it hints at the psychological truth that the provoked person owns at least part of the responsibility for their own reaction.  This is because the something that was provoked is inside the provoked person and in their personal domain.  That is wonderful because what is inside you, you can usually do something about.

If I think you have all the power to make me feel bad, then it follows I think I am powerless, weak and an emotionally vulnerable and helpless victim.  Thinking that way can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  At the same time, it is a way of escaping all responsibility for one’s own feelings.  I don’t make me feel bad, you do and, therefore, my bad feelings are all your fault and I am blameless.

We learn to think that way in infancy and childhood when we are indeed powerless, weak, emotionally vulnerable and helpless creatures made to do and feel a great many things not of our own choosing or desire.  We start life largely outer and other controlled.  Maturation, to a fair extent, is a matter of becoming increasingly inner and self controlled.  Emotionally, on the maturation road, many people never make it very far.  They remain highly provokable and, as a result, are prone to malfunction in love relationships (see “Changing Your Emotions Via Love and Love Smarts”).

Paul’s “not provoked” speaks to the often unrecognized truth that most people can become very largely unprovokable.  Therefore, you probably can learn to live not much affected by things like criticism, putdowns, angry blaming personal attacks, condemnations, etc..  By doing so, you can be and live unprovoked to wrathful anger and its extremely relationally destructive and health sabotage filled ways.

One step in accomplishing this is buying into and owning the fact that you can, with work and love, have a lot more good feelings and a lot fewer bad feelings.  In doing so, you also can have better and better love relationships with others as well as with yourself.

Lots of this is accomplished with new and better self talk.  Instead of thinking somebody made you feel bad, try the more accurate statement “you and I together made me feel bad and I can change my part in that and not let your part affect me.”  Then add “I absolutely will not give my power away to you to upset me, make me angry, etc. and I will believe and own that I am just fine enough for right now and I can stay that way no matter what words you throw at me.  After all they are only words with tones and facial expressions having only the power I give them.  Your actions tell me you are upset and about that I can care – and perhaps come to show you some of that care” (see “Healthy Self-Love and Not Giving Your Power Away”).

Paul’s “not provoked” has an additional inference.  That is with love’s help, Christians especially but really everybody would do well to learn and develop the love skill of being not provoked and then teach it broadly.

A Big How-To for Becoming Not Provoked

You and your loveD ones together, or all by yourself, can become more and more not provoked.  It might take a long time to accomplish this but as you do it slowly will make life easier and happier as you go.  You can let go of your habit of letting others upset you, make you angry, etc., etc. and learn to replace that with something far better.  This is the best of a number of ways that I know of for not letting wrathful anger, or any other destructive habit reaction, negatively affect your relational life.

The essence of it is this, you learn and work to replace your proneness to be provoked with emotional equanimity and the behaviors that display it.  Remember, it always works better to replace a habit or tendency with a better one rather than just trying to stop that habit or tendency.

What Is Emotional Equanimity?

Ordinary equanimity means when you can mentally, non-prejudicially and dispassionately be able to see both sides of an issue including yours and theirs.  It means being able to see through another’s eyes, take into account another’s differences, viewpoints, understanding, experiences and feelings and, thus, give due consideration to diverse and opposing concepts to your own.  Technically, it means seeing things equally.

Emotional equanimity means to do the above with empathy and love for both your adversaries and yourself.  Both mental and emotional equanimity usually include a mental and emotional calmness when facing provocative attempts to disrupt, derail or emotionally destroy you and what you are all about at the time.  Any person trying to get you angry, confused or feeling bad about yourself in any way or to feel like you are losing and they are winning is included here.

Like learning to easily catch a fast thrown hardball without hurting your hands, you coolly catch and handle whatever negative attributions or accusations are thrown at you without letting your emotions get hurt.  You do not ignore what is thrown but you more dispassionately evaluate it to see if anything is useful in it.  Mentally you also may remind yourself that whatever is coming at you probably tells you more about the sender than it tells anything accurate about you yourself.  Emotionally, you own your own okayness and do not give it away.  You do that by internal, self affirming self-talk if you need to.  At the same time, you emotionally care about the person or persons sending you the negatives while pondering what this tells you about them and what emotional state they might be in.  Then behaviorally you see if you can find a way to show them some of your care while continuing to be care-giving to yourself.  Hence, you love others as you love yourself.

Emotional equanimity is very similar to what the Hindu and Buddhist teachers call the fourth mind or primary way of love.  In Sanskrit, it is expressed as “Upeksha” which includes a loving heart while being nondiscriminatory, unbiased, open, egalitarian and impartial as you sincerely and lovingly consider viewpoints, positions, values, emotions and ways of behaving other than your own (see “Listening with Love”).

Upeksha has been said to offer the love-filled wisdom of seeing things equally.  One of its more recently acclaimed understandings includes it being self lovingly self protective.  Simply put, it does this by being a way of not letting things get to you.  This is not a way of being emotionally detached or indifferent because love is very much involved here along with kindness and compassion.  It is an excellent way of working toward “I win, you win to, no one loses” outcomes and a fine way of integrating and synthesizing the best of people’s differences.  For more on this, you might want to read two books. Teachings On Love and Living Buddha Living Christ both by the world renowned monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

In my opinion, developing your emotional equanimity, or your Upeksha mindset of love is not the easiest or quickest way to not be provoked to wrathful anger but it is, I think, the best way offering the most useful gains and positive advantages for love relating.  It is also is my suspicion that had the ancient Greek language had words for and concepts of emotional equanimity and/or upeksha, Paul might have used them along with “not provoked”.  In any case, arguably to me at least, those concepts seem implied in what he tried to teach us about not allowing ourselves to be provoked into wrathful anger.

One More Thing  You especially might want to talk all this over with a religionist, cleric, person of the cloth, etc. and see what they have to say.  If you do, please mention this site and say that we welcome their input also.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question:  Do you think there Is wisdom you can use in the Samurai teaching “first to anger, first to die”?

Forgiveness in Healthy Self-Love

Synopsis: Looking at forgiveness and healthy self-love; what forgiveness means and does not mean; benefits to the forgiver and the forgiven; the inability to forgive and its special meanings; blind forgiveness; self forgiveness; considering the tenant “love forgives all”.


Looking at Forgiveness And Self-Love

Forgiveness is a part of healthy, real love but sometimes it comes into conflict with healthy self-love.  Healthy self-love requires good self-care and a part of that is self-protection.  Forgiveness poorly done may make you vulnerable to repeated hurt and harm experiences.

Nevertheless, without forgiveness many love relationships cannot heal or continue to grow and fulfill their wonderful potential.  That consequence of non-forgiveness is self-defeating and, therefore, is not healthfully self-loving.  Offering forgiveness usually is an act of healthy self-love because it helps the forgiver improve in several different ways, (more on that a little later).  The problem is forgiveness can be enacted in ways that work against the self and repeated maltreatment may result.  To do really good, healthy self-love in the area of forgiveness often takes some careful study.

What Forgiveness Means

What do you think of when you think of forgiveness?  Is it something you see yourself to be good at or more poor at?  Is forgiveness something you are just puzzled about or do you not even think about it?  Do you desire forgiveness more than you give it?  Do you give it to yourself?  Are there people you want forgiveness from and/or people who want forgiveness from you?  Do you have relationships in which forgiveness could play a more important role?  What’s easy for you to forgive and what is harder?  Are there things you think it is impossible for you to forgive?  Are there things no one should forgive?  What did the way you grew up teach you or perhaps subtly model for you about forgiveness?

For some people forgiveness means giving people a pardon from being punished for transgressions they have committed.  For others it mostly has to do with absolution from blame.  For still others it is a reprieve from punishment or penalty they have been experiencing.  Some see forgiveness as a release and being set free from certain duties and obligations.  For still others it’s all about no longer having to feel guilty.  Forgiveness can mean the end of rejection and being allowed to continue in a love relationship.  Many understand forgiveness as giving them another chance to do something they previously failed at.  There, of course, are those who see receiving forgiveness as another chance to manipulate, deceive and unfairly misuse others.

In a number of religious communities forgiveness is taught as an act of compassion, mercy, generosity, charity, humanity and kindheartedness.  This pretty much is the view of certain ethicist groups as well as those who just are generally good-hearted.  In more so-called “hard-hearted” populations forgiveness is seen as stupid, a foolish mistake, a weakness, a risky needless behavior, an idiotic surrendering of power or at best something very rarely to engage in.

A dictionary understanding of forgiveness purports it has to do with the cessation of resentment and retribution attempts concerning things one feels wronged about.  It also has to do with relief from debts and penalties owed and the ending of claims against one.  Psychologically forgiveness relates to not emotionally holding previously perceived wrongdoings against the wrongdoer.  It also has to do with not wanting to, or acting to get revenge, get even, render payback, be vindictive, retaliate, avenge, punish, hurt, harm, destroy or in any way negate another.  Forgiveness is given, or not given, in relationship to acts others have committed which are judged by you to be wrong, undesirable or faulty.

Forgiveness can involve giving people another chance, not barring people from certain opportunities, and restoring one or more others to a former position or opportunity. Forgiveness also can mean that to accomplish it you probably have to put your emotions about being wronged to rest.  Forgiveness can mean that if you are actively involved with the person you are forgiving that you attempt to at least treat them decently, fairly, democratically, kindly, respectfully and with human-to-human love.  In many love relationships forgiveness means picking up where you left off, making up, being restored to okayness in the relationship, and veering away from anything that would lead to a breakup.

What Forgiveness Does Not Mean

You might have heard the phrase “forgive and forget”.  To forgive and forget is the advice often given when there have been love relationship problems.  Let’s be clear here.  Forgiveness does not mean cognitively forgetting.  Your memory won’t go away because you forgive someone for something.  It may mean you think about the alleged wrongdoing less, and feel much less upset about that wrongdoing.  Forgiveness does not mean you have to stop protecting yourself from possibly being harmed in the future by someone repeating their wrongful actions against you.

Forgiveness does not mean you won’t feel cautious, apprehensive and avoidant of people who you perceive to have caused you hurt or harm.  Forgiveness does not mean that you are required to be involved with someone you no longer want to be involved with.  As the old Texas saying goes “I can forgive a snake for being poisonous but that don’t mean I have to pet it.”

Forgiveness does not mean trust is automatically and fully restored.  The protective mechanisms of healthy self-love may keep a forgiving person at least occasionally suspicious, doubtful and skeptical about anyone they have forgiven.  Forgiveness may mean that they will give someone another chance and perhaps even act in a trusting way but an inner sense of trust is usually best understood as having to be earned by repeated good experience over time.

You can forgive someone but out of healthy self-love decide not to deal with them anymore.  That is done not for vengeance but for self protection.  If you judge yourself unable to withstand being betrayed or otherwise harmed again by someone you love saving yourself is the best, healthy self-love act you can do.  It also may be the best thing you can do for the one you love because it prevents them from again acting in ways that are destructive to you and then possibly having the guilt and repercussions from having done that.  So, forgiveness does not necessarily and automatically have to mean a relationship will continue.

Forgiveness does not mean it won’t happen again.  Whatever you are forgiving someone for may be something they do again.  Is your self-love strong enough to re-experience that?  Whatever it is, if they do it again will you be able to keep yourself sufficiently okay?  Maybe you will forgive yourself for something that you do again.  Will self-forgiveness work for or against you in that situation? 

Forgiveness is not very advisable when it is likely to lead to the repeating of a destructive action, the weakening of self-control, or the rewarding of ‘toxic behavior’.  Forgiveness especially is not advisable when it is perceived as giving permission for repeating a transgression, as it sometimes is.  I once heard a woman say “My screwing around really is OK because my husband always ends up forgiving me after he finds out”.

Benefits to the Forgiver

Did you know there are physical benefits to forgiving for the one doing the forgiving?  Research done at the Stanford University Forgiveness Project shows those doing forgiveness have fewer backaches, less muscle tension, less likelihood of dizziness, fewer and milder headaches, and fewer and milder stomach upset experiences.  Those who act to forgive also tend to have healthier appetites and sleep patterns, more general energy, and more general health and well-being.

Psychologically the benefits of learning and acting to forgive include reduced feelings of hurt, reductions in anger, reductions in stress and depression, becoming more hopeful, more optimistic, and more compassionate.  Research also has shown that forgiveness is often the key to becoming unblocked when there is some obstacle to progressing in life.

Forgiveness enables the forgiver to go on to more productive and enjoyable living.  People who have long been unforgiving and then learn to forgive report attaining a much greater sense of freedom from anguish and negativity.  Generally forgiveness results in a cessation of re-experiencing all sorts of different, negative emotions and then improved self-concept.  In these ways acting and feeling forgiveness is a good, healthy, self-love behavior.  Thus, those wishing to be good at a healthy self-love will do well to work at developing the love skill called forgiveness.

Benefits To the Forgiven

I like to suggest that whenever someone is forgiven for something that the forgiver and the forgiven talk with each other about what the benefits are because people sometimes understand those benefits quite differently.  Naturally there can be a sense of relief on the part of the person receiving the forgiveness.  Hopefully there will be a sense of gratitude and a motivation to live up to some standard of behavior better than before.  That, most likely, will mean less stress and less agony, probably less guilt, and hopefully more harmony in the relationship.  Past that, the people involved may have to sort of make a contract about what the benefits are to the relationship they have with one another.

Does the forgiveness mean everything is okay and they can pick up and proceed as before, or is there a probationary period, or is the relationship dramatically altered in some way?  Until both people clearly know what the benefits of a forgiveness act are, misunderstandings and other difficulties could occur.

The Inability to Forgive

Some people have an inability to forgive.  This has several possible special meanings.  The truly emotionally strong are much more able to forgive than the weak.  The weak, perhaps only subconsciously, understand that they are weak and if their forgiveness were to be betrayed they would be destroyed or hurt more than they can stand.  Hence, they do not forgive, or at least they do not forgive easily.  The problem with this position is the inability to forgive is not very good self-protection.  It usually alienates and isolates people and can keep people stuck in a stagnant life-position.

Some are unable to forgive certain things.  However, what those unforgivable things are has great variation.  Here’s an example.  In several cultures various sexual transgressions are among the hardest things to forgive.  If someone has trouble like this it just may mean that person has been severely programmed to regard sexual transgressions as especially awful.  It also can mean that sexuality is that person’s area of greatest weakness or insecurity.  In a number of cultures and subcultures sexual transgressions are much more easily forgiven but lying and deception, theft, destruction of property, disrespect of family, anti-religious behavior, or some other thing is not considered forgivable.

Inability to forgive often means a person is stuck or blocked in their own healing or healthful growing.  The recommendation here usually is counseling or psychotherapy.  Sometimes religious-based counseling is in order.  The inability to forgive sometimes traps people in a vengeance cycle.  In this cycle two or more people seek vengeance against each other for previous acts of vengeance committed against them.

Thus, revenge-seeking makes one become vulnerable to retaliation efforts, which definitely is not a healthy self-loving way to behave.  Tragically there are whole families, clans, tribes, other large groups of people, and even whole societies who were trained to have great self-disrespect unless they ‘get even’, seek revenge and act to retaliate.  Sometimes the most healthfully self-loving thing people belonging to such groups can do is find a way to exit the group and join with those who are more healthfully love-oriented.  People trained with a strong revenge orientation who later discover forgiveness sometimes report becoming astonished with a resulting lighthearted sense of freedom.

Blind Forgiveness

There are people who forgive too much, too easily and too often.  By doing so they repeatedly set themselves up for misuse and abuse.  They are likely blind to the importance of seeing the repercussions of ‘forgiveness done without wisdom and self-care’.  Frequently this is an important symptom of low, healthy self-love.  Commonly such people are so in need of outside sources of love, affirmation, inclusion, friendship, acceptance, etc. that they will forgive anyone anything in order to get what they think they need.

This means that their forgiveness will be regarded as ‘cheap’ by those they give it to.  When this is the case let me suggest that counseling and therapy for developing healthy self-love definitely is in order.  There also are people who’s religious or ethical position is one of offering endless, easy, quick forgiveness to all, and especially to those who say they desire it.  That can be a prescription for useless martyrdom.  With these people following the logic of “loving others AS you love yourself” might lead to thinking that greater self-protection could be viewed as OK and desirable.

Self-Forgiveness

Unfortunately there are a large number of people who can forgive everybody but themselves.  They may see their duty as to give forgiveness to everyone but themselves which in most theologies is absurd.  These usually are people who have been trained in their upbringing for torturing themselves with perfectionistic standards.  That can be a very serious problem and may best be overcome through counseling and therapy.  The healthfully self-loving are self-forgiving.  When they make a mistake or do something they later wish they hadn’t done, the healthfully self-loving work to learn from the experience but don’t de-energizing themselves by wasting time in self-punishment or debilitating inadequacy feelings – it just is not their way.

There may be a period of intense dislike for what they have done, usually quickly followed by an intense dedication to do better.  The healthfully self-loving know they are only human and humans living active, vital lives do lots of things they later wish they had not done.  What counts to the healthfully self-loving is not so much what they have done in the past but what they do now and next with the understanding and dedication to do better.

Love Forgives All

Great love can forgive greatly.  Puny love, not so much.  Several religions and philosophies teach that through the grand power and transcendence of love all things are forgivable.  Certainly the great and wise living exemplifications of love throughout history (Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, etc.) are seen as testifying to this tenet.  If your love is truly great you too may be able to forgive all.  Remember that does not mean you, therefore, automatically and necessarily have to act against your own, healthy self-love.  Be wise and whenever possible live within the context of “Love Others AS You Love Yourself”.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question Is there anyone you would do well to forgive that you haven’t yet?


Living Well via Loving Well

Synopsis: About your tree of life; love well to live well in every way; a few important definitions; why love research is hard to research; different kinds of love give different results; and a love prescription for nourishing your tree of life.


How Is Your Tree of Life Growing?

Let’s say you have a tree of life on which grow many fruits.  There are the fruits of your labors, the fruits of your learning, the fruits of your relationships, the fruits of your very nature, the fruits of your appreciations, your fun and your joys, and all the other fruits of your involvements and of your being.

As you partake of the fruits of your tree of life your spirit is nourished.  But there is a question.  What nourishes your tree of life?

Consider this.  Healthy, real love nourishes your tree of life like nothing else.  Abundantly given and received, healthy real love is the most important of all things that bring forth life’s high order thriving.  Arguably, all of life’s ever increasing, enriching variety and all of life’s most important enhancements and improvements have been and are love related and love nourished in one way or another.  As sundry philosophies and religions have purported love is for life the greatest of all things.  Therefore, it follows that love may be for you and those you care about the most important of all things.  So, are you giving love due regard?

Love Well to Live Well in Every Way

The better you are at love the better you function, the healthier and happier your life is, and the longer you are likely to live.  Love poorly and you live less well functioning, less happy, less healthy and less long.  That is what a growing preponderance of worldwide research from a wide variety of fields is telling us.  Mounting evidence shows that people who are in well-loving couples relationships, families, friendship networks and love-oriented communities live the best lives, by every way of measuring quality of life.

A Few Important Definitions

Love, or more accurately – healthy, real love –  as used here is simply defined thus:
Healthy, 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 (see the column at the left of this page  “Definition of Love Series” for further and more full definitions and discussions).

Love can be viewed as a biological reality having largely to do with the brain’s limbic system and various neurochemical, and biochemical, and perhaps neuro-electrical phenomena in at least higher order species.  Love also can be viewed as a psychological reality having to do with the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with love.  This especially involves the eight groups of behavior which have been found to convey love and trigger different, healthy, neurological and biological processes in both the giving and receiving of love (see the entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love).
Love can be seen as a relational reality because it is in relationships that love’s biological and psychological phenomena occur, as has been found by various individually focused and socially oriented scientific research disciplines.

Loving well is defined as consistently acting toward others and toward yourself in all matters of high value in ways consistent with the eight groups of direct, love behaviors known to convey, receive and trigger bio-psycho-social love reactions.  Loving well can be described as consistently practicing and developing one’s love skills until, more often than not, one is successful at love efforts, love relationships and love thriving.

Why Love Research Is Hard to Research

With some disappointment we must note that the word love often is avoided by some but not all researchers.  This seems to be because “love” is used as a synonym for sex, and perhaps because of its often confusing, contradictory and sometimes pathological use in poetic and romantic literature.  Researchers who try to avoid the use of the word love often use substitutes like “affectionate attachment”, “warm positive regard”, “intimate personal ties”, “close-knit connection”, “emotionally bonded relationship” and a host of similar terms, all of which might easily be translated as “love” by learned readers.  Interestingly researchers in the older, more established disciplines don’t seem to mind using the word love at all.  The word and the topic love show up in the professional literature of the several neurosciences, medicine, biology, primatology, experimental psychology and even in economics.

It seems only in the newer social sciences and the helper-fields (like the several forms of counseling) that there appears to be a squeamishness about using the word love.  This avoidance of the word love and the resulting plethora of substitute terms does make it considerably harder to look up research results related to love.  Nevertheless, with some prodigious effort it can be done.  So, here are a few of the overall trends from that research.

Different Kinds of Love Give Different Kinds of Benefit

Committed-couple love relationships have been found to help people avoid disease, have a general higher level of overall health, and assist people in dealing more successfully with most of life’s difficulties.  In some studies “marrieds” do a little better than co-habitating couples, but with other factors the reverse is true.  Co-habiting couples have been found to have better, all-over, psychological well-being than do the legally married and those living single without a committed relationship.  However, “marrieds” have been measured as having somewhat better physical health.

Men tend to be a bit healthier in marriages but women in cohabitation, according to some studies.
The one, big drawback to couple’s love occurs when one of the couple dies.  The surviving partner is more likely to fall ill and die within a two-year period of the loss unless friends, family, altruistic causes and/or unless another romantic love comes strongly into their life during that time.

Families in a number of nations who frequently act to love well often produce far happier, healthier people who are better able to cope with stress and, therefore, don’t tend to suffer from stress-related illnesses nearly as much as the less loving.

Friendship love which occurs in close-knit, interpersonal networks produces considerably lower mortality rates at all age levels in international comparisons studies.  With friendship love there is a much reduced likelihood of self-destructive behavior, fewer heart attacks, less cancer, less arthritis, fewer gastrointestinal upsets, fewer skin problems, fewer headaches and fewer complications from pregnancy.

Humanitarian and altruistic love also produce excellent health and longevity results, as does living in love-oriented communities.  The evidence suggests all of these love sources act as a protective shield against toxic and stressful environments.  A lowering of bad cholesterol and a raising of immunity functioning especially is common with those who love altruistically.  Much lower use of mood affecting drugs, legal and illegal, is another result according to various researchers.

Spiritual love and well loving people active in spiritually-based communities have been shown to have healthier behaviors, less substance abuse and healthy sleep and appetite habits.  This seems to hold true for people from ‘Austria to Australia’ and across all major ethnic and religious groups.
The well loving who also are quite sexually loving measure as happier, more vitally alive, more productive and more creative.

Healthy, real self-love is a very important factor in living well.  Some hold that it is the single most important type of love for having a happy, healthy, long life because it is viewed as central for excelling at all other types of healthy, real love.

A Love Prescription for Nourishing Your Tree of Life

Living by way of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of healthy, real love has been found to be more important to happy, healthy living than a good diet, exercise, low stress environments, education, wealth, ethnicity and a host of other similar factors – not that these factors are unimportant.  So, if you desire the good life get into love every way you can.  To do this I suggest you study this site’s love’s definition and its major functions, and also take a look at the various forms of false love along with the different kinds of love, and everything else you can discover about what love really means and how it’s done.

Especially learn and practice the behaviors of love and the skills of love.  Learn to give love, think love, feel the many emotions and physical sensations of love, and learn to receive love well.  To do all that obviously is what this site is all about, so you might want to visit it often, and tell friends family, and maybe even enemies about it.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question What will your life be like if you devote a fair amount of time and energy to learning and practicing healthy, real love – and what will it be like if you don’t?