A Dozen Things LOVE IS and A Dozen Things LOVE IS NOT
For you to ponder, puzzle over, and share with others here are a dozen wonderfully important concepts about What Love Is and a dozen about What Love Is Not. These ideas have been garnered from both the wisdom literature of the ages and from some of the most recent advances in a number of sciences investigating love and love’s many related phenomena. Let’s start with what is considered to be the ‘wrong’ ideas about love.
What Love is NOT
1. Love is not an emotion
This is easy to see when you think about the fact that love is long-lasting and emotions come and go quickly. The truth is love brings forth many rich and varied emotions including emotions called feeling loved, lovable, and loving which may be why the natural force called ‘Love’ gets confused with emotions.
2. Love is not an addiction
Only a false form of love can be an addiction, but there are a number of those and they can be very destructive. Addiction to a false form of love can waste your life, help ruin your life and maybe the lives of others, and once in awhile can even lead to someone’s death. Healthy real love is always working to do the opposite.
3. Love is not sex
It is true that sex is a delightful healthy thing to mix with certain kinds of love. Without some form of healthy, real love sexual relationships tend not to be long-lasting and often disappear. With healthy real love sexual relationships can be repeatedly revived and reinvigorated. Also without healthy real self-love sexual relationships tend to become problematic.
4. Love is not attraction
Attraction psychologically helps us move toward others while love helps us move with them. Attraction can lead to contact from which love may later grow. Love works to maintain and expand the connection that attraction led to. However, love and attraction, although often confused, are two different things. A truth is we can come to deeply love someone to whom at first we were not attracted at all.
5. Love is not ephemeral
Love is very real. Science has discovered neuro-chemical brain processes and neuro-physical circuits having to do with love and its functions. The behaviors which come from love such as nurturing and protecting even appear to be in evidence in dinosaurs who lived over 200 million years ago; and also are in evidence in all higher order species that live today. Each of the eight major groups of behavior associated with the conveyance of love are known to trigger different biologically healthful results. While there are many mysteries yet to be solved concerning love, the evidence demonstrates love is not some ‘airy fairy’, silly, or stupid ephemeral abstraction. Love, therefore, is a much more solid, tangible, and increasingly knowable phenomenon.
6. Love is not an insanity
Healthy real love is probably the most sane thing humans do. All the evidence shows that healthy real love in fact has a very sane- making effect. Both giving and receiving healthy real love tends to have a balancing effect on abnormal brain chemistry. Love tends to alleviate depression and calm anxiety. It even has a curative effect on certain forms of brain damage. While under the influence of love it is possible to think more creatively, and be more open to new and different possibilities, and be more in-touch with deeper than usual mind systems; all this represents greater sanity not less.
7. Love is not infatuation
Infatuation and its ‘cousins’ (crushes, lust, idealization, the two to four year phenomenon known as Limerance, etc.) are often confused with real healthy love. However, these tend to be filled with the false love indicators of jealousy, possessiveness, control efforts, over restrictiveness, etc. The majority of the false forms of love are largely fear-based rather than love-based, and the actions that come from them show this to be the truth. These false love forms fade away while love of the real type lasts.
8. Love is not a weakness
Everything the sciences are discovering about healthy real love shows it to be strengthening, healthful, and empowering. False forms of love, however, often are weakening and debilitating. There are many who have studied love who come to the conclusion that love is perhaps the most powerful force in the universe. This would make love-filled people the strongest of all people.
9. Love is not exclusive
If I really love you I also will try to love and like the people you love and like. I will not try to exclude you from them, but rather will include myself, and them, and you all together. Love also will make me reach out to others, and take in more of the world, not less. It is fear that brings on exclusivity, not love.
10. Love is not harmful
It is important to remember that hurt is the enemy of harm. With love we may say or do things that are hurtful to those we love in order for them, and us, to avoid harm. However, from healthy real love there can be no action meant to harm, destroy, damage, or harmfully deprive a loved one. Healthy real love is constructive, not destructive.
11. Love is not dependency
Healthy real love helps people become more self-dependent, not dependent. There may be the interdependence of teamwork and cooperation. However, the effect of love is to make people grow more competent and able not less so.
12. Love is not frivolous
Healthy real love is probably the most important thing people do in their lives. According to the ancients love is above all else in importance because love is the essence of divinity. It is love that brings us our strongest connections with others, causes us to nurture one another and ourselves, motivates us to heroic actions of protection, motivates our greatest advances, brings amazing healing, and rewards us with our highest and most profound emotions. While the word love often may be used in frivolous and trivial ways the phenomenon itself is of prime significance.
Now with all that in mind let us turn to what is really coming to be understood to represent the nature of Real Healthy Love.
What Love IS
1. Love is awesomely natural
The brains of all higher order species seem to contain special sections and neural net circuits for processing love, special neuro-chemistry and neuro-electric activations, and other special biological phenomena all having to do with how and why we love.
2. Love is desire for the well-being of the loved
Healthy real love drives us to want and act for our loved ones’ healthful continuance and enhancement (and happiness when possible ). This, by the way, includes healthy self-love.
3. Love is the great positive force
Philosophers, scientists, religionists of many faiths, and “the Wisdom Masters” of many ages have come to this conclusion.
4. Love is deep connection
Wherever there is healthy real love there is profound connection with
others, with self, with life, with the universe, etc.
5. Love is survival
Healthy real love brings us the ongoing cooperation, providing protection and strength vital to our continuance individually and collectively.
6. Love is the pathway to myriad grand emotions
Through the giving and receiving of love we experience the greatest array of our most profound emotional feelings.
7. Love is healing and healthful
The highly curative and revitalizing effects of healthy real love are documented throughout history, and backed by a many recent scientific discoveries about love in a wide variety of medical research fields. Likewise, the ability of love behaviors and love relationships to keep us healthy and add to our longevity is well established scientifically.
8. Love is passionately compassionate
From love more than any other thing emerges the great acts of caring, the intense empathy for and with others, and the passion-fueled energy it takes to change the world for the better, again and again.
9. Love is growthful
Healthy real love is forever pushing us to nurture, enhance, construct and create that which helps our loved ones to be more, be better, and be fulfilled.
10. Love is freedom insistent
Healthy real love works to set loved ones free to be the most they can be, and to be the most uniquely themselves they can be, and insists we democratically relate to our loved ones.
11. Love is the greatest motivation and reward system of the life force
Nothing motivates more constructive action than love, and nothing rewards that constructive action more than experiencing the vast and varied joys of love. Therefore, nothing makes life worth living more than love does.
12. Love is Divine spiritual essence
Across the high philosophies and great religions of the world, and down through the ages it is repeatedly taught that the essence of divinity is love, and that all true real love originates and flows via the grand, loving, spirituality permeating existence.
Now of course you do not have to agree with or believe any of this. You don’t have to disbelieve it either. The thing to do is with your very good mind study it. It also helps to share and study it with others.
To research love further let me egotistically recommend my book Recovering Love ( available from [hardback]: McGraw – Hill, [softback]: Authors Choice Press, and at amazon.com, iuniverse.com, and at my office). Also great for studying love I heartily recommend the Anatomy of Love by Dr. Helen Fisher, Love and Survival by Dr. Dean Ornish, The Meaning of Love in Human Experience by Dr. Rubin Fine ( this one is superb for counselors and therapists) and All About Love by Dr. Bell Hooks. All these of course, are available in bookstores and via amazon.com and other internet providers.
Note: coming later on this site if all goes well is Dr. Cookerly’s annotated list of the Best Books on Love.Image Credits: Pink cupcakes: Flickr user makeshiftlove, Dark cupcake: Flickr user Sailor Coruscant
The next installment in this series is: A Functional Definition Of Love