Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m inclined to blog about ‘love’. I haven’t got anything particular in mind, though, so it’s going to be off the top of my head. I’ll just go for random thoughts as they pop up, so this may end up being a bit disparate.
I’ve never been able to pin down a definition for the word ‘love’. None of the available definitions fit and when you look in dictionaries you often end up going round in circles. Oxford Dictionary says: ‘a strong feeling of affection’, but what does ‘affection’ mean? ‘A gentle feeling of fondness or liking’. Fondness? ‘Affection or liking for someone or something’. Liking? ‘A feeling of regard or fondness’. See what I mean? You have to know what all these words mean in advance of trying to find out what they mean!
Is love a feeling or a behaviour? Sometimes we don’t have loving feelings towards someone, so any of us who are the sort who tends to act according to our feelings, we might easily be unkind to people when we’re not in the necessary mood for being nice. An alternative would be to steel ourselves and behave kindly even though we’re not feeling kindly. Is that insincere? I suppose you could say so. You could also say it’s an act of love because it’s unselfish, whereas acting from the perspective of our own feelings instead of acting according to the needs of others is selfish. It’s not easy to step outside our own feelings, though – I suppose it depends on how needy we feel in the moment.
You could say it’s not possible to know what others’ needs are and therefore not possible to act according to how they ‘need’ us to act, but I say in response: doesn’t everyone, at all times, appreciate being treated with kindness? I don’t think we can really go wrong by opting to be kind (and forgiving ourselves when we lapse… ie, be kind to ourselves, too!).
So, you could argue that love is a behaviour.
I think the words ‘acceptance’ and ‘fearless’ are good descriptives of love. We need to accept other people’s presence and we need to be fearless in interacting with them. If we do not accept we reject, not by any act of repulsion or expulsion, but by dint of non-acceptance. Does that make sense? I mean: being in a state of non-acceptance is being in a state of rejection.
And if we are fearful, we tend not to behave kindly towards others. That’s because we’re in a state of self-defence, perceiving the other as an enemy. We’re self-focused and self-conscious.
So, if we can consciously apply loving behaviour when we’re not in the mood (ie, in a neutral state), can we do the same when we’re scared out of our wits (ie, the polar opposite of feeling loving)? I don’t mean being scared by someone who obviously intends us harm – that would be sensible – but scared by people we want to interact lovingly with. Don’t know what I mean? Count yourself lucky. Or in denial.
Being in a state of extreme emotion is quite different from being in a state of neutrality. The move from one state of mind (self-defensive to trusting, self-focused to other-focused, selfish to altruistic, non-acceptance to acceptance, fearful to fearless) is a much bigger leap. And when our mind is yelling “DANGER” it seems like a nonsensical and foolhardy risk.
Being accepting and fearless of others relates to attitudes of acceptance of ourselves and fearlessness of others’ opinions and fearless of their rejection, though.
I reckon the application of conscious intelligence is required to suss out whether we are actually in danger or if our mind has made a mistake and doing us a disservice rather than the service we believe it’s doing for us. Doing so may enable us to override the error of fear and transform a painful situation into a joyful one. In other words, we shouldn’t necessarily believe our own thoughts and feelings because they may lead us along a path of misery instead of joy.
Now there’s an idea to contemplate: ‘the error of fear’. Watch this space.
I think love is about protecting, caring for, and nurturing others. By nurturing others, we simultaneously nurture our relationships with them.
With regard to love being a feeling, I reckon the good feeling we get from love is a by-product of an altruistic state of mind. Being in a needy state makes it difficult to be loving towards others. If two people are altruistic together they share a reciprocity of loving behaviour – of openness, fearlessness and acceptance – but if two people are needy, self-focused and self-defensive together they share a reciprocity of unloving behaviour – of closedness, fearfulness and rejection.
So, is love about the joy of selflessness? It could well be.