“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”
Sophocles, Greek Dramatic (C. 497-406 B.C)
What could be more appropriate for the month of February than to go on a short exploration of love and, perhaps make some sense of a complex subject.
“Love.” What does the word conjure up for you? “I love you.” What does that mean? Maybe the essence of love depends on context? If I said “I love you” to my wife, it will be received one way. If I said “I love you” to the CEO of a corporation that had booked me to speak, well, it would most certainly be received another way.
If you think defining love is easy, you had better think again and, if you don’t believe me, ask about ten of your friends and acquaintances. I suspect there are more definitions for love than Eskimos have for snow. The bottom line is that love is plain confusing. Or, is it?
Love has been the igniting, creative spark for thousands of books, plays, movies, poetry as well as every kind of art imaginable. Look to mythology and you will discover that love has been the stimulus for both agony and ecstasy. It has caused wars and cured the spirit. How can something that is supposed to be so good, be so agonizing.
Psychology portrays love as a cognitive phenomenon with a social cause. It is defined as having three components: Intimacy, Commitment and Passion. Philosophers and scholars agree on very little, but one thing where there is a meeting of the minds is that love, as an ancient proverb says, is a “high form of tolerance.” As for Biologists, their view of love might be summed up with a quote by the great writer, W. Somerset Maugham. “Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve continuation of the species.”
Let’s explore the kind love that first comes to mind for most people – “romantic love.” This form of love is deep, intense, seemingly unending and is shared on an emotionally intimate, interpersonal and sexual basis. While romantic love seems to be what the majority of people seek, is it really what makes people happiest for the majority of their lives? The humorist Fran Lebowitz writes that “Romantic love is a mental illness. But it’s a pleasurable one. It’s a drug. It distorts reality and that’s the point of it. It would be impossible to fall in love with someone that you really saw.”
The problem with this loopy grinned, eyeball whiling, bedroom seeking, form of love is that it is, according to psychologists, short lived. After less than two years the hormones calm down and reality hits – warts and all. The problem is that while it’s a great high and much to be desired, it doesn’t last forever. But, the good news, is that it can develop into something much more meaningful and lasting or as the novelist Jonathan Carroll put it, “You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love; the running across fields into your lovers’ arms can only come later when you’re sure they won’t laugh if you trip.”
There is also “Platonic love,” “Familial love” and “Religious love.” Wow! That’s a lot of love, which makes it even harder to grasp. Maybe as the American writer and poet, Dorothy Parker, said, “Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it, and it darts away.” There’s also a bit of truth there.
Let’s look to dictionary for help. That should provide a clear answer. Wow! There are certainly a lot of definitions here. Love is defined as “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties,” “attraction based on sexual desire,” “affections based on common interest,,” and “warm enthusiasm.”
But wait! Way, way down at the bottom of the list is something that caught my eye. Love is “an unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” I like that a lot.
All right, I confess. I’ve been leading you to an end or rather, perhaps – a beginning.
For the past seven years I have been absorbed in writing my new book, LOVE MATTERS” which has involved a massive amount of research into this subject. The whole premise of the book is that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and when one is present the other cannot exist.
As my friend, mentor, author of LOVE IS LETTING GO OF FEAR and, founder of The International Center for Attitudinal Healing, Dr. Gerald Jampolsky says, “Love is the total absence of fear. Love asks no questions. Its natural state is one of extension and expansion, not comparison and measurement.”
I call this “pure love” and it is the lens through which you can learn to view the world and therefore – see others. Pure love has absolutely nothing attached to it. There are no conditions or circumstances and because it’s not about comparison and measurement, no one has to earn it. Nor, can it be bartered or used to threaten or deceive. That’s all fear-based thinking.
Pure love is enduring, unending and healing. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with the local gas station attendant, your child, a difficult customer, a disgruntled employee or – yourself. Achieving and returning to a state of pure love is based on your ability to recognize when you are in fear, when you are feeling envious, jealous, guilt ridden, bitter, anger or any other fear based emotion and then choose to – let it go. Pure love emerges and fear retreats when you learn to forgive yourself and others on a continuous basis.
I know this may appear to be a huge, massive and possibly overwhelming concept that I’m throwing at you in a very short space. That’s the reason I’m taking a different approach for this months article. Rather than giving you two or three actions steps, my intention is to open a door for possibility.
So, as you give your Valentine greetings, I want you to consider this – if you can make peace of mind your highest priority for the next twenty-four hours, you will start to recognize when you are in fear. And, when you recognize when you are in fear, you take a moment and ask yourself, “What can I do, right now, to achieve peace of mind?” Then you just might be able to transform fear into pure – LOVE.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best-selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach.