What is Love?
(If the next words you hear in your head after reading that title are ‘Baby don’t hurt me’, you get a high-five)
Now, I’m not talking about the chemical and physical processes involved in the brain when we feel this thing called love.
This is fascinating, but I like to think about love in the more traditional way; in the ways of the heart, the soul, in a spiritual sense that goes beyond the science of emotion, to the experience of the feeling, that I cannot even explain.
“Love is like the wind, you can’t see it but you can feel it”. ― Nicholas Sparks, A Walk to Remember
Ah, love. What a wonderful thing to feel. And there are so many kinds of love.
There is love for parents, siblings, children, pets and other relatives, which you could call a familial love.
There is love for friends and people we admire which you can sum up as platonic love.
And then there is love for other things like nature, food, beauty, experiences, colours, sounds; those things that stimulate the senses, that stir within you a pure positive feeling that comes from a place of love.
“If music be the food of love, play on” – William Shakespeare
So many loves. Love that we take for granted maybe? Because it is always there. We get it from our parents when we are born, our family members; an unconditional love.
We experience the love of friendship as we grow and connect with people, something that I didn’t really consciously think about. It is just a part of life.
But romantic love is only truly experienced when we are older, as teenagers, as adults. It is something new and exciting. Something that hasn’t always been there. Something that is exclusive to you and this one other person.
There is nothing quite like this special kind of love.
- “I am in you and you in me, mutual in divine love” – William Blake*
In all the world, you two have found each other. You are getting something from this person that no one else ever gave to you.
And most people will generally only experience it with one person at any given time. So it feels rare; so rare and so special, that we perhaps attribute more value to it than other love.
So then every other love becomes redundant. Sadly less important in the face of this new and improved love. Love 2.0. Upgraded.
It fills our world.
But then, quite often, it ends.
And it is devastating.
We have spent so much time with this special person. We got used to them being there all the time. They became ingrained into our lives; a vital ingredient to our daily functioning.
And oh are habits hard to break.
Whether it is a sudden break or you drifted apart, it will still feel like an abrupt parting in the end.
It feels like losing a limb, like losing an organ, an entire part of us.
Experiencing the loss of this romantic love, feels like the loss of the actual person; like grieving a death.
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source”. ― Anais Nin
We may feel a desperate need to find that same love again. That feeling like no other. We feel empty. We forget about all the other love in our life that does not compare.
Maybe we jump from love to love, trying to find it again. Maybe we cling to anything even close to it, just to fill the void.
Some of us will go on a journey of self discovery.
Hopefully what we will find eventually, whatever path we take; what we will realise, is something that we should have had all along, that will change the way we look at romantic love and all love and how experience it.
And It is not our fault we did not know this. Most of us are not taught the most important love lesson, and although it seems obvious once you learn it, most people don’t know it and don’t understand it, so perhaps it is just something you have to learn for yourself.
“Beauty is when you can appreciate yourself. When you love yourself, that’s when you’re most beautiful”. – Zoe Kravitz
We must learn to love ourselves.
When you learn to love yourself, wholly, the loss of love from others is not as devastating. It still hurts, but you are not left flailing and empty, with nothing to ground yourself.
You learn to fill the sudden emptiness with love for yourself. This may sound egotistical or narcissistic, but it is not. You may have a low opinion of yourself but you can still practice this love. You can love you and remain a humble person.
It is another level of love that can take time to learn and experience, but when you do it is like no other. It is the ultimate love.
The most valuable kind of love is love for ourselves.
Everything else is an expression of that love, sharing that love that already fills us. Then all the other kinds of love you give out into the world are completely free and without expectations or conditions.
We are all on our own journey, and love is an important part of that journey.
Romantic love should be looked at as a bonus when celebrating in sharing the individual journeys of each other, and not the reason for being with that person.
“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.” – John Lennon
Perhaps you think this is all theoretical and well, up until my previous relationship ended, it was.
But now I am proof that self-love is so important with incredible positive effects. After my last break-up, faced with that potential emptiness, I successfully put self-love into practice and this allowed me to remain on steady feet. I was able to remember and hold on to the love I already have within me. I felt stronger and everyone commented on my confidence and glow.
Fast forward and the positive impact of self-love continues. My new relationship is healthier and I feel much more independent, accepted and appreciated. I know that if this relationship were to end, I would be okay. Because I love myself more than I ever have.
This act of self-love goes hand in hand with self-awareness and the practice of mindfulness, which are practices I include in my courses and trainings, and for very good reason. Developing self-love, -awareness and -acceptance contributed significantly to understanding and dealing with my depression and negative self-beliefs.
Self-love. It’s a beautiful, healing thing. Now, I’m off to listen to ‘What Is Love?’ by Haddaway.