Understanding Love – How Do We Know If We Are Loving Someone?
Love encompasses an array of both positive and negative emotional and psychological states, from the highest spiritual virtue to the most base, common human pleasure, to the least enjoyable of pleasures. It is often said, “Love is a living thing,” or, “Love is a kind of business.” But love itself, at its core, is a profound desire for someone or something we cannot always experience. What happens then when love is not fully pursued? Love is a strange concept in our fractured and divided world – sometimes it seems as if love is impossible, but the more I reflect on love, the more I am convinced that it can be found in all of our hearts.
The first feeling associated with love is anger. A common thread running through all of the great spiritual traditions, even before the concept of love became popular, was that anger expressed itself in acts of revenge. In the first act of anger, as in fighting, we are expressing anger toward another person, an object, an idea – and in that act we are temporarily separated from that object, from our feelings, from our partners, and from God. The act itself then creates a separation, and although there may be some pleasure at first from our release of control over that experience, that pleasure usually dissipates quickly, leaving us angry and hurt. We then move into regret, expressing sadness that will cause more anger to manifest, and so on.
We then move on to appreciation, which are the next emotional experience, and which is related to and may even produce love. Appreciation occurs when we find ourselves in the presence of something beautiful and wonderful. The beauty or quality is part of a larger whole that we see, hear, feel, and appreciate. In this way, we come to believe that there is a force at work in the universe that causes all beautiful things to appear, and that we, alone, are a part of that force that works through us to bring to light those things that are worthy of our appreciation.
We then move onto intimacy, another form of love that is often confused with lust. Although the two feelings may initially seem to be related, they are not identical. Intimacy is a more personal bonding with another person, one based on feelings and not based on sexual activity. We may feel loved through this relationship, but it is not the same as sexual intimacy. It takes place between two people who have come together as spiritually and intimately connected.
Finally, we move on to the attachment, which is the most intense form of love. Attachment is related to parent/child love, and is an intimate relationship with another person. We may feel very strongly attracted to our child or parent, and develop a deep connection over time. However, attachment is different from lust. A parent can give love and care and develop a relationship with their child that has no sexual relationship.
Love is not always easy to define or identify. It is the strong feelings that we feel towards another person that makes the definition possible. We all have different types of love, and it is our duty as human beings to discover what those are and how to express them to the other person in our lives. The love that we feel for our spouse, children, parents and friends is our most precious expression of emotional life. Let your expression of love is as natural as the feelings themselves, for it is the love that makes a healthy relationship so possible.