LOVE

A complex yet basically unified emotion comprising tenderness, affection, and devotion to the well-being of another person or persons.In more specific terms, love involves (a) feelings of empathy, the ability to enter into the feelings and share the experiences of the loved one; (b) profound concern for the welfare, happiness, and growth of the loved one; (c) pleasure in actively devoting thought, energy, time, and all other resources to the loved one; and (d) full acceptance of the uniqueness and individuality of the loved one, and his right to be himself (based on Prescott, 1957). To these four components may be added a fifth: “Retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self. It is an experience of sharing, of communion, which permits the full unfolding of one’s inner ability.” (Fromm, 1956)Love takes many forms and has many expressions. In his book, The Art of Loving (1956), Erich Fromm delineates five relationships. Brotherly love, which is oriented toward all of one’s fellow men, includes “the sense of responsibility, care, respect, knowledge of any other human being, the wish to further his life.” Parental love is a willing, unconditional, and nonpossessive assumption of responsibility for the well-being and growth of one’s child, together with an acceptance of the fact that his life is his own. Erotic love— “the craving for a complete fusion, for union with one other person. It is by its very nature exclusive and not universal”—involves the greatest possible investment of one’s self in the happiness and welfare of another person, as well as the greatest opportunity for growth on the part of both individuals. Self-love, is not love of self in the sense of egocentrism and conceit, but is the kind of self-acceptance and selfesteem that give us the confidence to love other people and form social relationships that are both healthy and productive. Finally, love of God arises from man’s “need to overcome separateness and to achieve union” with the totality of Being, to identify himself with the highest purposes he can conceive, and thereby fortify himself against anxiety, despair, and meaninglessness.Of the five types of relationships just outlined, psychologists and other social scientists have focused their attention primarily on two: parental love and erotic love. There are many expressions of parental love, and if the relationship between parent and child is to be healthy and fruitful, these expressions must change as the child grows. In infancy it takes the form of cuddling, physical care, and attention to the child’s general well-being. As he develops, it expresses itself in admiration for new skills and encouragement of the child’s attempts to test himself and explore his world. During the school years it takes the form of a generally approving attitude (mixed with reproof when necessary), interest in the child’s activities, and help in times of difficulty or distress. Later, during adolescence, the emphasis should be on reassurance, respect for privacy, encouragement of independent thought and action, and trust in the young person’s basic goodness and ability to profit from experience.Psychological studies have shown that the ability to give as well as to accept love can develop only if it is nourished during the formative years. This means that positive feelings of affection and approval must clearly predominate, for a person who has lived with attitudes of rejection, suspicion, egocentricity, and hostility is likely to experience great difficulty in forming deep and enduring attachments throughout his life. For such individuals marriage is often a refuge from an unhappy childhood, or a defense against a threatening world. In some cases, however, a predominance of negative feelings in early life at home may be counteracted by outside experiences that restore confidence, assure acceptance by others, and stimulate selfunderstanding and insight into other people. Such persons may succeed in overcoming their early handicap and become increasingly capable of giving as well as responding to love.A fruitful way of approaching the question of erotic love is to distinguish the genuine variety from infatuation. The two are not poles apart, for infatuation may ripen into love, and enduring love should retain something of the thrill of infatuation. However, there are a number of points of distinction which H. A. Bowman (1951) has summarized as follows: “Infatuation may come suddenly but love takes time. Infatuation can be based on one or two traits (usually plus sex appeal) whereas love is based on many traits. In infatuation the person is in ‘love’ with love, whereas in love, the person is in love with another person. In infatuation the other person is thought of as a separate entity and employed for self-gratification, in real love there is a feeling of identity with the other person. Infatuation produces feelings of insecurity and wishful thinking, whereas love produces a sense of security. In infatuation he may suffer loss of ambition and appetite, or be in a daze, whereas in love you work and plan to please the other person. The physical element is much more pronounced in infatuation than in love. Infatuation may change quickly, but love lasts.”As this quotation indicates, infatuation may be a trap leading to hasty and ill-considered marriage, especially between individuals who are dominated by sexual desire or dependency needs, or who are seeking relief from loneliness, insecurity, or unhappiness. Genuine love, on the other hand, grows not only out of a deepening sexual relationship, but out of shared interests, experiences, and aspirations—and, like brotherly love and parental love, it evokes an urge to foster the loved one’s well-being and growth as an individual. See AFFECTIONAL DRIVE, MARITAL ADJUSTMENT, MATERNAL DRIVE, MOTHERING, MATERNAL DEPRIVATION.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "LOVE," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/love/ (accessed May 25, 2019).
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