What is love?

What is love?

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Did you know that ‘What is Love’ was revealed as the third most popular Google search of 2014. I might have wondered myself after one particular breakup with a boyfriend, but really! are we so confused or know so little about it that we ask a search engine? It did make me smile.

Perhaps we are trying to re-evaluate the term ‘Love’ in the modern world as we call it! After all, there’s little doubt that we seem to be a nation of soul searchers in GB, I wonder what the French were Googling last year?

I have many conversations in my shop covering hundreds of topics, love is often one of them. We have women of all ages asking, is there anything they can do to help to draw love in to their lives and how they can get a boyfriend, strangely enough not so many guys, but well… a few.

The thing that I have noted is how differently the older generation regard love in comparison to younger women. I get the feeling that lots of younger women see love as a grand passion which will sweep them off of their feet and that a life without a boyfriend and LOVE is fundamentally flawed.

At this point I will don my mother crone hat and explain that grand passions are a beautiful thing, and something all consuming and wonderful to experience and, why not! But, it would seem that the older generation have come to understand that, as we age, the judgement of whether it’s ‘LOVE’ is not clouded by need, expectations or sexual longings quite so much. Of course sexual longings have certainly not gone out of the window, but our awareness of our connections with others and especially the mate in our lives is founded on many other things.

That’s why it is more than just a powerful feeling. Without the commitment of a relationship, it is mere infatuation. Without the passion, it is mere dedication. Without nurturing, even the best can wither and die eventually.

I personally think that lust is a cheeky little trick of nature, leftover from the stone age when cave dwellers had to spread their genes around to procreate and get the numbers up. Even they eventually evolved into family units and got loved up!

It is of course biologically proven that love is a powerful neurological condition, like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. While lust is a temporary, passionate, sexual desire involving the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and oestrogen, where true love is concerned; the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin and probably a few others. From an evolutionary view, love can be used as a survival tool, a mechanism we have evolved to promote long term relationships, mutual support and parental support of children and to promote feelings of security.

Unlike us, the ancients did not evidently lump all the various emotions that we label “love” under the one word. They had several variations, six to be precise…

  • Philia which they saw as a deep bonding, between close friends and family.
  • Ludus describes playful affection or flirting.
  • Pragma is the mature love that develops over a long period of time between long term couples and involves actively practising, commitment, compromise and understanding.
  • Agape is a more generalised love, it’s not about one to one, but about love for all of humanity.
  • Philautia is self love, which isn’t selfish, as we have come to understand, that to care and have a healthy love for others, we first need to be able to care and love the self.

Last, and probably least, the one that causes the most trouble…

  • Eros is about sexual passion and desire and unless it transcends into philia or pragma, Eros will burn itself out.

It might be unrealistic to expect love to deliver us all of the above, so that is why family, friends and community are so important to us.

For me the wholeness of life can only be found through love. When I feel love, that ecstatic feeling that is almost indescribable (unless you’re Italian) is when I experience a deep, delicious coherence and harmony, for which I can’t help but believe we were created and for which we crave.

Love expresses the desire for togetherness that is rooted in the heart. Expressing love through action and deed serves up a wholesome and fulfilling cake! whereas fluffy, romantic gestures (which are lovely, don’t get me wrong) only represent the icing on top!