What is Love?
Love is a word you can turn over and over again in your mind. But somehow the more you attempt to define it, the more the meaning of the word seems to slip away from you. Perhaps, it is because love is one of those words that none of us can come to with a mind empty of all pre-conceived ideas, thoughts, and judgments. How can we form our own concept of a word that has been defined and re-defined throughout the centuries by everyone from poets to artists to philosophers?
What is this little word that seems to either promise everything or nothing—a word that in itself can bring every bit as much pain as it does pleasure? What is love? The problem with finding a definition for a word like love is that it means something different to each person, and on some level, each of us probably does experience it. But when that which we experience fails to live up to the concept we have attached to the word in our own minds, we decide that either love doesn’t exist or we haven’t yet experienced it.
If we have to ask ourselves too often whether or not the feelings we have for someone are indicative of love, there is little chance that we are experiencing love. For love is not a question to decide or a riddle to solve but rather an emotion to experience. If, for example, you would not need to ask yourself whether or not you are feeling sad, why should you need to ask yourself if you love someone?
Oftentimes, we know ourselves much better than we want to acknowledge. And when love becomes a choice, it has already become something that is not love. Love that is real simply IS. Otherwise, it is merely something we allow ourselves to “fall” into.
In moments of intense self-honesty, many of us may admit that we have been in love with love much more often than we have been in love with another person. Obviously, it is not the word we are in love with, but rather the concept we have chosen to attach to the word. When a concept exists as its own entity—that is, outside the realm of a personal relationship—it is possible to attach that concept to someone whom we do not love at all yet who fulfills, on either a conscious or unconscious level, a profound need within ourselves.
We all know people who seem to have a lot of emptiness in their lives. Perhaps, we have also experienced times when there seemed to have been a void that nothing within our lives was capable of filling. This is when it is easiest to see love as the miracle that will transform everything, bringing us out of darkness and into the light of romantic bliss.
Yet, how can another person fill the emptiness in another person’s being? When we seek completion through someone else, we are putting a burden both on ourselves and them. At some point, one of us will have to feign feelings that we don’t feel, or conversely we will have to repress feelings that we do feel. Then, rather than existing within the context of truth, the love will become part of a play that two people are enacting— a play rife with petty worries, endless expectations, resentment, and a return of the emptiness that was the reason for seeking love in the first place.
A void does not have to be filled with that which is genuine in order to temporarily disappear. Similarly, love that is false can seem every bit as fulfilling, at least for a short time, as love that is true. Usually, it is the way we perceive the love that controls whether it is real for us or not.
If we perceive ourselves as being “in love”, then this will become our reality even if it isn’t real. This is how we enable ourselves to be deceived, both by believing ourselves to be in love and by those who say they love us. And, when we experience emotional pain in a relationship, the amount of pain will often be in direct proportion to how much of that relationship was based in need, either our need to be loved or the other person’s need to be loved by us.
One way to discern which needs you are bringing into a relationship is to remember that whatever you were experiencing in your life before you thought you were in love will be mirrored within the context of the love relationship. Thus, if you have sought the approval and admiration of others in the past, you will now seek this from the man or woman whom you love. If you have always wanted others to empathize with you and share all of your emotions with you, this is what you will also seek from the person whom you love. And just as you have become frustrated and disappointed when these needs have not been met before, you will bring this same frustration and disappointment into your relationship with the person you love unless that person manages to meet all of your needs.
Philosopher Jacob Needleman has said, “Wisdom teaches us that what we erroneously seek from the ‘world’ is to be found only through the process that opens us to another level of life within ourselves.” Well, wisdom is very much like love. Both of them cannot be understood or experienced in their truest sense until we discover the essence of ourselves . . . that core of our being beneath the layers of superficiality, the self-deception, the untruths and half-truths, and all of the preconceived ideas of what we should or should not seek on our journey through life.
Unless love can become an optional aspect of our existence, rather like the dust jacket on the book that makes up our lives, we are not yet ready to experience love in its purest form. Yes, we may well experience that which we call love, but it will bring us only a half-hearted pleasure rather than a profound, abundant satisfaction.
This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved