They say that love can do anything. And there is no doubt that love is an essential ingredient of everything we do, from our work to interpersonal relationships. It is also a powerful dynamizer of our behavior. It gives us the motivation and strength we need to move forward. But sometimes feeling love isn't enough.
Sometimes more needs to be done. We need to separate the idealized concept of love from its everyday expression. We need to separate love as a goal and product - an idea that has been sold to us and that we have more or less consciously consumed - from the act of loving and giving love. The difference is huge and it's not exactly trivial.
Why is love not enough sometimes?
Love is a feeling and, like all feelings, it is not always expressed in the most assertive way. The way we express love has nothing to do with its intensity but rather with the way we have been taught to relate to others and our emotions.
Those with insecure attachments, for example, are likely to develop a strong dependence on their loved one. This emotional dependence usually generates an intense fear of loss that can lead the person to develop controlling behaviors that end up ruining the relationship. When love suffocates it becomes possession and ends up being overwhelming.
As Carl Jung wrote: “where love reigns, there is no will to power and where power prevails, love is lacking”. To love is, above all, to wish others well without seeking a personal reward. When a dependent relationship is established, the other becomes a means of satisfying our needs, which makes it difficult - or directly impossible - to love.
Others have an avoidant attachment style that prevents them from expressing their love. These people were taught in childhood to ignore their emotions and hide them because they are a sign of weakness. As a result, they often have trouble expressing what they feel, they think showing their love is a sign of vulnerability, so they end up building a wall against which any attempt at intimacy is shattered. As a result, their love remains imprisoned behind the walls they built and ends up withering irretrievably.
Love and its expression must go beyond conditioning, affirming itself as a way of personal growth in which we get rid of all those stereotypes that prevent us from loving freely. As the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti underlined: "to love means absence of violence, fear, competition and ambition".
Agape: the unconditional and caring love that we have forgotten
Love is not an abstract feeling, but an everyday reality. It is not an arduous process resulting from enormous fatigue or a goal that we have to achieve, but a natural state. The problem arises when the conditioning we have received undermines the essence of that love and, consequently, its healthy and full expression.
When we think of love as a goal to be achieved, we convert the loved one into a possession. We start thinking in terms like "my partner" or "my children" and it is easy for love to turn into property. But love without freedom is only the shadow of love.
The mature expression of love inevitably passes through the essential freedom of being and doing, which also implies taking into account the wishes of the loved one. In fact, Simone Weil did not conceive of love without freedom: “to love purely is to consent in the distance, it is to adore the distance between one and what he loves”.
The Greeks called that love agape (ἀγάπη-agápē), to differentiate it from the rest of the feelings we can experience, and with that word they referred to an unconditional but reflective love, in which the lover takes into account only the good of the loved one. That love is unconditional because it doesn't ask for anything in return. Thoughtful because it implies putting oneself in the other's place to understand their needs. It is a feeling that implies loving without possessing, accompanying without invading and living without depending.
It is a change of perspective in the way of understanding and living love that takes it out of the purely emotional realm to bring it to a more rational level. It is a love that is not only felt, but also thought as soon as that process of reflecting on feelings helps us to channel them in the best possible way.
This new perspective will allow us to express love in a more complete and constructive way. We will thus develop a love that does not self-swallow, but feeds itself and allows for the growth of both, instead of limiting their freedom, encouraging them to be all that they can be.
- 57Get Personal Growh