“Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”
~ Carl Gustav Jung
Love is an intense emotion expressed through a natural instinctive state of mind, which is derived from the heart, mind, and spirit. As parents, we are the first impression and expression that our children will experience love. It is through our love that children learn how to express and experience love. If we fail to express appropriate forms of affection, then we will most assuredly leave our children seeking out love. If we fail to express appropriate forms of affection, then our children will be left to seek love from other sources. This can lead to a lifetime of unfulfilled emotion, not only for our own children but also for subsequent generations.
Many religions speak of an expressive love. While each religion, and the subsets within those religions hold to a similar concept of love; it is not uncommon that religious subsets differ on their unique perspective of love. Most religious ideological perspectives revere the expression of love. In the New International Version of the Christian Bible, it expresses love as being an unconditional state. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” What are we speaking of if love never can fail according to the Christian text?
In the Muslim faith, love between a couple is highly regarded. In the Quran, love is discussed as being a creation. Chapter (30) sūrat l-rūm (The Romans), Muhammad Sarwar “His creating spouses for you out of yourselves so that you might take comfort in them and His creating love and mercy among you.” Love is the unifying of the hearts, souls, and minds of others together.
The absence of love in many homes has become so commonplace, that when we hear of this absence, we are neither distressed nor bewildered by the lack of love in a home. The anomaly has become a loving family that shares affection in appropriate and healthy ways. So unusual is the healthy expression of love, that it has become mocked and an object of derision within most cultures. Rather than embrace and celebrate the love of a family, it is the punch line of jokes, or even worse, it is eyed with suspicion and mistrust. The lack of love is common place and accepted while healthy, loving expression is eyed with contempt.
While many may differ on their personal beliefs of a deity, a spiritual being, or the absence of a spiritual being altogether; there are many positive perspectives that we can acquire from religious texts to improve the love between people. Creating a “healthy” form of love within a relationship requires respect, dignity, and honor. A spiritual perspective may offer a different, and arguably broader perspective regarding love, but it is not a prerequisite to expressing love. The most important requirement for creating healthy loving relationships is the willingness to be loving.
As a professional, we are discouraged from proselytizing, or attempting to convert or sway someone in the direction of our religious ideological perspectives. As a clinician, I have learned the value of listening and hearing those who have differing belief systems. It is necessary that we never belittle or treat other’s belief systems disrespectfully or dishonorably. By the way, did you know that even an atheist has a belief system? For atheist, the belief system is in the lack of a God or spiritual deity altogether. They believe in the absence of God and spirituality. For agnostics, they have an objective stance, declaring that it is impossible to prove or disprove the presence of God or a higher spiritual deity. Yet, the founding fathers of psychology frequently used their belief systems for influencing mental health (Carl Rogers, Carl Gustav Jung, others). It is crucially important that we always remain respectful in the therapeutic environment. While I have been known to encourage my patients to share their personal belief systems, I never try to influence or sway someone to believe my spiritual belief, or follow my spiritual quest. It is absolutely necessary as clinicians that we focus our time on the patient and his/her needs; being certain that we leave our personal agendas, biases, needs, and ideological perspectives at the door.
The Apple Dictionary describes love as being: love |ləv|
1 an intense feeling of deep affection : babies fill parents with intense feelings of love | their love for their country.
• a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone : it was love at first sight | they were both in love with her | we were slowly falling in love.
- ( a love) informal used to express affectionate approval for someone : don’t fret, there’s a love.
- feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone) : do you love me?
Love is an intense emotional connection uniting two or more people together. Through loving, we become capable of forgiving, forgetting, and renewing a relationship. Gautama Buddha was attributed as saying, “The secret of a health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” It is “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Thus, real and authentic love must begin within our own person, before we can project it forward. Until we learn to love, forgive and accept ourselves, we will be unable to authentically love, forgive and accept others.
THE SHARING OF LOVE
Children should be allowed the privilege, of witnessing their parents share expressions of love. Do not get me wrong, I am not speaking of sexuality which is the physical display of love in a sexual way, rather I am speaking of the sort of love expressed through thoughts, feelings, emotions, and touch. Furthermore, we must be culturally sensitive, acknowledging that there are different morals and ethics that are deemed appropriate and inappropriate around the display of love. Nevertheless, I always encourage parents, if culturally appropriate, to share the nonverbal actions of love such as, holding hands, kissing, sharing of a smile, and hugs. If children witness appropriate forms of love and affection, then they will be aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate forms of love. Beyond the physical expression of love, such as hugging, it is also important to show children love through our actions and words. By expressing our approval for them, our forgiveness of their mistakes, and our appreciation of their efforts, children will learn to accept themselves and will feel comfortable sharing themselves with others. Criticism, harshness, and disapproval convey a completely different message which could possibly damage a child and prevent him or her from entering into loving relationships in the future.
“Before developing speech, we communicated with our bodies,” said Dr. David B. Givens, Director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies, Spokane, Washington. Nonverbal expressions of love are important, not only for children, but for everyone we encounter. You can share love with those you meet through your kindness, your smile, and your posture toward them. Physical expressions of love are important, but there are also non verbal and non physical ways to express affection that may feel less threatening to someone who has never experienced loving interaction. Making eye contact, smiling and nodding approval are ways to express unconditional love without crossing physical barriers.
Have you ever watched the expressions of a newborn baby? A newborn baby is gleaming with expressions of unconditional love, happiness and joy. Notably, a newborn baby loves out of love, having no reservations or conditions placed upon his or her love. For a newborn baby, the world is an unexplored and unbiased promise. A baby loves from his own beingness, not from external conditions placed upon him.
When was the last time that you heard someone say, “I love you”? Where you the recipient of this statement, or someone else? Take a moment and mentally reflect upon that event. How did this statement of affection make you feel? Where you filled with feelings of rage or tenderness? Did you feel embarrassed or did it make you feel appreciated? I am guessing tenderness and compassion. Even the most subtle expressions of love can melt one’s heart. If you learned loving expression as you were growing up, then your reaction was probably different than someone who did not hear those words growing up. For some people, verbal expressions of love can be painfully awkward.
Love should be expressed beyond the words. It should be expressed through nonverbal actions, deeds, conduct and behavior. Love should be an inherent characteristic of a relationship. It should be a quality that is instinctive, never being manufactured or fabricated. Love is a common theme in most religions and spiritual beliefs. It is the common thread that weaves humanity together in compassion. The expression of love is common among humanity. Our first obligation to ourselves and to each other, is to share love in every circumstance, with every person we meet. There is no greater power in the world than the power of love. When we share love with those around us, we empower ourselves and we empower the world. When we have an internal insight into love, then we will have an external ability to share our love. “Love knows no boundaries.” (Brown, 2010, p. 42)
Authors: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M. and Deborah Demander
APA (2013) Love doesn’t have to hurt: Teens. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/love-teens.pdf
Benjamin, J. (2013) The signs he’s sending you, To suss out his true intentions, you have to skip the talk and zoom in on physical signals. Here, the subtle moves that say he’s turned on, tuned in… or total trouble. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/dating-advice/500056
Brown, A. D. (2010) Waiting to live, Bloomington, IN: IUniverse
Demander, D. (2013) The married girls guide to great sex. Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Public Broadcasting Station, PBS (2013) Listening is an act of love: A StoryCorps special Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org/pov/storycorpsspecial/
Public Broadcasting Station, PBS (2013) The mystery of love. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org/mysteryoflove/
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA