The mystery of love is enchanting. Love entices us. It lures us in. We want it. We need it. We yearn to love and to be loved. So how do we define this thing we call love? How do we begin to understand and know what love is? How do we love another? Is love a feeling? Is love a dependency? Is love a sacrifice? Is love a possession?
All too often we use the word love to express our feelings about different things: I love to garden; I love my job; I love my dog; I love my children; I love my partner. Reflecting on the numerous things that we love, we need to ask: Is my love for gardening the same kind of love that I have for my children? How does my love differ for my dog and my job? If we love things differently, then how can we possibly define this thing called love?
In the book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M.D. defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” In other words, you make the decision to put forth an effort to care for yourself or care for another with the intention of promoting the growth and development of your own consciousness or the consciousness of another.
If we comply with Peck’s definition, then we can conclude that our love for gardening, our jobs and dogs is a different type of love than the love we have for our children or partners. Our jobs may give us the opportunity to expand our consciousness, but they are not conscious.
While our gardens and dogs may possess a level of awareness, we do not want our gardens or dogs to become independent of us. Our purpose in having our gardens or dogs is for them to do what we want. We want them to serve our ends. The type of love that Peck refers to is love for other human beings.
Love Is a Choice:
According to Peck, love requires intention and attention. It is a willed behavior. Therefore, love is a choice. You decide whether or not you will nurture one so that one will grow and expand one’s consciousness. Love is purposeful. You have an intention and that is to aid one in the expansion of one’s awareness. Love is work. You have to give time and put forth an effort in order to nourish one so that one may become one’s highest self.
In order to expand your consciousness, you need to dissolve your limits. Your ego boundaries (your limits) need to collapse. The collapse of your limits is a gradual and progressive process. Whether the intention is self-love or love for another, little by little your ego boundaries dissolve. Subsequently, you create a union with yourself or with another; a union in which you experience all of the joys of love.
If we abide by Peck’s definition of love, then love is not a feeling. A feeling lacks effort. Love is active, thereby requiring effort. The feeling associated with “falling in love” is the result of the sudden collapse of your and your beloved’s ego boundaries. (A sudden collapse of ego boundaries is effortless. Love requires effort.) In the blink of an eye, you unite with your beloved and feel as one. The feeling of “oneness with your beloved” that you experience is the result of the biochemicals that your body releases in response to the excitement that is momentarily occurring in your life – the collapse of your ego boundaries as you unite with your beloved. Eventually, the biochemicals will subside and the feeling of love will be gone. The honeymoon will be over.
Love Isn’t Parasitic:
Love is not a dependency. If you require another’s love for your survival, then you are a parasite. When you are unable to experience wholeness or function sufficiently without the certainty of the presence of another, you have no sense of self – you do not truly know who you are. You identify yourself solely by your relationship, therefore there is no choice involved in your relationship. Your relationship is a matter of necessity (the necessity to define who you are), not free will. Love exists when two people are able to live without one another but choose to live together.
It is important to note that our children are dependent on us. Some people may even refer to them as parasites since they need us in order to survive. As parents, we make the choice to love our children. (Unfortunately, some parents choose not to love their children.) We have a purpose, to promote our children’s spiritual growth, and that purpose requires us to work. We help our children expand their awareness about themselves and the world, bringing them into adulthood. Children, on the other hand, lack the mental capacity to fully comprehend love as defined by Peck.
If we follow Peck’s definition of love, then love is not a sacrifice. If you meet your beloved’s needs with no regard to yourself, then you deplete yourself. If you meet your own needs without considering the needs of your beloved, then you do not attend to your beloved. Either way, one partner fails to grow. Love expands both you and your beloved. It does not deplete or disregard an individual.
Love is not a possession. If you fail to perceive your beloved as being separate from yourself on an emotional level, then you are narcissistic. You lack empathy. Your desire to manipulate and control others deflates your relationships. Love allows one to think for oneself. It allows one to dissolve one’s ego boundaries and expand beyond them.
Love Isn’t About Filling Your Needs:
When you identify love with a feeling, dependency, sacrifice or possessiveness, you use love as a guise. Your intention is for something other than spiritual growth. Your purpose for “love” is to fulfill your own wants, needs, and desires. Your definition of love is in accordance with what you want love to be, need love to be, or desire love to be. Your love has boundaries and limits. It is conditional.
Love elevates. It does not debase, belittle, humiliate, intimidate, harm, constrict, trap, or cower. Love does not lessen an individual. Love lifts up an individual. It encourages an individual to strive to become the best that he or she can possibly be.
Since you can only give to others what you possess within, you need to love yourself before you can extend a pure and empowering love to others. If you want to move forward in your life, stop repeating past behaviors and cultivate meaningful relationships (with your children and others), and learn to love yourself. Practice self-love.
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