What is love?
So how do we define here what love really is?
"Idealization is the mental process by means of which the objects qualities and values are elevated to the point of perfection." (Laplanche and Pontalis,1973) [i]
We can take the view of the anthropologist in terms of pair-bonding as a trademark of the human animal (Fisher 1993) and note that as a biological species termed human, we are designed to procreate and continue our species by producing future generations. But is that love?
If we begin with the initial attraction to another, our relationship may be based on a purely instinctual level of physical or libidinal desire, the sex drive which may or may not lead to a deeper connection towards a later stage of intense, romantic love and if we are truly able to 'grow' together, to deeper feelings of union long term. Here, we look at the different stages of romantic love in a much abbreviated form but perhaps it is a little more complex than this.
There are many kinds of love. Love for ourselves may be a reasonable place to start which is possibly one of the most difficult challenges for many of us and often a lifelong journey which may be helped when we're able to find 'the other' who loves and accepts us exactly as we are, thereby enabling us to begin to love and accept ourselves. Van Gogh spoke of love in terms of loving anything, an animal, a flower, nature, but love. In other words, an opening of the heart to life itself.
Love is possibly one of the most difficult words to define as by the very nature of being human, it means different things to each and every one of us. When we are young adolescents, we may yearn either to find the damsel in distress who needs her knight, the 'mother' who can provide what may have been missing, seek the knight in shining armour or the 'father' who will save us and take care of us.
There is not the scope within this article to truly answer such a profound question as to 'what is love?', but as a jungian psychotherapist, love moves from true connection with 'the other' towards ultimately a connection with the 'divine' through the union of opposites. As we move towards a total merging with 'the other', we begin to separate towards our own individuation, connection with ourselves and a connection with the 'divine'. In summary, to truly love another is therefore to be able to be both in and out of relationship at the same time; to be free to follow our own path whilst allowing our partner to follow their own; to be able to be together and separate ... I close with the question 'what is love?'
[i] Laplanche, J. and Pontalis, J.G. (1973). The language of psychoanalysis. London: W.W.Norton & Company, p.202.