What Is Love?
“Love Is Life’s Greatest Blessing”, but what is love?
Usually when we ask ourselves “what is love?” we are concerned about whether someone really loves us or whether we really love someone. We are actually asking “are we loved?” or “do we love?” It is usually when something is confusing that we begin to analyse and contemplate what that thing actually is and we ponder such philosophical questions. Anyway, we are now asking a difficult question “what is love?”
During ancient times, they didn’t use the word “love”. However, they used different words for different emotional connections:
Philia which they saw as a deep but usually non-sexual intimacy between close friends and family members or as a deep bond forged by soldiers as they fought alongside each other in battle.
Ludus describes a more playful affection found in fooling around or flirting.
Pragma is the mature love that develops over a long period of time between long-term couples and involves actively practicing goodwill, commitment, compromise and understanding.
Agape is a more generalized love; it’s not about exclusivity but about love for all of humanity.
Philautia is self love, which isn’t as selfish as it sounds. As Aristotle discovered and as any psychotherapist will tell you, in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself.
And finally, eros is about sexual passion and desire. Unless it morphs into philia and/or pragma, eros will burn itself out. Love is all of the above.
However, it is unrealistic to expect to experience all six types of love with only one person. This is why family, friends and community are important.
Love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst but more permanent. That’s why we say that love is blind or unconditional. This is because we have no control over it. You can chose to surrender to love or not, but you cannot chose to love or not. This is not surprising since love is basically chemistry. Love is bigger than you are. You cannot dictate how, when and where love expresses itself. You cannot make someone love you, nor can you prevent it. Love cannot be bought, sold or traded. Love is compassionate and empathetic. Love is the driver for all great stories; not just romantic love, but also the love for parents, for children, for family, for friends, for country…
Love is supremely free, yet it attaches us with bonds stronger than death. Love is life’s greatest blessing.
However, the experience of love depends on where we are in relation to it. If we feel secure with love, it feels great and necessary as air. If we are deprived of it, it feels like an obsession. It is mind-consuming and emotionally very painful. That’s why we should look at love – all kinds of love – as a passionate commitment that should be nurtured and developed even though it arrives without planning. We must make it more than that powerful feeling that hits us. Love without commitment is just an infatuation. Without passion, it is just a dedication. And without nurturing, even the best would wither and die.
Look around you and find who deserves your care; don’t settle for less and go nourish your life’s greatest blessing!
Rasha is a Psychology professor at the American University in Cairo. She holds a degree of Masters of Art in Counseling Psychology, International Counseling and Community Psychology (ICCP) program at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Rasha provides psychotherapy at Your Path clinic, where she integrates the Humanistic Existential approach with the Cognitive-Behavioral approach in therapy. This integration helps clients become more aware of their life’s targets, and their own behaviors and attitudes that help or hinder the process of reaching those targets. It also helps them identify their own emotions and thoughts, which is the first step towards feeling better. Rasha works with teenagers and adults in individual, couple or family settings according to the client’s situation and needs in order to provide the appropriate therapy service that would initiate the required change. She also provides consultancy to parents who need parental guidance.