Understanding Love

We can perhaps never truly understand love, but we must try.

Love is one of those complex, multi-faceted, and elusive emotions. And yet it is something we all desperately yearn for. The craving for love comes out as the craving for respect, recognition, power; for relationships. And yet, love is what gets us into the most trouble. It brings about the most pain that we can imagine. It also can bring out the worst in us.

So what is love?

Our understanding of love is made infinitely more difficult thanks to the movies. We’ve been taught that love is the complete intoxication with another individual. And that this feeling must last forever. Only then, can it be called love. This very misleading definition creates far more problems than it solves.

It would be much wiser to replace the word love with the three Cs – Care, Concern, and Compassion. Caring for someone is the impulse to help, assist and meet the needs of the other. Narcissistic and self-centered people usually cannot do this. The world revolves around them. Concern is closely linked to care, which is the feeling of naturally and effortlessly thinking about the other person’s well-being and suffering. Concern is the feeling which is rooted in the thought that no harm should come to the other. The opposite of concern would be, “This is not my problem, you deal with it”. In concern, the other person’s problem becomes my own. Finally, compassion is an unconditional acceptance of the other. This of course doesn’t mean that one puts up with all sorts of nonsense. One can and indeed must say NO in certain situations. But compassion is built on the understanding that just as I have many weaknesses, so do you. And it’s okay. Together, we can work on them.

The three Cs can play out in all relationships – parents and children, friends, at work and in teams, in intimate relationships, mentors and pupils, and so on. Any relationship devoid of this is purely a transactional relationship. That is to say, you come to me because you need something from me and vice versa. While such relationships are efficient, they are soulless. They lack what we human beings desperately seek, a deeper emotional connection with the people we meet and what we do.

What role does the intense Hollywood emotion have in love? It has a place. We need to accept and understand that attraction and yearning do play an important role in our lives. They are undoubtedly intense. The issue with this emotion is that it invariably brings about suffering. Relationships with attraction and yearning, do have love in them. The problem is that we attribute the strong emotion experienced in oneself to the other. That is, we make the other solely responsible for triggering this emotion in us. And when the other, ever so slightly, moves away, immense fear comes about, because we feel we are losing this. This fear we take out as anger, blame, jealousy, and possessiveness on the other. This takes away the freedom from the other person. And eventually, the other person leaves us. Always, freedom is much more valuable than love. But, strangely, only freedom without love is an empty life. And this is the struggle today. We want to love and be loved, but we are afraid that it will take away our freedom.

This is where we need to look beyond the intense yearning and adopt the three Cs. Notice that all the three Cs are giving in nature. Intense yearning, on the other hand, starts off with a feeling of wanting to bring the other into oneself. When we start off with a lack, that emotion is perpetuated. When we start off with a fullness, we want to give. And usually, people do not want to leave someone who is a giver.

So the next time we enter into a relationship – be it a friendship or an intimate one – feel the intense longing and realize that you are the source of that emotion. Gently, bring your mind away from the other towards yourself. And when we find contentment in ourselves – care, concern, and compassion are natural outpourings from our hearts.

Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja Integra. Denver 2022

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s