The First Face: A Deep Yearning of Human Nature
All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name. Andre Breton
Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Plato
Ancient and modern philosophers speak of love as the deepest yearning of our souls. We humans have a deep craving to be accepted and embraced by another person. Without love in our lives, in whatever form it takes, we feel somehow incomplete, lonely, untethered. Science tells us that our brains and bodies are wired for connection. We secrete the hormone oxytocin when we connect in a loving way with others. We experience social rejection in a similar part of the brain to physical pain.
The Second Face: An Antidote to the Suffering of Life
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love. Carl Sagan
One word. Frees us of all the weight and pain of life. That word is love. Sophocles
The Buddhist belief that life contains inevitable suffering contains much wisdom. In life, we wrestle with our own fragile and vulnerable nature as human beings in a vast and changing universe. We face existential issues, including our lack of control over events of huge importance to us and the inevitability of aging and death. Loving and being loved seems to ease the psychological burden of life, by providing us, in the moment, with a physical and spiritual sense of safety and comfort.
The Third Face: A Source of Rich Experience and Life Meaning
Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit. Khalil Gibran
Who, being loved, is poor?
I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough. Nicholas Sparks - The Notebook
Philosophers, writers, and poets speak of love as a quality that makes our experience richer – more colorful, alive and meaningful. It transforms the mundane routines of our daily lives into something larger and more significant – the experience of love connects us with all humanity and nature across time and space.
The Fourth Face: Obsession and Craving
Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul. I find myself searching the crowds for your face - I know it's an impossibility, but I cannot help myself. NIcholas Sparks - Message in a Bottle
If I had a flower for every time I thought of you...I could walk through my garden forever. Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Obsession and craving are most likely to occur during the initial phases of falling in love – which scientists refer to as “Passionate Love.” After six months or so, these intense cravings are, for most of us, replaced by “Companionate Love,” which is a deep feeling of loyalty, connection and friendship. Brain scans show, however, that for a few lucky couples, romantic love can last a lifetime. This is the exception, not the rule. When a lover rejects us or acts unpredictably, this can also intensify feelings of loss and craving. Perhaps this is why many people stay in unhealthy relationships for so long.
The Fifth Face: A Deep, Spiritual Connection
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach ― Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Nicholas Sparks - The Notebook
People who are in love often describe the experience in spiritual terms. They describe feelings of inner peace and contentment – a sense that being here, with this person is enough. They also typically describe more energetic, positive feelings. People often use “hot” adjectives and colors to depict love. Metaphors of “burning passion” and “fire” give us a sense of the intensity and motivational aspects of love. Love is a joyful feeling that inspires us to self-expression and deeper connection within ourselves, and with others.
The Sixth Face: Seeing, Understanding & Appreciating Another Person
What else is love but understanding and rejoicing in the fact that another person lives, acts, and experiences otherwise than we do…? Friedrich Nietzsche
A woman knows the face of the man she loves as a sailor knows the open sea. - Honore de Balzac
This aspect of love is what mental health professionals refer to as “attunement.” We feel at one with another person – able to see another clearly and to understand and deeply connect with their emotional and psychological experiences. We have “mirror neurons” in our brains that allow us to empathize with other people – to get “in tune” with them – feeling what they feel. Mental states of ‘attunement” appear on brain scans as the brains of two people firing “in sync” with each other. Such synchronicity can lead to new neural connections being made in each person’s brain – literally “wiring our brains for love.”
The Seventh Face: Unconditional Acceptance
We love the things we love for what they are. ― Robert Frost
One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving. ― Paulo Coelho,The Alchemist
The ideal of pure love is something unconditional. The person who loves experiences pleasure just from the act of loving. The one who is loved does not have to do anything to deserve love. Most of us, at heart, just want to be loved and accepted for who we are. We want somebody to delight in us as we spontaneously express ourselves. Yet many of our parents gave us the opposite message. We had to be “good” boys and girls - to earn love by doing what others wanted us to do; seeing the world as they wanted us to see it. It can take a lifetime to overcome this type of conditioning; to allow ourselves to receive love without having to earn it.
The Eighth Face: Unselfish Concern for Another’s Wellbeing
Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. ― C.S. Lewis
Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.' Mature love says 'I need you because I love you. - Erich Fromm
In spiritual terms, mature love means focusing away from ourselves and our desire for someone to make up for our deficiencies. Rather, we deliberately focus on what we can do for the other person – how we can be of service in enhancing their lives and helping them to be happier and healthier.. Religious traditions speak of this kind of love. Many people find it easier to love their children in this way than their partners In practice, love of this type takes much inner work. We need to become mindful of our attention focus and thought processes and deliberately redirect them away from our own needs and insecurities.
The Ninth Face: Risk and Uncertainty
The very essence of romance is uncertainty ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays
We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person - W. Somerset Maugham
We know intuitively, and through experience, that love is risky. The person we love may not love us back, may choose to love somebody else instead, or, after months or years of being together, may change and begin to want something that we cannot offer. o fall in love means we may gets our hearts broken. There are no guarantees. Many people spend their lives avoiding emotional risk or trying to find a way to eliminate it from the equation. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible and this attitude leads to a dull, restricted life.. We need to work on ourselves to be able to take calculated risks and also to learn to let go when the reality of a relationship doesn’t match our dreams.
The Tenth Face: Becoming More Than What We Are Alone
When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too. ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The final face of love that I’ll discuss involves personal growth and transformation. As many novels and movies depict, sharing life goals and meaningful experiences with another person motivates us to reach higher and become our best selves. . We are more able to withstand the inherent risk and frustration of trying to improve ourselves and our circumstances when we have a loved one standing at our side, encouraging us, and helping us to get up when we fail. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Love is indeed transformational.
About The Author
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, and expert onMindfulness, Attachment. & Relationships with expertise in the Gottman approach and Emotion-Focused Therapy for couples. Dr Greenberg provides workshops and speaking engagements for organizations and nonprofits, career and weight loss coaching and psychotherapy for individuals and couples
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