Love gets no shortage of attention but it’s frequently not the right kind. Love is longed for, revered, misunderstood, discussed everywhere, and sometimes sold out cheap and mislabelled completely. Love is the most aspired to feeling of all our emotions and the loss of love can provoke some of our greatest fears, activating jealousy and the worst in us. Love gets translated through commercialism and associated with conflicting messages like
“ You’ve got to love yourself before you can love anyone else? Which asserts the importance of self-love
“Wow! She really loves herself” – which implies self-love’s nothing but vanity…
It can be so confusing. Then there’s all the catch-cries: Love is all you need. Love is the drug, God is love. Most cultures are a little bit obsessed with love and why wouldn’t we be? Love is a need that we can even see on brain-scans, lighting up the the most primitive part of our brain, the part about need and survival.
So, I wonder with love getting so much attention in art, religion, pop culture and academia: Why are so many people lonely and feeling uncared for, why do so many live with low self-esteem – a lack of loving feeling towards one’s own mind and/or body or soul? Maybe it’s because love gets the wrong kind of attention. A lot of attention is fantasy, a lot of it lip-service. Somewhere behind all the noise, love gets obscured.
Love gets so dragged through fairy tales, fantasy and drama that we’ve lost sight of what it really is. Love needs our mindful attention and we desperately need more education around loving well. Love involves giving our full presence with a good intent. This love is an essential ingredient in healing, and creating, deeply connected relationships. Different human problems naturally require different treatment regimes, different therapies, but, to me, there’s no cure in which loving attention, perhaps from another but always from ourselves, is not a vital, active ingredient.
So how do we give love the kind of attention that it needs to be a stronger, more active force in us and in our world?
- We can become more mindful, more aware in our interactions with others and the way we speak to ourselves in our own minds. Mindfulness can help us to live in a way that is responsive rather than reactive so we can consciously choose to be more compassionate and thoughtful.
- We give love real attention through following our passions and finding our way into the state that psychologist Abraham Maslow called “flow” or “peak experiences”. A peak experience involves utter absorption so that time melts away and there is nothing but being in the moment of each moment as it comes and goes. In flow we are in communion with the activity about which we are passionate – we are in a space of being love. Author Joan Borysenko wrote that in experiencing flow, colours seem more vibrant, sounds richer. Textures can come alive. In flow, we get behind words and fantasies about love. We simply abide in that or who we love. When we experience ourselves in this kind of love, we know ourselves better.
- Love shines in the giving of our deep attention to another but also through extending love to ourselves. Through listening to our own inner life, through being with ourselves and what’s happening inside us in the moment, we can become mindful of how some thoughts support us and how some hurt us. We care for ourselves deeply by making choices about what thoughts and feelings we want to give our on-going attention to, thus working with improving our soul and mental health. We can take notice of what’s going on in us and take responsibility for our own feelings rather than reacting, rather than blaming others for our feelings and our struggles.
The need for love is the need for healthy, deep attentiveness to our soul and other souls. In children, pleading for attention is pleading to feel loved and connected to another by playing, by learning, and by just being together, focused together. It’s the same in adults although it looks a bit different. Consistently unattended requests for love can painfully twist into destructive behaviour, shame and withdrawal or internalizing feelings of just not mattering that much to anyone. Can you give love your deeper attention – through mindfulness of your own inner voice, through greater mindfulness in the way you interact with others and through finding immersion in flow with the things you love? You will reap untold benefits.
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Wishing you love,
Dr Deb x