What is love? What is it to genuinely love somebody?
Just a feeling?
Children experience love almost purely as an instinctive feeling which they have little control over, it serves to attach them to the people who help them survive; they love their mother because she is their mother, there is no deeper reasoning, it is a feeling only. Even if she is an alcoholic abusive mother the child will still love her.
But as we get older our relationships start to become more complex. They become conditional on the expectations we hold for others. We love a person because we have reasons to love them. But it seems that most people never fully reach this stage and end up somewhere in the middle.
This is the reason that people have so much trouble with love; they are not explicit in their reasons for allowing themselves to feel it. If you don’t have explicit reasons then you cannot understand why you have the feeling with any clarity. And if you do not understand, you are at risk of feeling love based on a false perception of who the person is which will lead to problems as your false perception inevitably collides with the reality.
The thin line between love and hate
If love isn’t based on some clearly thought out reasoning then it will tend to be inconsistent, swinging between highs and lows. Ironically, it is often the case that the people we hurl most of our cruelty and anger towards are also the people we love the most (Isn’t that ridiculous and a little bit sad?).
I believe that by mindfully loving – understanding and creating clearly defined reasons for why you love someone is one of the most important habits to develop in life.
There is a cultural dogma that romanticises love as some kind of sacred feeling that is inexplicable and to analyse it is to take something from it, to diminish it. My first response to that is, “yes!”. It absolutely does diminish love that you feel towards someone that might not deserve it. I think everyone has at least one example of a painful relationship with a bad friend, family member or partner. These relationships could have easily been prevented or shortened with a bit of critical thinking about why they deserved your love and attention in the first place.
But when you love someone that truly deserves it, the clarification brought by these rationalisations can amplify it to amazing heights. Having in our minds all of the reasons we love someone develops a strong sense of appreciation for who they are and gratitude for having them in our lives. It is very difficult to be angry or resentful towards someone if you have in the front of your mind all the reasons you love and appreciate them.
Because we are basing our love on something real, something permanent we are able to reach a state where we reach a mindset of deep love that actually grows stronger over time