Love is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful forces of nature. Every single person on earth is inspired by it and we all feel it one way or another.
Love is a complex emotion and it’s inherently free. It’s also uncontrollable and incredibly versatile, which is what makes it so difficult to define. Many have tried, so today I want to take a look at some of the most enlightening definitions and see what we can learn.
Love According To Science
From a scientific viewpoint, love is chemistry, which is what makes it so uncontrollable. We can invite love, yes, but we have no control over how, when, whom we love or how much of it we feel at any given moment. We can’t turn it on or off whenever we want because the process is beyond our control. Of course, love is not random; it’s based on our subconscious and the things that we deeply value on other people.
As opposed to other feelings, such as lust, love releases a great variety of chemicals in our brain, which is why we can experience it in so many different ways. We feel love for our family, our friends, our pets, for nature, for God, for space, for the memory of people that are no longer with us, etc, and that’s because love can activate even the most basic rewards regions in our brain. We can love something as simple as a glass of water when we’re thirsty.
Love According To The Ancient Greeks
I would like to start with the Ancient Greeks because they identified the different forms love can take and gave each of them a different word. They recognized that love is felt in many different ways and under different circumstances, which is why their categorization is so useful.
- Eros: Eros corresponds to sexual, passionate love. Essentially, this word represents desire and that passionate loss of control we experience for someone else. This fire burns quickly because it needs to be complemented by other forms of love.
- Philia: Philia corresponds to friendship and affection. According to the Greeks, this kind of love is born between equals and it doesn’t rely on physical attraction. Philia is free from sexual desire, which is why it’s considered virtuous.
- Storge: Storge is also free of sexual desire and it’s familiar love. In other words, it’s the kind of unconditional love parents naturally feel for their children and vice versa.
- Agape: Agape is best described as universal love. It’s unconditional, infinite empathy, and it’s the kind of love we feel for people, nature, and/or God if you’re a religious person.
- Pragma: Pragma refers to a kind of love that’s born from reason. It has transcended sexual desire, it has matured and it has found harmony. This is the kind of love married people and long-term couples experience because they share compatibility, common goals and hard work.
- Ludus: Ludus is best described as “playful” and we experience it in the early stages of a relationship. It involves sexual desire, but it’s a lot more than that because it can give way to Pragma.
- Mania: Mania refers to obsessive love; the kind that evolves into a form of madness and leads to codependency and unhealthy behavior.
- Philautia: Philautia refers to the love we have for ourselves. This kind of love can be healthy (self-love, self-esteem) or unhealthy (narcissism). The Greeks were the first to believe that the love we have for others is a reflection of the love we have for ourselves and that one can’t exist without the other.
What Love Is
Like I said before, love is very difficult to define and you will find thousands of different explanations for it. But one thing is for certain: we are capable of identifying love; we know what it is and we know what it’s not.
- Love is beyond our control. We can’t command it, demand it or take it away. It’s in this manner that love is truly a force of nature.
- Love is bigger than us. Because love is beyond our control and we can’t decide when or how or where it happens, it’s bigger than us. Love has no conditions and there are no rules; it’s not uncommon for someone to feel love for a person they don’t actually like. That’s because love is completely unpredictable.
- Love is independent. You can’t buy, sell or borrow love. You can’t force it on anyone and no one can force it on you. Love knows no borders and no limits.
- Love is inherently positive and emphatic. The love you feel can influence other people for the better; it can make them stronger, happier, more assertive.
- Love is powerful. It’s our greatest motivator, even greater than desire. Desire is fueled by love; our desire to leave and even to breathe stems from the love we feel for ourselves and for our lives. Love can drive us further than we ever thought possible and it gives us the strength to go above and beyond for the people and things we value and love the most.
- Love is limitless. We can love so many things at once, there’s no ceiling to the love we can experience and there’s definitely no time limit, no expiration date. We love people even when they’re gone, we love people we haven’t met and we love things we can’t see or touch.
It’s possible that we may never come up with the ultimate definition of love, but fortunately, we don’t need that to know what it is and to understand how important it is in life!