The Wisdom of Love

With February being dedicated to heart and cardiovascular health, Wear Red Day (Feb 13th in Canada) and of course Valentine’s, I thought it appropriate to dedicate this newsletter to LOVE, rather than fear as I originally planned – but fear not, that will come next ;).

As such, welcome to the Wisdom of Love!

The Wisdom of Love

What is love?

Although most of us would consider love an emotion, surprisingly, many emotional researchers don’t. 

Karla McLaren, author of The Language of Emotions describes love as something much deeper than ’emotion’.

According to McLaren, love doesn’t behave like regular emotions do, which fluctuate when healthy.

Healthy emotions come and go like passing clouds in the sky, and are influenced by our thoughts, our feelings, other people, surroundings and circumstances.

When an emotion is stagnant, stuck or repeated over and over with equal intensity, McLaren asserts that it’s a sign of emotional blockage or of something being wrong.

Healthy love, however, is constant.

…It’s steady.

…It’s not affected by circumstances or environment.

…Real love flows through all other emotional states.

We may be angry, sad, worried, happy, frustrated, lonely, hurt or a variety of other emotions, while love persists. 

We find love with our romantic partners, our children, our family members, our friends, our pets, and even in fellow humanity.

It’s a thread woven through the fabric of our being, and our lives.

In writing Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown sifted through much of the controversy and immense amount research on love, to create the following description:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can be cultivated between two people only when it exists within each one of the them – we can love others only as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can survive these injuries only if they’re acknowledged, healed and rare.”

– Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart


Brown further explores love through the lens of heartbreak, sharing the words of Joe Reynolds, a retired priest, who describes it as the experience of loss of love, or perceived loss of love.

From this description, they share that heartbreak can result from being rejected by one we love (especially if we thought they loved us too); from the death of a loved one; the death of a “quality” or unique trait in someone we love (eg. the loss of innocence as your children grow older); and so forth.

What heartbreak is not however, is failure or disappointment. 

Our hearts can only be broken by someone or something, to whom we’ve given our hearts.

But even with alllll of that said, I’m inclined to notice that even in heartbreak, love persists.

Love is what makes heart-break possible, which is why we often distance ourselves and put up walls of protection, in order to avoid the experience of it. 

Heartbreak is so dire and painful, that many choose numb, hard, cold and even bitter hearts, in attempt to avoid feeling a broken one.
 

“Real love is a steadfast promise that repeats itself endlessly through life and beyond death.”

– Karla McLaren

The Triangular Theory of Love

For my research and theory-lovers, psychologist Robert Sternberg shares a Triangular Theory of Love that includes three elements:

  1. Intimacy
  2. Passion
  3. Commitment
The Sternberg Theory of Love

Sternberg explains that most relationships usually have more than one of the above three elements, the ratio of which may shift with circumstances and over time. 

Usually Passion and Intimacy play larger roles at first, before Commitment rises up.

When these elements are on their own, we get the experience of: liking (intimacy only), infatuation (passion only), and empty love (commitment only).

When paired in different ways with each other, we get different types of love, from Romantic, to Companionate and Fatuous love.

When all three are present, we get the magic of Consumate Love.

Important emotional-building blocks for love include:

  1. Amusement and sense of play
  2. Forgiveness 
  3. Gratitude

When you look to the various relationships of your life, how does this model land for you? Does it fit? 

What would your top 3-5 emotional-building blocks for love include?

The feeling of love

Depending on the kind of love, various feelings can present from lust and butterflies, to nervousness, lightness, thrill, excitement and euphoria, to deep affection, stability, belonging, support, confidence, connection, compassion and deep empathy. 

The function of love

Love creates connection, unity, comfort, belonging, security and intimacy.

The potential message of love

Love says, “You are worthy”, “You are enough”, “You belong”, “You are cared for”, “You matter”. 

Love is the foundation to joy, hope, sense of purpose and life itself, which is why lovelessness, heartbreak and grief are so devastating.

Now dear reader, I’d love to hear from you. 

What is love to YOU?  

When even the experts who spend their lives researching it don’t agree, there’s no right or wrong answer. Share below, and let me know your thoughts!

With so much separation, powerlessness, rage, blame, and fear in society these days, love is more important than ever.

Keep shining, and as always, loving your way through these times.