When I turned sixteen, our family physician handed me a copy of Love and Will by Rollo May. When I cracked this book open for the first time, I had no idea what May was talking about. I was probably too young to understand, so I put it on my bookshelf and forgot about it. More recently, while working on my Ph.D., I rediscovered the book in all its wisdom. May emphasizes how we all yearn to have a love relationship greater than ourselves, most often to overcome loneliness. Sometimes, these relationships are long-lived, like in the case of my uncle who recently passed away after a 64-year marriage. Other times, the relationship is short lived. In either case, love and eros are driving forces, and as Groucho Marx said, “Behind every successful man is a woman.”
My husband is successful, and of course I like to take credit for that, but I would also like to take credit for being aware of my natural intuition. Many people do not believe in love at first sight, but as someone who experienced it more than 35 years ago, I can tell you it’s possible. One summer, my parents sent me to work at their friends’ farm in Canada. After being introduced to the manager, who happened to be my mother’s friends’ son, (now my husband) our eyes met, and I felt this magnetic pull I had never experienced before or since. It is difficult to describe exactly what drew me towards him — it was a combination of factors — his strong handshake, his wise eyes, and deep sense of calm. There was something that caused my heart to flutter. It was as if my intuition stepped in and said, “This is the man you want to spend the rest of your life with.” Part of me did not want to acknowledge at the age of 19 that I was ready to settle down, but another part of me, said, “Wow, this is great.” For five years, we had a long-distance love affair writing letters across the border. That was 1972; this 2014 and we are still together. Regardless of the number of years, we still have the need to be loved by one another. The need to be loved is universal. There is a chance that my childhood family physician knew me better than I knew myself, because I also recently pulled another classic off my bookshelf on a similar subject, The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm which also highlights the importance of love as the answer to the problems of human existence. I believe that in order to love another person, you must love yourself first, and Fromm supports this. I realized this early in life, when boys would be turned off by my low self-esteem, and became more and more attracted to me the more accomplished I became. Not only do accomplishments and successes empower us, but so does love.
Love can be thought of as a higher power or a state you fall in and out of. Whatever your stance or belief, the concept of love most often elicits positive emotions and connotations. Ever since receiving my first love letter from my grade school sweetheart, I knew that falling and being in love can be life changing, offering powerful emotions such as joy and elation. There is a wonderfully indescribable feeling and sense of glow that emanates from someone in love.
In her blog, “What is Love, and What Isn’t?” Deborah Taj Anapoi said, “Love is a force of nature. However much we may want to, we cannot command, demand, or disappear love, any more than we can command the moon and the stars and the wind and the rain to come and go according to our whims.” Love is an emotion we seem to have little control over. It is either there or it is not. Yet love is perhaps the most profound, wondrous and complex word in the human language suggesting desire and interconnectedness. Love and compassion are at the heart of the world’s great spiritual traditions. Love is often said to be synonymous with the divine essence of existence and wellspring of all life or whatever name each religion gives to its highest truth. When as a teenager, my eldest daughter went into rehab for drug abuse, and they asked her what her higher power was, and she said, “love.” I cannot think of a wiser response — love for herself, her family, and friends, and saved from her own destruction. Love makes the world go around and the Beatles had it right, “All you need is love.”
With gratitude, love and lust,
To read more of my articles, please visit The Empowerment Diary on Psychology Today.