Love – it’s complicated?

The love begins – how has it all started?

Love and its various manifestations have been present in the culture and social life from the beginning of the human race. Love was, is and will be the inspiration for many authors. Poets, writers, musicians, sculptors, philosophers as well as scientists involved in many different areas are nowadays still trying to grasp the idea behind love. It is undoubtedly one of the strongest stimuli which motivate a human being to act. A lot of famous works of art were created thanks to this feeling. However, we should not forget about its destructive role in human history – it had been the reason of collapse of great rulers and the cause of wars. Nowadays the society thinks that it is worth to learn only about the things which make us gain prestige or money and that love which is beneficial “only” for our soul is useless and one should not invest their energy in it. All in all, the great role of love in human history encourages our reflection.


Empirical research on love – why is it so difficult?

While looking for empirical studies devoted to love for the purposes of one of my lectures I realized that it is not a common research topic. Why? Maybe because love is one of the most mysterious things we experience in our life and it is difficult to run the research in this field basing on traditional scientific approach. A coherent definition of love still does not exist. Irrespective of the state of scientific knowledge on the topic, it is even difficult to dream about exhausting the subject.

People will attempt to understand love by asking themselves a question: What love really is? Why there exists a conviction that women are more able to love? Is love the art which we learn all our lives and is it the essence of human existence? Or maybe love is the feeling which happens to us if we are a little lucky? Is the desire to be loved stronger than the desire to love? Is it possible to stop loving or live without love? Or maybe love in itself is impossible to understand but it makes us understand everything? Is love the result of the activity of pheromones? Is it only the biological outcome of the work of neurons in our brains? Or maybe love is connected not only with a strong feeling, but it is also a decision, a promise of constructive and strengthening things given to the loved one? It seems that Andrzej Sapkowski may be right when he writes: “We do not know much about love. Love is like a pear. A pear is sweet and it has a shape. Try to define the shape of a pear”.


What is the etymology of the Polish word “miłość” (love)?

The noun miłość” found in texts from the 14th and 15th century had had the meaning of “mercy”, “compassion”, which had been functioning in parallel to the meaning “kindness”, “grace”, “goodwill” (14th – 16th century).  This is where salutations in the Polish language came from, which with the course of time transformed (as a result of phonetic processes) into shorter forms, e.g. Miłość → Mość; Wasza Miłość (Your Love). Already in the first half of the 15th century a different meaning of the word “miłość” occurred – with broad Latin sense – amor, being the current “miłość” (love). The word “miłość” comes from the Proto-Slavic *mil-ostь, with general Slavic meaning “mercy”.


And what is the etymology of the Polish verb “kochać” (to love)?

Here I would like to quote Professor Jan Miodek, famous Polish linguist. Professor Miodek once said “to love means to touch”. It is a beautiful etymology, isn’t it? One could say that loving is touching in the physical as well as emotional way. What is more, Polish word “kobieta” (a woman) probably comes from the Tuscan dialect and originally it meant “the being who loves touching and hugging”. So women have this aspect of loving and touching already inscribed in their nature. And this is also very beautiful. So it does not surprise me that in a relationship between a man and a woman she is always more involved in feeling. It is usually expressed in her complete devotion to her partner, to maternity as well as professional life…”

When I ask my clients during a session about what they need in their relationships, what they need to feel loved, then my patients suddenly realize that they do know the answers to these questions. However, they often do not know how to name it. They need time to look at themselves. Sometimes they are not willing to work within this area. They are afraid of discovering something. And what if there is something what they have been missing for years? How to ask for it? And what to do if there is no chance to realize it?

Discussing with the partner our needs connected with love may turn out to be a cure for their relationships. Often couples, also those who have been together for a long time, learn something new about each other. It is often possible to be realized and a difficult relationship gains new quality. It is worth to make a reflection on our behaviors, ask ourselves the following questions: How do my actions influence the quality of my relationships with my partner? Do they make me closer to what I want or am I moving away from it? I think that my statement can be very well complemented with the words of Konstanty Gałczyński: “It is not enough to start loving, one should take this love into their hands and carry through the rest of their life”.


Is it possible to divide love into smaller parts and take a closer look at each of them?

According to Bogdan Wojciszke, one of the most famous Polish psychologists, it is impossible to divide love into parts. According to him, love consists of three ingredients. They occur depending on which phase of development the relationship is currently going through. The first ingredient it is intimacy, the second – passion and the last third one – the involvement in making the relationship last.

Intimacy consists in constructing the relationship between two people through caring for each other, mutual respect, understanding, support etc. Passion is like a ticking bomb of emotions. Both positive (admiration, affection, desire, happiness) as well as negative ones (pain, anxiety, jealousy). Involvement these are thoughts, decisions, feelings, constant struggle for the relationship to last in spite of problems and obstacles which occur from time to time.


Involvement – the most important ingredient of love?

We can identify involvement when we are able to enumerate not only positive, but also negative characteristics of our partner. In this phase, “common sense” prevails together with conscious, rational control of a couple who love each other. It is a double-edged sword which can constitute the only ingredient which makes it possible for the relationship to last, but on the other hand, it may lead to the separation from the other person through rational conclusion that there is no future for this relationship. In a mature relationship involvement constitutes its most stable ingredient. It is the investment and withdrawing from it is perceived as a failure. Another thing keeping the involvement alive is the profit and loss balance of both persons involved in a given relationship. Involvement grows gradually along with the duration of the relationship.


“To be loved” – is it the basic issue of love?

Erich Fromm, another expert involved in the topic of love, states that for the majority of people the problem with love consists in particular in the fact of being loved and not of loving somebody, knowing how to love. For this reason it is the most important for them how to gain somebody’s love, incite the emotion. In pursuit of this objective they try different methods. One of them, particularly popular among men, consists in achieving success, strong position in life as well as money in the scale which is made possible by the social context in which a given person lives. Another method, appreciated rather by women, is taking care of their appearance as well as body, clothes etc. Other ways to gain the acceptance of others, used both by men as well as women, include nice manners, ability to keep an interesting conversation, readiness to help others, modesty and kindliness. The same activities which are supposed to make somebody fall in love with us are used also to succeed in life, make new friends and meet influential people.

According to the majority of the society, “to be able to gain love” means simply to be nice and physically attractive. According to Fromm, love is the active force in a human being, the force which breaks through the walls separating the man from the people around him, the force uniting him with the others; thanks to love the man overcomes the feeling of isolation and solitude, remaining who he is, maintaining his integrity. Love realizes the paradox that two beings form one, still remaining two separate humans.


What are the types of love?

Erich Fromm distinguished brotherly love, motherly love, love for ourselves, love of God and erotic love. The last type is understood as uniting with the other person not only through the feeling, but also decision and promise. Erotic love consists of the fact of falling in love as well as a conscious aspect, i.e. the decision to be with the other person, to devote our attention and care to them.

There exists a conviction that love is the art which, as it is with any other art, we can learn. If it is really like this, what should we do to master this art? What is helpful in this context these are the definitions of competence – unconscious competence and conscious competence.


What do unconscious competence and conscious competence involve?

The process of learning each new skill can be divided into several stages. Love can be characterized in the same way. Unconscious competence – in this phase we do not understand or do not know how to do something and we are unable to identify our weaknesses. Conscious competence – at this stage we are unable to do something and don’t know how to do it, but we are aware of this fact and we understand the value of achieving a new skill, learning a new thing. It is worth to remember that at this stage, making mistakes is a natural element of the learning process.

Conscious competence is when you understand certain processes and know how to use the acquired skills. But using the skills and knowledge requires concentration. Unconscious competence is preceded by the practice in using a given skill which is long enough to become part of somebody’s personality or an impulse and we can use it easily. As a result, a given skill may be used together with other ones. At this stage you can teach other people relying on own experience.


What does the process of learning the art of love require from us?

The process of learning to love requires from us in particular discipline. We are not going to succeed in anything if we do not practice it in a disciplined way. It is the only activity which can make us masters in a given art. Another elements necessary to learn the art of love are concentration, patience and involvement in working on it.

 A human being perceives the world in the rational and emotional way. It could seem that love and common sense are two different forms of discovering the world, each of them requires the other to function. Paradoxically, all discoveries, scientific processes lead to the conclusion that “the feeling comes first”. Our rationalism, so much appreciated by science from its early days, is founded on emotions and may not function without them. According to Damasio – recognition depends on emotions. According to him, rational part of our brain does not function on its own, but together with its basic regulatory and emotional parts. It thus becomes clear that everything seems to be functioning separately, but it remains interconnected.


So what is love?

Love is a personal experience that everybody can live through himself and for himself. Therefore in my opinion, every human being is obliged to make an attempt to understand love. Humanity should create love, learn it and pass on to next generations. Otherwise the world may drown in hostility and suspicion.

I wish you many love-related questions, and may the people who can love surround you. In my opinion it is most important for a human being to give another human being what is more precious than material things: their happiness, their interest, knowledge, understanding, sadness and thankfulness. These are all the things which are vivid in a human being, which enrich the other person, enhance their feeling of existence and add meaning to life. I believe that everybody is able to love, even if the realization of this ability is one of the most difficult achievements in the life of a human.

The “objects” of love do differ from each other, and their intensity is also different, but there are some basic elements characteristic for all forms of love. They include: care, responsibility, respect and knowledge of the other person. Love is not a passive position of the observer of life of a loved person, but also the effort and responsibility for its development. It seems that Erich Fromm was right when he perceived love as the foundation of human life. So let us incite the fire of love so that it does not fade, does not become indifferent.


Tłumaczenie/Translated by: Agnieszka Zielińska

Zdjęcia / Photos by : Anna Fotyma