How do we learn to love in an authentic way?
Since childhood the words we hear most often conjugated by everyone and that we learn to imitate and use are, in many cases, “I love you”, I love you. However, when we later try to obtain such a conjugation in reality, in facts, we find it very difficult to experience it in a healthy way. Unconsciously, our affective relationships are contaminated by egocentrism, jealousy, domination, passivity and other elements that make it difficult to connect with this verb.
Erich Fromm, in the book The Art of Love , states that love is not an easy feeling for anyone , whatever our degree of maturity. “All attempts to love are doomed to failure unless one actively seeks to develop the total personality and achieve a positive orientation.
We all try to be loved, and not to love, and we struggle to achieve that goal. It follows that loving is simple if you find the right object to love or be loved by.
How do we learn to love in our daily lives?
For Fromm, one learns to love as an art, by internalizing theory and practice gradually and with a clear awareness that it is a matter of primary importance, on whose achievement our psychological balance depends.
According to the author, the only valid solution to avoid emotional isolation is in the achievement of interpersonal union, love fusion. The inability to achieve it means insanity, destruction of the self and of others. “Love is the mature solution to the problem of human existence,” says Fromm.
At the same time, Fromm sees immature forms in “symbiotic relationships” . One of their manifestations occurs when we become obsessed with the other and really convince ourselves that we love, when in fact it is an obsessive process. Therefore, when we say that we are crazy about each other, we are not defining the qualitative or quantitative aspect of the relationship, much less the authenticity of love, but rather the degree of loneliness we were in before we met “lovingly”.
In contrast to symbiotic union, mature love implies union on condition of preserving one’s individuality. In his work and becoming, the human being is free, he is the master of his affection.
Respect as the foundation of love
Love lies in respect; if there is no respect, there is no love. It is obvious that respect is born from one’s own dignity, emancipation and freedom . To respect is to allow the development of the loved person in his own way and not as I want, to serve me, to agree with me, to become like me or to respond to my needs.
In order to have a certain certainty that we “inhabit” a mature love relationship, it is necessary that men and women achieve integration between their masculine and feminine poles, which is a necessary and sufficient requirement and condition to reach maturity in love.
On the other hand, as far as mature love is concerned, the logical fallacy of the notion that love of others and love of self are mutually exclusive can be highlighted. The truth is that if it is a virtue to love one’s neighbour as oneself, it must also be a virtue to love oneself, because I too am a human being. Love for others passes through love for me.
Love as an act of giving
We discover love only in a free, authentic human being , and it manifests itself fundamentally in the capacity to give. “It is not he who has much that is rich, but he who gives much,” says Fromm. Thus, we can distinguish between:
1. Maternal love
Maternal love not only contributes to and encourages the preservation of the child’s life, but must also inculcate in the child the love of life, the desire to be kept alive beyond instinct . The “good mother” gives her happiness, her honey, and not only her milk.
Unlike erotic love, where two separate beings become one, in maternal love two beings who were united will separate and therefore a psychologically and emotionally healthy mother will encourage and cement her child’s path to autonomy, respecting his individuality. This is the ultimate proof of maturity and motherly love in an extensive way.
2. Erotic love
Unlike fraternal or maternal love, erotic love is a union with a single person , exclusive and, if it is also loving, it means establishing it from the essence of being.
3. The Selfish One
The selfish person does not love himself, hates himself, has a low self-concept and low self-esteem . Selfishness and self-love, far from being identical, are really dissimilar. If an individual only loves others, he cannot love at all; by the same token, if he only loves himself, he understands nothing about what it is to love.
A reflection on lovers and affection
Satisfaction in individual and social love cannot be achieved without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, without concentration, longevity and method. “In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the capacity to love must also be rare.
Fromm proposes that we must move from the universality of economic interest where the means become ends, where the human being is an automaton; we must build a supreme place and the economy is to serve it and not to be served, where others are treated as similar and not as servants, that is, where love is not separated from one’s social existence.