Understanding Love from a Psychological and Philosophical Perspective

Studying psychology and philosophy has taught me about human nature from a variety of perspectives. The reason I have chosen to study both fields simultaneously is to gain a complete analysis of who we, as human beings, are in relation to the world we exist within. This can quickly become a complex pursuit, but I think I’ve managed to simplify the task of understanding our nature in a positive manner.

The foundation of human existence seems to be a feeling we’re all most likely familiar with. It can be classified as an emotion, a state of being or even an action. Its meaning is slightly different for each one of us. The positive emotions of pleasure or affection scratch the surface of this phenomena. Can you take a guess at what I’m referring to?

Photo by Pradeep Ranjan

 

Allow me to illuminate by explaining a situation I’m sure we’ve all gone through.

When we were born, there was an inability for us to take care of ourselves. We depended on a caregiver to support our development and assist our needs in any given moment.

We relied on our caregiver for survival and a special bond was formed between us. The deeper the bond, the more likely it was that the caregiver would understand our needs and tend to them.

The special bond felt between a child and caregiver is typically the first experience we have of this fascinating phenomenon. It’s also an essential component as to why we are here right now. Typically, a union between partners is based on this feeling, and when the couple decides to procreate, the common phrase “making love” refers to the act of reproduction.

If you haven’t guessed already, the feeling I have been referring to which is at the foundation of our existence is love.

Photo by Joshua Fuller

 

The broad field of psychology includes an understanding of many sub-areas of human nature, such as developmental psychology, cognitive psychology and social psychology. Each specialized area typically explains just one aspect of human nature. Combining all of these areas to gain a coherent understanding of an individual is the task for a psychologist.

Today, psychological methods use more of a scientific approach to understand the nature of human existence. There is a tendency to focus primarily on the commonalities amongst us. The exceptional cases of any psychological experiment are either considered irrelevant as outliers or their data remains unexamined.

Philosophical questioning, on the other hand, can lead us down meandering pathways that take an in-depth look at why these exceptional cases exist for human nature.

Of course, I’m generalizing these distinguishable fields here for the purpose of my claim. So what does it mean for love to be foundational for human existence? Well, let’s start by questioning why it is that we might require love.

Abraham Maslow, a well-known psychologist, defined a pyramid of human needs that is applicable to all of us called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The base of the pyramid consists of primary needs such as eating, sleeping, drinking and feeling safe. Once these needs are  met, we can progress to the middle of this pyramid, which is where Maslow has categorized the need for love. We actively seek out love in our lives through bonds we have with others. Love is formed through strong social connections.

Evolutionary psychologists have stated that we are social creatures, and love is formed through strong social connections. The majority of people, besides special cases, have a need to feel understood and accepted for who we truly are. Love involves this acceptance of one another and an understanding so that acceptance may be possible.

Photo by Kristina Litvjak

 

But love is more than just a feeling between two people; love actually guides our lives. We consistently act towards what it is that we desire most. Our desires can be classified as what we love. If we are doing what is required to reach what we desire, we act in ways to maximize the love in our lives.

It’s clear that we need love, but why is this the case? Couldn’t we live a life without ever feeling love? Abnormal psychologists have distinguished the differences between various mental disorders and their causes. Many psychological diagnoses are premised on whether the basic requirement for feeling loved and cared for throughout childhood have been met. For example, a schizoaffective disorder may develop due to a lack of warmth and love received from a primary caregiver.

Love is a requirement for our lives because we are social creatures. For optimal functioning we must have felt loved throughout our development. There are two primary emotional states. I have focused on love, but on the opposite end of the spectrum exists fear. The polarities guide our existence, but luckily for us, whichever emotion we focus on expands. So keep your focus on love and watch it grow in your life!