Tag Archives: Love

Love- in All its Glorious Forms

Love for a child, is not the same as love for a friend, which is not the same as love for a partner- we all instinctively realize this fact – yet we also admit that there must be something common in our interactions with these people that enables us to label that experience as love, and that relationship as one characterized by love.

Barabara Fredrickson, in her book Love 2.0, defines love as moment to moment connection, felt by two people, as a result of shared positive emotions and positive reciprocity. Being a moment -to-moment fleeting state, Love is conceived of as an emotion  – something that is temporally restricted and energizes certain action tendencies. Love of course can also be construed as a desire to care for and be cared for  – this definition will place Love as a motive. Alternately some people may act more lovingly and compassionately in their day to day interactions and may have high trait Love.

I believe states feed on traits which feed on motives and they are all correlated so we wont be much bothered about those distinctions, when we speak about Love in the following discussion.

One way to think about the various forms of love is to look at their evolutionary origins- if multiple related evolutionary problems were solved by relying on Love, then we can suspect that there would arise slightly different forms of Love too. Some of the interpersonal evolutionary problems that our ancestors had to solve were problems of affiliation (or knowing whom to trust and whom to help) , problems of mate selection (who to reproduce with for maximum reproductive fitness) and problems of mate retention (as humans form pair bonds to care for their offspring, how to best take care of a long term relationship). The giddy feeling of Love/ connection may have arisen to solve these problems.

Consider the problem of affiliation or building coalitions. In one of the earlier posts we saw that humans have a basic need for affiliation, which is of two types- affiliation related to fear of being rejected and affiliation driven by hope of acceptance and intimacy.  The former seems to be a direct result of the fine-tuning of attachment system-  every infant is born helpless and depends on caregivers to take care of her. If such care and nurturance is provided the infant become securely attached, else she may become insecurely attached. I either case these initial attachment relationships form a template for some later adult relationships.

Attachment system is based on a need for security and results in feelings of trust when the need is fulfilled. In adults too, whenever some threat looms, a person may turn towards an attachment figure which she trusts.

This system has evolved in collaboration with the caregiving system. There would be not much use of an attachment system, wherein an infant cried for help, if there was no inborn mechanism to make the mother or the primary caregiver responsive to such cries. This nurturance system is directed towards those vulnerable and requiring help and compassion.

There is a decent article [pdf] that shows that attachment/trust system and nurturance/love system are separate.

On the other hand when it comes to mate selection and mate retention, many people, including Ellen Berscheid have made a distinction, between passionate love and companionate love. While the former feeds off sexual desire / lust , the latter is more commitment driven and long term. For getting people successfully married and reproducing, both are necessary- passionate love makes them fall in love to marry in the first place and then companionate love kicks in. Please note that though the passionate and companionate love might have evolved in the context of mate selection/ retention and paid bonding, they are most likely coopted for other functions and applicable to other relationships too.

Thus, while we have lust driven passion, we also have liking driven milder friendship and companionship.

Overall, I concur with Ellen Berscheid that we have four love subtypes- she calls them attachment love, passionate love, nurturant love and companionate love. I’ll just like to summarize:

  1. Attachment Love: Driven by need for security, feelings of trust are important. The evolutionary function is to get needed care.
  2. Passionate Love: Driven by sexual desire, feelings of lust take center-stage. The evolutionary function is to find a suitable mate and pass ones genes off by mating. Robert Sternberg may have said this as passion corner of his triangle.
  3. Nurturant Love: Driven by intimacy needs, feelings of compassion are important. The evolutionary function is to take care of newborn vulnerable offspring. Robert Sternberg may have said this as intimacy corner of his triangle.
  4. Companionate Love: Driven by need for long term commitment, feelings of liking or friendship are important here. The evolutionary function is to ensure that one remains part of a long term pair bond. Robert Sternberg may have said this as commitment corner of his triangle.

Of course, all the complexities, and beauties,  of Love cannot be reduced to just four types, but this classification is the best classification that I am aware of and which makes a lot of things more easy to comprehend.

As always do comment, whether this classification makes sense,  and also what actions will you take to deepen connections armored with this knowledge?

Big Love: Loving from a Place of Authenticity and Courage

When I was offered a chance to review ‘Big Love’ I was skeptical- The title seemed too touchy feely.  My specialty is reading, and sometimes reviewing, psychology books so I was not even sure it would make  good match. Also I had never heard of Scott Stabile and the PR blurb seemed too good to be true. However, as they say don’t judge a book by its cover. The book is a memoir cum advice from hard learned life lessons, and though its not a psychology based book, I could not find any contradictions with what psychology tells us about life and love. The need for vulnerability, courage and authenticity is all essential for love to inform our lives and all these shine throughout the book- the book, and Scott, leads by example.

Scott writes in a witty, humorous and genuine style and its a pleasure reading though the book, each of whose chapters are woven around an anecdote/story from the life of Scott and end up with practical life lessons, tips, attitude changes with which you can benefit.

Scott has had his share of adventures, and misadventures, including writing the screenplay for a Hollywood film that bombed, losing his parents to murder when just 14, or having to deal with his brother’s and roommates addiction/ overdose as also having a strong Facebook community and being a member of a cult for 13 years – however its not the experiences themselves but what he has done with the experiences that make this book stand out.

I hope his efforts at spreading love get even bigger and this book finds the right readership.

Love and Work

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Love and work are two cornerstones of adult human life. The capacity to love and work adequately was considered by Freud as important for our well-being.

Adult romantic or love relationships are grounded in childhood attachment patterns. As per the famous and well researched and validated attachment theory, childhood attachment figures and the quality of our attachment with the primary caregiver, serve as templates for future adult relationships.

Attachment theory posits that there are at-least three different kinds of attachment patterns- secure attachment (when parental care-giving is consistent and available) , insecure anxious attachment and insecure avoidant attachment. While there is bound to be some effects due to child’s temperament, the attachment pattern is mostly supposed to be governed by parental care-giving style.

Although the primary ‘attachment figure’ or care-giver can be any parent, its typically the mother. The father is typically the disciplinarian or primary ‘authority figure’.

That brings me to work. While love is connection and intimacy, work is a constraint and usually a necessity.

One of the important skills to succeed in adult work life is to be comfortable with legitimate authority and also having the skills and confidence to wield authority when in a position to do so.

It is my thesis, that adult workplace adjustment, as operationalized by acceptance and flourishing in one’s place in the hierarchical work system, draws upon childhood patterns of relating to the primary ‘authority figure’ or role-model.

It has been generally found that there are three typical parenting styles: authoritative parenting (where discipline is based on logic and mutually agreed/ humane rules etc), authoritarian parenting (where discipline is done based on the power of the parent and no logical reason per se) and permissive parenting (where disciplining is lacking).

When can hypothesize that this can lead to different forms of model of what an authority figure or role model is: for the child whose primary authority figure is authoritative , authority is acceptable and ennobling; for the child with primary authority figure authoritarian, authority is to be defied or used to subjugate others; for the child with primary authority figure as permissive, any form of authority, even one drawing from ones self esteem is problematic and to be avoided.

It is instructive to take a pause here and see the parallels with caring. While caring consistently for the child, leads to secure attachment and better love relationships later on, not caring or caring inconsistently leads to poorer outcomes in love relationships.

Similarly, pushing a child gently and consistently, leads to the child developing a healthy self-confidence/ self-esteem , while pushing a child too much based on pure ego and power (sort of like bullying by a parent) or not pushing at all may lead to poorer and compromised self -esteem and later on lead to relationship problems in the workplace , where one may suffer from superiority/ inferiority complexes and ‘power and competence’ related issues.

A look at the mediating mechanisms is also instructive.

Good caring or secure attachment leads to a presence of an attachment figure or safe haven where one can do curious exploration and find that people are in general trustworthy and loveable.

Good pushing or comfort-with-authority leads to a presence of a role model or guide with whom one can exploit a niche and find one’s own niche and be comfortable with one’ sown and others legitimate authorities and competences.

Of course while the literature on attachment is burgeoning and its relationship to adult romantic relationship is well established, there needs to be more research on parenting styles and its effect on self-confidence etc and how that impacts later real world work relationships especially those hierarchical in nature like with boss and subordinates.

As an aside, I came to this broad analogy between childhood caring and childhood pushing and there different adult outcomes via the well known social psychology effcet whereby we judge a person/ his or her face etc on two dimensions intuitively: trust/warmth (aligned to capacity for deep love-like bonds) and dominance/competence (aligned to capacity to deliver and execute) . One can see the sam analogy in whether the help we can get form the person is emotional in nature (love like ) or instrumental in nature (work like). Thus for every con-specific we meet, what we are most interested in,  while relating to him / her is- what are his/ her capacities to Love and to Work!!