Love is one of the most intense emotions we feel as humans. It’s the reason why we spend so much time adoring our partners and dreaming about their well-being. It’s also the emotion that makes us swoon over our favorite celebrities, even if we never met them in person.
There’s no single definition of love, as everyone has a different experience and perspective. However, many psychologists agree that there are some common features of love. Some of these include:
Whether it’s romantic or platonic, love is always something that is complex and difficult to describe. People often try to capture it in a poem, where they express their feelings through metaphors and similes, making the words sound poetic and beautiful. They might compare their loved one to a refreshing rain that made them feel clean, sunlight that helped them blossom, or arms that lifted them up when they were down.
Love has been the subject of countless books and movies, from classics like Romeo and Juliet to more recent hits such as Crazy in Alabama. In addition, it has been the topic of much discussion in the scientific community. But no one has been able to explain exactly why we love, nor can they determine if there are any underlying causes for it.
For example, a psychiatric researcher named Jacqueline Olds believes that the feelings of love are biologically driven. She believes that the brain processes love in a similar way to how it processes cocaine, with certain neurotransmitters involved. However, other researchers have come to different conclusions. They have found that although love may make you feel good, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a better outcome.
The concept of love has also been the focus of philosophical discussion. Ancient Greek philosophers distinguished between three notions that could be referred to as love: eros, agape, and philia. Traditionally, philia has been defined as the desire to promote a loved one’s well-being, while agape is characterized by a sense of spiritual connection that includes intimate identification.
Nevertheless, philosophers have disagreed about how to define these terms. Some, such as Robert Nozick, argue that all forms of love are ultimately based on a form of self-interest. Others, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Oprah Winfrey, have interpreted love as a kind of practice that leads to well-being for self and other.
But perhaps the most difficult aspect of loving someone is justifying it. It seems that appealing to particular historical facts about a love affair is inadequate, since such idiosyncratic properties might explain but not justify the love. Hence, accounts of love that understand it as an attitude toward value that is intermediate between appraisal and bestowal seem to offer a solution.