What is Love?

matus1976's picture
Submitted by matus1976 on Wed, 2006-11-01 04:34

Love, and emotion for that matter (in a healthy brain) is our response to our highest values. Love is the emotional price you pay for *valuing* something and seeing it expressed in another human being. All of our emotions are responses to the things we value most being expressed. When we value the health and well being of ourselves and our loved ones, we are happy to see things perpetuate those values. If you value honesty, sincerity, kindness, integrity, productiveness, etc, deeply, and you see that expressed in another person, your emotions respond properly.

Our mind, logic and reason, do not operate in conflict with our emotions, our emotions are the logical extensions of our deepest convictions. Proper relationships of love are based on admiration and respect for a person, an individual. Not a robot or a social automaton. If you value fashion and trendyness the most, you will love someone that embodies those things. If you value money and prestige the most, you will love someone that embodies those things, but in both of those cases it is very easy to find another person with more money, fame, wealth, prestige, or as is the most common case, hotter. So your emotions become fickle and easily swayed. It is any wonder than that people go from an initial high in a relationship to feeling like they are going through the mundane routines? If you are truly inspired by someone, and you admire and cherish them, and they feel the same about you, will you ever really become bored of them?

A proper loving relationship, when one values proper things and integrates them into their own self fully (e.g. valuing honesty, one must become honest, valuing rational independence, one must not be co-dependant) will blossom into an amazing and easily life long relationship full of complete admiration and respect. A proper loving relationship, since to say "I love you" one must have a clear concept of "I" and a clear concept of "you" can not come from two people who fear being alone, who don't like spending time with themselves, who perpetually seek to be distracted from dealing with their own innate boringness, it must come from two independent intelligent people sure of themselves both doing what they most want to do. A proper loving relationship comes from where the individual rational self interest of two people meet, no one giving up any part of themselves for the sake of a 'relationship' but both of them forming a profound and amazing relationship based on the thing most important to each of them.

Such relationships are rare, I have since I came to this opinion only had one of this nature in my life, and it was the most amazing by far of all the relationships I have ever had. I fully believe that the vast majority of people are in extremely unhealthy relationships, they do not hold their partners to any standards and they don't base their affection on any solid ground, while they cheat on each other, lie steal and manipulate, they chant to themselves 'but I love him! (or her)' After obfuscating the source of their original emotion, they demote love to something they are just supposed to feel and elevate feeling it for someone who does not deserve it to a status of a moral virtue!

In many cases, a significant other will spend most of their time berating their partner, in order to psychological demoralize them. It amazes me how prevalent this can be, the ‘you are not pretty, no one would want you, you are a loser, you are pathetic’ etc. Things like that stem from basing one's self esteem on other people's assessments of you. A person who does this knows what kind of control it gives them over some one, even if they don’t explicitly know it, they are aware of it at some level because it is how control is established over them. So if you don't like them, it is in fact insulting to him, so they have to insult you to compensate. They must beat you to the psychological punch before they lose their self esteem to you.

When people have a healthy basis for their own self esteem they don't need affection from other people to sustain it, since in essence needing someone else’s appraise is enslaving one's self them, just as lying to them and manipulating them is. When you know who you are and have a healthy basis for your own assessment of yourself, then when someone likes you (for the right reasons of course) then it is more a reflection of them and their qualities than it is of you and yours. You know who you are. You know what quality of a person you are if you have integrity. It becomes a scenario that when people like you, they will rise in your estimate of them. You’ll think more highly of them because they value what you value, and recognize it in you. But it's only when they like you for the things that you most like about yourself and when those things are proper. You must like about yourself your integrity, honesty, commitment to what is right and just, love of your life, your fundamental outlook on life, and they must like the same in you. If someone likes you just because you are hot or rich, well that doesn’t say too many good things about them. It’s good to be someone who can financially support themselves and to be attractive of course, but to base a relationship and affection solely on those is terrible. If someone likes you because they’d be bored otherwise, or because they’d feel lonely, well again that doesn’t say much of them. You become two parasites sucking each others life force working toward a common confusing cloudy mess.

So set yourself some standards. Look for a decent, stable person who has their own hopes and dreams and desires. Look for dreams and goals that do not create conflict with yours. Have ones of your own. Look for integrity (that is, being internally consistent) Look for honesty and sincerity. (Integrity is also being honest to ones values) Then you learn the problem with having standards, and why so many people end up compromising them. You realize quickly how few people stand up to even rudimentary ones. Why is that? Well, that’s the topic of another post, but I would blame a terrible influence of the preomdinat cultural – philosophical attitudes. Once I started really thinking about these things and really being ‘picky’ about these standards, it started to look like I will be alone for some time. Alone is not how I would prefer to be, but I would certainly dislike to a much greater extent being dishonest to myself and my highest values, and subsequently being with some psycho manipulative narcissistic nihilist.

It never ceases to surprise me that being honest and sincere and rational are things so alien to most people. Usually people think it’s ok to be dishonest as long as you can ‘get away with it’ or that no one is physically injured in the process. When I last ate at my friends restaurant, I pointed out to the waitress she missed one of my items I ordered on my bill. She acted surprised, “Wow, you’re so honest!” It’s surprising, or at least it ought to be, that she was surprised by honesty. Well, first of all I wouldn’t consciously steel from my near life long friend, but additionally there is little reason not to be honest. Not only is honesty is far more spiritually rewarding (in appropriate contexts) but it is far more pragmatically rewarding. Honesty cultivates sincere, deep, long lasting friendships and relationships that are mutually beneficial and enlightening, including business and working relationships.

So don’t sell out, too many people do. We have only one life and it is ours to enjoy, not to bow down and apologize and cave in to every jerk who wants to force us to live for them.

Compared to many modern ‘enlightened’ people who yap about how we are ‘not meant to be monogamous’ and such things the old fashioned ways are far more rational in many ways. They came about for good reasons and helped humanity survive for a long time. That’s not to say it’s all good and it couldn’t be when it’s philosophical basis was corrupt (that is, it was based on duty and obligation, not reverence to ones self and one’s deepest values) But the secular materialistic nihilistic interpretation of love, that of corrupting social trickery to keep people in check and monogamy as obligations handed down by pious tyrants is far more destructive, and both that and the old ways are much more unhealthy than the truth of the matter; that love is our response to our highest values and monogamy is not an obligation or duty that flies in the face of our ‘genetic tendencies’ toward polygamy, but instead is the highest and most profound tribute we can pay to one another. Religious indoctrinations of monogamy sought to acquire the cause of monogamy (the overwhelming desire to dedicate oneself to one person) by going through the motions of the effect, yet every wedding I have been to included both men and women present bemoaning and whining about being with the same person for the rest of their life and acting as though a wedding was a sorrowful moment of the final loss of freedom in a person’s life. Such is the only logical consequence possible when one removes the cause of an action, and goes only through the motions of it. If one feels disheartened at the prospect of perpetual monogamy and intimacy with only one person for the rest of their life, than they ought not be getting married in the first place. Pre wedding parties ought to be magnificent celebrations, not a spiritual funerals mourning the loss of single hood.

A lot of people wish for their prince charming or (what is the female equivalent, princess submissive?) to be loaded. Money, in it’s purest form, is a means to acquire values. In absence of values money has no worth. When people forget the purpose of their money, they often end up actually hurting the things they value in pursuit of more money, as they eventually associate money with a source of value and not a means to further values. The father who works long hours to buy a 4500 sq ft house and 3 SUV’s and white picket fence and Jacuzzi on the porch, if lucky, one day realizes why he never sees his wife or children. If unlucky, he just continues to live miserably perpetually wondering why the more he gets the less he feels. His pursuit of money got in the way of his pursuit of values.

When on the market for a relationship, you should always pick someone that embodies your deepest values. But look at the conceptual basis, not the particulars. Maybe they dress differently, or like a different kind of music, or have a different political viewpoint, but it is why they like those things that is important. It is the motivating principles behind their actions. Their overall outlook on the world. Someone may not have read as much or studied as much or went to school as long as you or have as much in the bank as you’d like. But they may have well been raising a family, or taking care of a sick relative, or just enjoying living, which is perfectly fine as we have no ‘debt’ to pay to the world for being alive (the last major secular remnant of original sin) Even if their political ideologies are a polar opposite, that is better than someone having no political opinions, at least the former actually cares about the world they live in the way you do, and tries to form an opinion on what makes it best; very stable solid ground for you to work from. The latter you can have no connection with. If a person of the former persuasion is intelligent, passionate, and rational, and you are as well, you will work out your differences of opinions and you will have no conflicts of interest.

Oddly, people almost always use the word love properly in every context but it’s most important one. Every time someone says “I love this car” or “I love this movie” or “I love this city” they recognize that those things are manifestations of their highest values, even if they don’t understand it explicitly. But when it comes to a person they love, forget it, most couldn’t name any of those qualities they admire or cherish. Go ahead and ask the person who loves you why they do, and ask yourself that of the person you love as well. People will spend hours complaining about their significant other, but when someone objects “well why don’t you break up with her” and they always quip, as if reflexively, “because I love her!” Yeah, but what do you mean by that? Why do you love her? Do you really love her (or him), or is it just that you don’t want to be alone and end up saying ‘eh, you’ll do’ at some point.

It is often fashionable to extol the virtues of unconditional love. Proper love, enlightening love, spiritually enlivening love, is inherently *very* conditional. Consider that if someone goes around and sleeps with everyone in sight (and what is sex after all but in it’s best the physical expression of your deepest admiration and respect for someone) people denigrate them to no end, calling them whores and gigolos and what not, yet we elevate to a moral virtue the idea of giving out love to everyone and everything, not matter what they do. Such an attitude takes any and all value it had away. To give love to anyone, to love all of humanity, means love has no meaning. Replace love with the brilliant or Olympic athlete and it becomes clear how equalizing diminishes value. If it is so wrong to give sex out unconditionally that why is it good to give love out unconditionally?

And in that theme, replace the word love with hate, which is always used in proper context, and the point is further demonstrated. If one insisted that they hated everyone for no reason we might lock them up in a mental institution. Usually people hate someone for a particular reason, that they hurt them or someone they cared about, or are just intrinsically terrible people. But we think loving anyone and everyone for no reason is morally healthy? In reality, the only people that benefit from this altruistic love are those who are least deserving of respect and admiration, and everyone else is hurt by it.

Consider then, conversely, the person who seeks sexual only relationships. Sex is inherently an intimate act. Trying to remove Sex of it’s intimacy is an absurdity. When having sex you are going through all the physical motions of deeply caring about someone, you are touching and caressing them in ways not appropriate in all other social contexts. If you find yourself sleeping with someone, and then wake up with them asking yourself “hmm, is it ok to spoon with them or is that weird?” “Hmm, can I hold hands?” Well, you just engaged in the ultimate extension of physical intimacy! And now you are skittish about holding hands and lying with your bodies close to each others! If such thoughts surface in your mind, then you know intrinsically that you weren’t at the point of sharing the deepest of all physically intimate acts with them.

So why did you sleep with them? Why do men (more often) and women seek sexual conquest? They want to feel better about themselves, returning back to the concept of basing your self value on other people’s reaction to you. The people that seek this tell themselves they just like the physical pleasure of the act, yet if that was the case masturbation would suffice. They tell themselves they just like sex, but if that was the case than prostitutes would suffice, and would willing women really have any troubles finding any random man to sleep with them? Hardly.

So clearly it is something more than the physical feeling of it and the company of a member of the opposite sex (or same, given your orientation) It is, in fact, the elevated sense of self worth that one hopes to acquire by engaging in the ultimate expression of physical intimacy. After all, the proper reason for doing such a thing is literally from mutual admiration and deep and profound respect. Seeking that from the physical expression of admiration is the ultimate form of the philosophical self deception of going through the motions of the effect to try to acquire the cause. Men seek woman who they think are morally pure and demanding, who portray an elevated sense of self respect, and who they fool themselves into thinking have made a great exception for their case. Women seek the same, spiritually, a man who will give them an elevated sense of self respect because of the status or the position of the man, what else could be the primary compulsion of women who flock to celebrities like cats in heat? The women the men seek to conquer have value because they allegedly reserve sex only for those specially unique and deserving people, thus allowing the man to convince himself that he actually is of a higher deserving stature. Both are no different than savages building runways out of bamboo poles and making radio sounds through their mouths, or society forcing monogamy on a relationships desiring of it, or someone buying a sports car that is way outside his means in order to impress his friends. They are all examples of, in Ayn Rand’s words, “going through the motions of the effect to try to acquire that which should have been the cause.”

In reality, in a healthy proper loving sexual relationship, both should be confined to only the rare instances and people that truly deserve it. To the people that express your deepest values. Love is the emotional price we pay for having values. The great thing about that kind of love, the kind of love that is based on respect and admiration, is that it is not required that it be requited. And if you think about it, should any ideal form of love require that to sustain it? If sex is the physical expression of love, then love can be sustained without it, even when your respective values drive you apart, the love is not diminished because that respect and admiration for the person remains. It does not require physical expression as sustenance, although that is an incredibly great addition. Jealousy, suspicion, paranoia, it all goes out the window. After all, would you ever want someone to be with you who didn’t actually want to be with you? Would you want someone to pretend to be your friend who didn’t really want to be? Would you really want someone you respect and admire and even cherish to sacrifice themselves, their identity, their sense of self, just so you wouldn’t be lonely? You would condemn someone you allegedly care about to self imprisonment. I don’t want friendship and especially love to be based on charity, that is insulting beyond measure.

I feel so many people are in unhealthy relationships that I hope I might get them to think a little longer and deeper about who they are and what they are doing. Remember, think about your values and integrate them fully into your life. Hold yourself up to your highest standards, and hold your significant other up to those standards as well. Do not put up with insults, manipulation, and deceit of any form or degree. Saying “no one is perfect” does not excuse people from even bothering to try. Love is our response to our highest values, love is the physiological response our bodies have toward the perception of that which we value most manifested in another person. Think about the values you base your relationships on. Convenience? Scared of being alone? Basing your self esteem on what your significant other thinks of you? Do you ever find yourself saying “you’ll do” or “well, sure he’s psycho but at least I am not alone” or “at least she hasn’t cheated on me” then you are very probably suffering from unhealthy relationship.

Consider last in all these cases who benefits from these twisted conceptions of love. Who benefits from insisting that one ought to love all fellow men? The people least deserving of it. Who suffers? Those most deserving of admiration and respect. Who benefits from insisting that love is something we have no control over? Those who don’t deserve it, those we would not love if we had any standards. We do have control over it because we have control over ourselves, our values and our integrity. The emotional response of love is a reflection of those. Who benefits from insisting that love is mysterious and magical? Again, those who don’t deserve it. Who benefits from the idea that love needs to be worked out? That relationships are hard and difficult? That marriage is work, that love is tough? The people who cause the conflicts that need to be worked out. The people who make relationships difficult by not respecting you and your individuality. Proper love is full of admiration and a deep and profound respect and cherishing, it is based on proper self esteem, self respect, and most importantly rational selfishness. I say the last because love can not be based on the absence of self, as is intrinsic behind the principles of self-less-ness. Without a self, without being able to say “I” you can not love someone. You can not have deep values and convictions and can not respond to them with emotions. To the extent that you abandon your ‘self’ is the extent at which you confuse and muddle love. Love is intrinsically and properly selfish. The proper relationship, the greatest kind of relationship, the most fulfilling, desirable and long lasting, comes from the meeting of the mutual desires of two intelligent, passionate, rational individuals with deep convictions and standards for themselves and others, not from people who abandon their passions and convictions.

The most important aspect about these comments on love and the nature of emotions, however, is that they are *right* Physical experiments prove the nature of emotions, that they are logical extensions of our deepest convictions (in healthy minds, severe physiological differences or chemical imbalances can very obviously alter the proper functioning of a system of perception, recognition and reaction that is based on physical bodies, minds, and molecules) They are not disconnected from our rational faculties, but are instead the ultimate logical extension of them. They are lighting quick calculators that assess the situation you are in and compare it to your values, thus invoking feelings of pleasure or pain. Brian scans and psychological experiments have proved as such over and over again, yet the idea remains completely outside the predominate cultural and philosophical interpretations of love. Why is that? Well that is a topic worthy of an even longer essay.

If you have found any value in these ideas on love and emotions, they come mostly from philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand and the great Aristotle, with minor contributions and extrapolations from myself and the many people I have discussed this topic with on different forums devoted to the ideas of both of these amazing people. Rand’s contributions on the nature and purpose of emotions are no doubt one of the most important contributions she made and some of the most important ideas for spiritual health of humanity.


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Some Assembly Required

Ted Keer's picture

Nature has a huge interest in the male's fathering as many children as soon as possible. Neither should women let a good specimen get away, so far as the gene-pool is concerned. Love is not as quick an emotion as fear, but it does kick in quickly if the prerequisites are there and there are no huge stop signs flashing red. No one is ever "startled" into kissing someone romantically in the way they are startled by fear. Although I can believ that some surprise themselves. It makes for the best drama, and the best comedy. The criteria we use in choosing our loves are both rational - based on chosen values - and animal - based on our genetic predispositions. Wise people court before they commit, and work to keep the romance of the "infatuation" going once the initial hormonal storm has ebbed. If someone's rationality alone were all, we should all be in love with wizened old Objectivists in wheel chairs. Alan Greenspan: "hearthrob?" This is not the case, and this fact should have been obvious to Rand & Nathaniel, and all the parties involved. When our natures and our reason and the nature of our beloveds do not clash, when mind and body are in synch, there is love.

Ted Keer

Assumptions

Olivia's picture

Hi Tim. I've done this too but have come to see that it is a HUGE projection on my part. I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say it is trusting your intuition and their integrity. One can be right about such things but one can also be terribly wrong without due diligence been done on their true character... ie: their authentic motives behind their words, actions, feelings. I never underestimate how people can act merely just to please me.

A couple of questions…

TimV's picture

Thanks for putting up the article, Matus1976. Many interesting & well made points.

A couple of questions…

From start of paragraph 2: Are our emotions always the logical extension of our reasoning (I'm paraphrasing, so please let me know if I'm misinterpreting)? My understanding is that humans have a limbic system - a part of the brain that is involved in emotion responses, such as fear. As a survival mechanism it is pre-rational: you can experience fear without ascertaining why (it’s quicker and hence conservative). So, while reason can overrule, or extinguish, an emotional response it is not a precondition.

Following on from that, I have often valued a person wholly intuitively. If I were to think of why I valued them it would be on the basis of my perception of their character. This perception is usually based on me extrapolating their character from a small number of interactions and trusting both my intuition and their integrity. I assume a whole lot and have a tolerance for aberrant behaviour from my paragon. Do you think to be rational a person must be explicit?

Hi Matus1976

Olivia's picture

I wanted you to know that whilst your post has not drawn a response here, I have printed it off and given it to my daughter, who has passed it on to her friends as a helpful essay on the topic of relationships. Many thanks. Smiling

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