Existential Psychology

Love As Active Interest

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If love were synonymous with unconditional acceptance then it would be hard to get behind the idea of loving those who have wronged us, loving aspects of ourselves that we know are detrimental to our health and happiness, or loving people with whose values and behavior we don’t agree.

But from the existential point of view love is not only about unconditional acceptance, it’s also about active interest. It’s about recognizing and encouraging what is potentially there, about penetrating the surface in order to see the deeper seeds of personality and behavior that only need to be watered in order to sprout and grow.

If we believe in the possibility of our own self-actualization it follows that we have to believe in the possibilities for self-actualization of those around us. It’s this emphasis on the becoming aspect of the human condition that makes love possible even when the current circumstances make it appear impossible.

For example, people who are overweight are often encouraged to love their bodies. From the total acceptance point of view love seems to be the wrong outlook since it encourages the continuation of an unhealthy way of life. But from the active interest point of view love is the ideal outlook since it implies delving below the superficial to discover the true sources of overeating, deciding the body is worthy of respect, and beginning to treat it in a way that honors it through activities like exercise and healthy eating.

Whatever the object in question is, when we broaden the definition of love to not only be about acceptance but also about active interest then a door opens up to be able to love that object.