Love Lies Within
Many of us spend our time waiting for love, searching for love, hoping love will find us. Or we act like sponges, trying to suck up as much love from important figures in our lives as we can. This strategy is ultimately doomed to disappointment because it assumes that love is something floating out there that you can grab and possess, something you just have to be savvy or lucky enough to obtain.
It’s really a form of alienation, no different form projecting any part of yourself onto the structures around you, where you take something that originates within you and believe that it is generated from without. But psychologically speaking, you can only find love through being a loving person. Love is a state of being, an open orientation towards the world, not an object you can possess.
Erich Fromm was probably the psychologist most interested in what love is, and in fact his nickname was ‘Love’s Prophet’. He believed that love, along with productive work, was the key to self-actualization and fulfillment, and that love was the only sane answer to the problem of human existence. It’s pretty tragic that many people never really experience love simply because they don’t believe they are capable of generating it themselves and spend their lives trying to get it from everywhere else instead.
Here is a selection of quotes on love by the great Erich Fromm that, taken together, will give you a very general view of his theoretical position on the subject:
“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision?”
“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.”
“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”
“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of the person to the whole world as a whole, not toward one object of love.”
“If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to all others, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.”
“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
“Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.”
“Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.”
“Is love an art? Then it requires knowledge and effort.”
“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.”
“The mature response to the problem of existence is love.”
“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”
“Love is not a spontaneous feeling, a thing that you fall into, but is something that requires thought, knowledge, care, giving, and respect.”