According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, there is no such thing as love. Well, at least love as we like to pretend it exists. Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage; it is not the yearning and passion that characterizes young love; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.
In a 2010 study from her lab, Fredrickson randomly assigned half of her participants to a “love” condition and half to a control condition. In the love condition, participants devoted about one hour of their weeks for several months to the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation. In loving-kindness meditation, you sit in silence for a period of time and cultivate feelings of tenderness, warmth, and compassion for another person by repeating a series of phrases to yourself wishing them love, peace, strength, and general well-being. Ultimately, the practice helps people step outside of themselves and become more aware of other people and their needs, desires, and struggles—something that can be difficult to do in our hyper individualistic culture.
Fredrickson likes to call love a nutrient. If you are getting enough of the nutrient, then the health benefits of love can dramatically alter your biochemistry in ways that perpetuate more micro-moments of love in your life, and which ultimately contribute to your health, well-being, and longevity.
In my view, Valentine’s Day gives love a bad name. It’s everywhere, it permeates everything. Yet, like junk food, none of it is really good for us. Someone sent me this (with complaints about the craziness of it all) from their work cafeteria:
I tried to explain all this to JJ once, but he shook his head. There is a difference between love and happiness that we do not make in our culture and that we are, apparently, exporting on a large scale. As Jonathan Haidt puts it, we have a myth that: True love is passionate love that never fades; if you are in true love, you should marry that person; if love ends, you should leave that person because it was not true love; and if you can find the right person, you will have true love forever.
He calls these unrealistic expectations “the love myth” in his 2006 book The Happiness Hypothesis:
You might not believe this myth yourself, particularly if you are older than thirty; but many young people in Western nations are raised on it, and it acts as an ideal that they unconsciously carry with them even if they scoff at it… But if true love is defined as eternal passion, it is biologically impossible.
You can read the rest of the article at http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/theres-no-such-thing-as-everlasting-love-according-to-science/267199/
This year, I think I’m sticking with this – after all, who doesn’t love chocolate?