It’s undoubtedly the most important expression in our language, yet we have crammed its many profound meanings into one little four letter word – LOVE.
Isn’t it amazing that such a complicated language as English would take such a simplistic approach to an emotion that has to power to send you into a state of complete euphoria, or to break your heart?
To be accurate, your heart doesn’t literally break, but there is an actual medical condition called Broken Heart Syndrome that mimics a heart attack. It can occur during highly emotional times, such as the loss of a loved one.
This is interesting because recent studies have shown that love actually lives in the brain, not the heart.
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your loving is all I think about
Can’t Get You Out of My Head – Kylie Minogue
MRI studies have shown that the blood flow to the pleasure centre of the brain increases during the attraction stage when you are feeling ‘in love’.
Scientists have been able to map where in the brain love and desire reside and discovered they each activate specific but related areas of the brain. Even more interesting is that the area affected by love is also associated with drug addiction.
Combine this with the cocktail of feel good chemicals – dopamine, adrenalin and norepinephrine – that increase when you are in love and it becomes clear why love is often referred to as a drug.
By the time the initial attraction has calmed down your body has built up a tolerance to these stimulants but you are rewarded with an increase in endorphins and the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin (known as the love hormone) which combine to create a feeling of wellbeing.
A similar sense of wellbeing can be enjoyed with all forms of endearment, not just romantic love.
And that’s where things get complicated because there are several different kinds of love, but only one word in the English language for it.
A CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE
Definition of love
- 1a(1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers <After all these years, they are still very much in love.> (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates>b : an assurance of affection <give her my love>
- 2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>
- 3a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love>b (1) : a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address
- 4a: unselfish loyal and benevolent (see benevolent 1a) concern for the good of another: such as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for othersb : a person’s adoration of God
So many jobs for that one little word. Oh, and let’s not forget the tennis score, inexplicably also called Love.
The Ancient Greeks had it right when they came up with seven different words to describe the various forms of love we experience.
SEVEN WORDS FOR LOVE
EROS could be considered the love of the body. It is the passionate, romantic love that fills you with desire. According to Greek mythology, when Cupid’s arrow strikes, it fills you with madness – ‘falling in love’.
PHILIA could be considered the love of the mind. It refers to the care and goodwill felt between friends. This love is less about physical attraction and more about personality appeal.
Storge refers to familial love, particularly that of the parents for the child. This one doesn’t rely on any personal qualities. It is more automatic.
Research has discovered that pregnant women and mothers of newborns experience similar changes in the brain as do people during the first few months of falling in love.
Agape is universal love when you feel at total peace with everything around you and feel love and concern for each and every living thing. It encompasses altruism, a selfless concern for the well-being of others and is credited with creating better mental and physical health.
Ludus is playful love that has no strings attached. It might be expressed by flirting, teasing, or dancing.
Pragma is enduring love, the practical one that is more about shared goals and convenience but can also incorporate Eros and Philia.
THE MOST IMPORTANT LOVE OF ALL
Philautia is perhaps the most important of all – self-love.
This incorporates self-esteem and our image of ourselves. What we see in the world is directly linked to our perception and our perception is linked to how we feel about ourselves. Therefore if we are feeling self-love we have a better chance of being open to the other forms of love as well.
Self-love can also have an enormous impact on our physical and mental health. Read, When You’re Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.
When we love and appreciate ourselves we are more inclined to make healthy decisions in regards to lifestyle as well as the people we choose to surround ourselves with.
Even all the Ancient Greek words don’t serve to encompass each of the different forms of love. What about love for a pet? How about ‘Grandy’ love?
In the end, maybe our word-making forefathers knew what they were doing when they came up with just one word. After all, how can you define a crazy little thing called love?
Wishing you much love, in all its forms, and a gleeful week, Tamuria.