What is love?
“Love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. Love is an active power in man [sic]; a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet it permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two…Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a ‘standing in’; not a ‘falling for’. In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving not receiving…Giving fills those who love with joy”
From Erich Fromm: The Art of Loving (1956), pp 21-22).
“…in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered more important than love: success, gesture, money, power-almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.” (p. 5).
Mind you Fromm wrote this in the 1950s!
“the awareness of human separation [isolation], without reunion of love -is the source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety.” (p. 9). To escape this sense of isolation [and anxiety] [people] desperately seek needs to fill the void. The void is superficially filled by an “orgiastic” experience….a sexual experience that brings immediate, but only short lasting relieve…and it is followed by shame and guilt, followed by a repetition of finding the relieve…and here we have what is known as obsessive compulsive behaviour. It is an escape….with no ending and no solace.
The confusion between self-love and selfishness: Self-love is rooted in the capacity to love, selfishness is an interest in oneself and does not include giving (paraphrased pages 55-56). “…the main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism…”(p. 109).
Fromm writes that people are starved for love and do anything to obtain it, but they lack the knowledge what love is and rely upon false conceptions. “[It is not found in] films about happy and unhappy love stories, trashy songs about love…” The main problem is that people want to be loved and forget about the capacity to love….(p. 1).
The ability to love is “compounded of maturity, self-knowledge, and courage. Learning to love demands practice and concentration…it demands genuine insight and understanding”
“Sexual desire can be present without love and for many this confusion easily leads to being misled…”
“Love [as in erotic/romantic love however], can inspire the wish for sexual union; in this case the physical relationship is lacking in “greediness, the wish to conquer or to be conquered, but it is blended with tenderness [i.e. love making versus sex]” (p. 51-52).
…Erotic love as in marriage is exclusive and an act of will and commitment (adapted from p. 52-53).
From Erich Fromm: The Art of Loving. Publisher: Harper and Row (1956).