I was deeply moved by a book I read recently “Love 2.0: How our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become”, by Barbara Fredrickson, a research psychologist at the University of North Carolina. The heart of her thesis is:
“Love is far more ubiquitous than you ever thought possible, for the simple fact that love is connection...it is the warmth of everyday connections“.
She aims to knock love off its ‘romantic pedestal’. Many of us have a sense that love is this profound emotion that we reserve only for those with whom we have an intimate connection: our partner, our family members, etc. We tend to view it as connected with sex, or durable commitments. This can lead to the sense that love is elusive, love is ‘out there’. By only imagining that love is exclusive, lasting and unconditional, we may find ourselves frustrated, as we wait for our soulmate, the ‘love of our life’; or confused, when we feel a loving emotion for someone other than our partner.
While she acknowledges that having at least one close, enduring relationship is vital to your health and happiness, she maintains it’s possible to have “micro-moments” of love with total strangers. Not in the sense of the “free love” spirit of the 1960’s – as in the Stephen Stills song “…if you can’t be with the one you love, Honey / love the one you’re with”. But rather love can be these brief connections as you walk your dog, and encounter another dog lover, and engage in a brief conversation. The lighting-up you feel when you connect with a young mother with her oh-so-cute burbling infant in a stroller. That feeling when you’re at a ballgame, and revel in the joy of your favorite team winning. Or even in a bar watching that win on TV.
There’s a natural tendency to minimize such simple moments – to not give them their due – yet she encourages us heighten our awareness of them. One of the outcomes of her research is that pleasing moments like joy, amusement, gratitude, or hope and are often subtle and brief, and is something hard-wired into our body’s responses. But “such moments can ignite powerful forces of growth for your life. They do this first by opening you up…you become more flexible, attuned to others, creative and wise”.
She considers the love the ‘supreme emotion’. She maintains
“within each moment of loving connection, you become sincerely invested in this other person’s well-being, simply for his or her own sake. And the feeling is mutual. You come to recognize that, in this loving moment, this other person is also sincerely invested in your well-being; that he or she truly cares for you.”
“Learning how loves works can make a clear difference in your life. It can help you prioritize moments of shared positivity and elevate your faith in humanity.”
Her suggestion: don’t wait for Cupid’s arrow, or that lightning bolt. Make a conscious choice to look for these opportunities which abound in the everyday interactions of life, and turn them into micro-moments of love. Choose love.
One of her many videos, a TEDx talk (you’ll need to endure a few seconds of ads – then click Skip Ad)