Thursday, May 04, 2006

All about love!

Can we choose to fall in love?

A question by Chitra, and some turbulent thoughts in a friend's head, prompted me to think about this.

First of all, what is love? Nobody has succeeded in defining it. But the closest I have come to see it being defined is by M.Scott Peck in A Road Less Travelled. It might look like a self-help book, but it isn't. It is a beautiful book of concepts that will surely change your way of thinking. Of course it is not only about love, it also talks about various aspects of life, but this section stayed with me, because it answered all my questions about love.

Scott Peck says that "Falling in love" is effortless. But it is not equivalent to "loving". "Loving" requires effort. Love is a decision. Love is an action, an activity.

He says that what is commonly called love is actually cathexis. But for true love to develop, a certain amount of cathexis is necessary.

Instead of trying to explain further, I will reproduce a part of a succinct review by Laura Bryannan.

...(Scott Peck) discusses the difference between being "in love" and love. He notes that love is not a feeling, but an activity, and defines it as "the willingness to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own and another's spiritual growth." He bemoans the rampant notion of romantic love that pervades society today, which holds that one is not truly in love unless one feels those incredible "I'm in love" feelings that we all know so well. He observes, "Many, many people possessing a feeling of love and even acting in response to that feeling act in all manner of unloving and destructive ways. On the other hand, a genuinely loving individual will often take loving and constructive action toward a person he or she consciously dislikes..."

He teaches to be suspect of the familiar "in love" feeling for two reasons: 1) "The experience of falling in love is specifically a sex-linked erotic experience," which he believes may be genetically coded in us to insure the perpetuation of the species; and 2) "The experience of falling in love is invariably temporary...the feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes."

I wonder how many relationships end, or never get started, because the partners feel genuine connection and communication together, but don't feel "in love." ....

Now to answer the question, "Can we choose to fall in love", I will take three situations:
(This is from only one perspective. Needless to say, you need two to tango.)

Situation 1
Guy is interested in girl. Girl feels undeniable attraction. But somewhere at the back of her mind, she knows that this guy is not good for her (whatever the reason is). So she can hold back. She can resist the sweeping emotions. If she is strong enough, she can step back from the flood of emotions, and not fall in love. But if the attentions and adulation of the guy is very intense and continuous, and if the girl is not very strong-willed, if she cannot swim against the currents of her own feeling, she can very easily be swept up in it and fall in love. So though she knows the guy is not good for her, she has fallen in love with him.

Here, after the first high of "having fallen in love" fades away (yes, it will), she might find that it was a grave mistake after all. Then the relationship might break down. Of course, she might even find that what she thought would be an issue, was not an issue at all, and she might have grown to love him, and in that case, all's well that ends well.

Situation 2
Guy is interested in girl. Girl does not feel any particular attraction or attachment. She likes the guy, and thinks he is a very good person, and respects him. But that's it. But she can think, "He is a good person, I am sure I will be happy with him." So she decides to love him. But she cannot "fall in love" with him. (Maybe she can, too, but I am not so sure about it). But she can grow to love him.

In this case, the girl might never experience the high of having "fallen in love", but that does not mean that she does not love the guy.

Situation 3
Guy is interested in girl. Girl is interested in guy. She has no qualms, she knows that he is the best person for her. She very easily falls in love with him.

If, during the high of having "fallen in love", she has also grown "to love" the person, then what else do you want? But I am not saying that this situation will definitely have a happy ending. She might discover things about him which she did not know, and she might realize that she cannot love him after all!

Back to the question. Can you choose to fall in love? I think that you can choose to resist "falling in love", but you might not be able to choose, or force yourself to "fall in love". But you can definitely choose "to love".

At this point, if you are brimming with questions, I strongly recommend "The Road Less Travelled".


ANKIT said...

@I think that you can choose to resist "falling in love", but you might not be able to choose, or force yourself to "fall in love". But you can definitely choose "to love".

superb post...a jughead like me never had thought about love from this angle..!

Anonymous said...

yen hudgiro yakhing aadtiro loveu loveu loveu antha kanniridthiro ;)

Shruthi said...

Ankit: Thank you :) And oh, neither had I thought of it this way until I read that book! :)

Anon: Firstly, navenu kanneridalla, secondly, hudguru kooda haage aadthare, helkolalla ashte! :D

Anonymous said...

Same Old Anon: Just one word to describe your post....Profound....

And oh btw, would have written to you had I known ur id, btw, can I write to you using the id on u still use the same it active.....

Shruthi said...

Same old anon: Profound? I am assuming that it is a good thing :)
Yes, you can write to me at the yahoo id!

Chitra said...

How true!! "Falling in love" and "being in love" - poles apart!!

Anu said...

If I remember right Scott Peck says that sooner or later people fall 'out of love' and that is when the real love has to begin. When all the undesirable characteristics in the other person begins to be noticed, if you continue to be loving....well, that is love. Good post Shru.

Shruthi said...

Chitra: Yup, or rather "Falling in love", and "to love" :) But of course, it depends on how you express it, too! You can "be in love" when you love :D

Anu: Yesss that's right! Fall "out of love". When you tolerate the annoying or undesirable characters, and still are able to love the person, that is called love! Thanks :)

Anonymous said...


What a coincidence! I read the 'The road less travelled' a few days back and was thinking about the fresh insight he brings in! Now I have turned a firm believer in the philosophy that nothing comes easy and so does not love! Commitment and effort is required in all relationships and its not all magic, as Karan Johar and company would have us believe!

Nice summary and explanation of the situations!

Supremus said...

1) "The experience of falling in love is specifically a sex-linked erotic experience,"

-- I absolutely disagree with that wierd statement; at once it is clear that whoever wrote that book obviously corelates Love to Sex, which I am afraid is not the case.

Well, abt love itself? mmmh - I love these two lines from a recent song, which perhaps say it all. The song is "Life is Beautiful" by Jason Mraz - the two lines in that song are:

"It takes no time to fall in love, but it takes years to realize what love is".

I dont think it could have been put better :)


Shruthi said...

Shreyas: Coincidence indeed! :) Heh heh.. about Karan Johar and co... you put it beautifully :D

Suyog: Those two lines certainly sum it up beautifully!
But one thing. IF the author hears that you think he is equating love with sex, he will rotate in his grave, at 1000 rpm. :)
Because that, among other things, is exactly what he has set out to disprove.
What he says is that the experience of the "high" of falling in love is a sex-related experience. Note the difference between your statement and mine.
If you believe in ""It takes no time to fall in love, but it takes years to realize what love is"., then do read this book. I am sure you will know what I mean.

The Avenger !!! said...

superb shruths this cant be any better. btw wht question did chitzz ask :-) ??

Swathi Sambhani aka Chimera said...

i havent read this book, but yes having experienced genuine love twice, herez my two cents:

** love doesnt happen overnight -it is a process of discovering how u relate to each other and then slowly u start getting attracted towards the other -that is when the realization dawns on u -it is not a planned activity and there is no rationale behind it!it jus happens

Manasi said...

I still dont think it is possible to explain the phenomenon of love. Even after reading the exrtact I feel something's not being siad. Don't know what. Probably becuase i am foolishly romantic ;)

Shruthi said...

Sudhir: Thanks! :) Chitra asked, "Can we choose to fall in love?" :)

Swathi: Oh yes, that's what I am trying to say - that true love is not what we think it is - the fluttering heartbeats, the euphoria... it takes time. :)

Manasi: Like I said in my post, "But the closest I have come to see it being defined is by M.Scott Peck in A Road Less Travelled." :))
HE himself says that this is the best he can do :)
You know Manasi, if you are such a romantic, I strongly urge you to go read this book. It's not only about love - its about various other facets of life. It's worth a read.

Anonymous said...

Same Old Anon: Sent to your Gmail account.....

Anonymous said...

falling in love is a natural phenomenon -- sexual!

"to love" means love has been conceptualized as divine and this is something superimposed on nature n most cases doesnt survive long... theres the conflict running all the time. its a neurotic behavior to put an effort to love.

love implies division -- dont u see we require 2 ppl there to realize this mental concept!
2 means conflict.

coming to knowing love etc... "probably", the knowledge of love is irrelevant for a true lover. if true love is there, the true lover can never talk about it, since he cant seperate it from himself...

-- CSP, Not my words thoughts though...

Love is a four letter word -- UG

Anonymous said...

Check out:
8. The Build-Up of Sex and Love: Conversation with a Sex Therapist

From the book, "NO WAY OUT"

Nirwa Mehta said...

Love is beyond me! :-)

Very well written post, though! :-)

Before anyone misunderstands me, I am not against love.. It's beyond me perhaps because I've never been smitten by the love bug! :-)


Enigma said...

interesting one

anoop said...

had read this book 1 1/2 years back. When I read that book: everything looked new, radical, refreshing, began to wonder why no one had thought about such simple things in life like LOVE. This book has contributed a lot to what I am today and the way I think. And I wanted all my near and dear ones to read this book, suggested this book to quite a few of them, but this fell on deaf ears. I guess that is what you are doing in this post, you want others to experience this book as much as you have. Then, I didnt know what a blog was, if i had would have blogged about it too!

I did appreciate the point you are trying to prove in this post. But i felt that, the situations are well conceived to prove the theorem that you have later put up: [I think that you can choose to resist "falling in love"........ But you can definitely choose "to love".]

I may be wrong, but what i feel is: if you can resist "falling in love" , it implies that you can no longer "fall in love" also.

comments, s'il vouz plait.

Kartik Shankar said...

Love, imho, is a very complex condition of the human brain caused by hormonal imbalances which in turn in fuelled by physical(either conscious or beyond) reactions.

While it feels good to be in love, it is in our best interests to realise and appreciate the fact that it is nothing but the result of chemicals in our brain playing with each other ;)

Ok, dont bite my head off, Im in a bummy mood today yaar, but what the heck, I didnt say ne thing wrong na?

And for all those google aficionados, here's something to chew on:



Interesting indeed to say the least,but i guess the author has put it in a way which the common guy can get it .i mean people in general


But when you fall in love it is a high that i feel nothing else can give you .It is my view though.

"Sigmund frued the famous psychology guru says "Love is a state wherein one becomes loses the logical reasoning that one normally does when not in love "

I am not exagerating,these are the extracts that i am quoting

Shruthi said...

Same old anon: Thanks a ton for the emai l:)

Anon: That was slightly beyond me - the "love implies division" part :o - i guess i need to give it more thought :)
Thanks for the link. Will check it out.
Btw what is "CSP" and "UG"??

Nirwa: Oh no problem, take your time :D and enjoy it ;)

Enigma: Thank you!

Shruthi said...

Anoop: Merci :) You have recognized just what I am going through.. screaming my head off, trying to get people to read the book, just because I think it is so wonderful, such fresh thinking and so thought-provoking! :)
I understand what you are trying to say, but I think I tend to differ. I feel that once you realize what the experience of "falling in love" is, you immediately realize that you are falling in love, and so you can consciously resist it if you think it is not good for you.
But as for not able to fall in love at all (if that is what you mean?)... I think you mean that now that you know that the stage of "falling in love" is not true love, you can rise above it and not fall in love at all.
I don't think that is possible, because I think "falling in love" is an unconscious decision. If you find a great person and find yourself getting attracted, then you can very well let go, and enjoy the wonderful "high" that "falling in love" brings along with it.
I hope I understood your question, and I hope if I did, this explains what I think about it.
Do let me know!

KK Heh heh, what you said is perfectly true, KK! Nobody is going to bite ur head off :) But while you are in love, if you choose to keep reminding urself that this is just chemicals at work, then you are spoiling it for yourself- heh heh ;))
why do u say best interests? If you know that you are in love with someone special, who you want to be with all the time, you might as well sit back and enjoy it ;)
Interesting link, btw.

Stalag Sukhoi: Yes, you are right, it is indeed a wonderful high. And yeah, maybe Freud has a point, that is why people tend to look silly to us when they are in love .. heh heh ;)) - But for them who are in love, its a wonderful thing!

anoop said...

You want to have the best of both worlds. :) i.e. you want to practice seizure when you think this feeling of "falling in love" is being mislead, but, you want to let it go when you think that the feeling is in the right track.

Once you have purged yourself of this feeling of "falling in love", this feeling itself becomes a phony feeling for your conscious mind. I have no idea how anyone can derive a high on a fraudulent feeling, which they no longer trust anymore !!

But, Im sure there will be a different kind of high. The high derived from "TRUE LOVE", and this will be able to over ride the high generated by "falling in love", also one may not be able to notice this high caused by the latter feeling..

interested in counter arguments..

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that you start by questioning what is love.

I think I'll check out the book!

A quote by Ayn Rand:

To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I’.
- Ayn Rand

But here is an article that showed that even that can be a means to love!


For Anon, here are two more links...

On Being In And Making Love! -Suresh Jois

JK on marriage and sex

May or may not be adding value to what you've already provided, I haven't read those yet but probably will have a look sometime.

Anonymous said...

He notes that love is not a feeling, but an activity, and defines it as "the willingness to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own and another's spiritual growth."

This was a nice quote. This makes me think - love needs more intensity than we normally put in our life.

There's another interesting site


Anonymous said...

UG = UG krishnamurti
CSP = my name ;-p

Shruthi said...

Anoop: LOL @ best of both worlds :)
I totally understand what you mean when you say that having realized what it is, you cannot trust the 'phony feeling" any longer.
I wouldn't call it a phony feeling, because I think this feeling is a precursor of what is to come, and is pretty useful.
If there are three guys who are great but the girl doesn't really feel any "love" feeling towards any of them, what is her motivation to get to know them? (i.e. assuming is that she is not desperately looking for a guy, but is happy with her life). But if she gets the "love" feeling towards even one of them, then she makes an effort to get to know, and then love that person. [this is what Scott Peck calls has been wired in us, to ensure propagation of species]
Looked at in one angle, it might be phony, but it is definitely useful, in my opinion. And in my opinion, even though you know that what you are going through is temporary and phony, it is enjoyable nevertheless. (From personal experience!)
And about the "high" of true love, I agree with you. The "high" of falling in love is very noticeable, and very exciting, but at the same time, it is full of jitters, insecurities, doubts - it is a state of agitation.
But after the transition to true love, it is a state of peace, contentment, happiness, and immense security and assurance in the knowledge of love. As you say, this "high" is not noticeable because it is subtle, but it really stays.

Sanjay Thanks for the links! I went through them, they are very interesting, but they need much more time and concentration than what I have currently. Will look at them in detail.
Knowing you, I am sure you will enjoy the book I am talking about. Not only does it give perspectives about love, it also talks about discipline in life, religion and its role, and grace. If I write this, it might sound boring, but it is not. It does not look at discipline as the army kind of discipline, nor at religion as the kind we know of. It is all fresh and new, very inspiring.
Just to give an example, talking about discipline, he says,
"When you are on a bicycle riding down a slope, it is exhilarating, a wonderful feeling. But even in the midst of that experience, you should exert a little discipline, to make sure that you don't fall off the bicycle. Because if that little discipline is not there, you will suffer for months, all for a few seconds of thrill".

Anon: Oh, thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Beauty is all very well at first sight; but who ever looks at it when it has been in the house three days?
– George Bernard Shaw

Often we try to build relationships on what is pleasing to us, particularly on physical attraction. But if there is anything sure about physical attraction, it is that it has to change. We cannot build on it; its very nature is to come and go.

Physical attraction is a sensation – here one minute and gone the next. Love is a relationship. It is pleasant to be with someone who is physically attractive, but how long can you enjoy an aquiline nose? How long can you thrill to the timbre of a voice when it doesn’t say what you like? It’s very much like eating: no matter how much you are attracted to chocolate pie, there is a limit to how much of it you can enjoy. Beyond that limit, if somebody merely mentions chocolate, your stomach stages a revolt.

If you want to build a relationship, build it on what endures. To build on a firm foundation, we have to stop asking, “What do I like?” and ask only, “What can I give?” Then there is joy in everything, because there is joy in the relationship itself – in ups and downs, through the pleasant and the unpleasant, in sickness and in health.

Source: Thought For The Day - from Eknath Easwaran

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