When we travel, we discover a new cultural version of the map of the land of Tenderness. Each country, each culture has its own conception of love, its own art of loving.
What is love? How to love? Is there an art of loving?
On my first trip abroad, I discovered Erich Fromm’s book, The art of loving, in a nice library bar. It was placed at the top of a pile of books located next to the dance floor. Between us, it was love at first sight. I broke the rules, and I discreetly slipped this magnificent essay in my canvas bag. Without allowing other people to discover this book, it will at least have the merit of introducing this article.
This book offers a psychological and philosophical approach to love. It allows us to open up to the notion of love and its different forms of expression. Also, in a more personal way, it confronts us with our way of loving, and gives us the keys to understanding the origin of our behavior and our sentimental choices.
The art of loving
The first part attempts to define the notion of love and the different forms that are related to it: brotherly love, motherly and fatherly love, erotic love, self-love, love of God. It is an interesting introduction that allows a holistic approach to love, but also a more personal entry into the subject because each of the dimensions mentioned echoes our intimacy.
The second part of this essay question our way of loving, integrating it into the society in which we live. A consumerist society, from which our sentimental life is no exception. Love is no longer understood as a state of being, but as a state of having.
As a result, most of us are in a passive, egotistical way of loving: wanting to be loved, meeting the right person, falling in love. However, the author reminds us that love is not a passive experience. Rather, it is an active state that expresses and develops from within.
What does it mean to approach love as a state of having?
To approach love as a state of having is to accentuate its neurotic forms:
Among them, unconditional love, idolatrous love, sentimental love, projective love.
There are those who love themselves through the other, those who forget themselves in the love of the other.
Also those who love platonically, by proxy, failing to be able to experience it in matter.
There are those who project their imperfections and faults onto others to avoid facing their interiority, or for fear of opening up to a relationship that is outside of their reference system.
There are those who project their desires and cravings because they are not able to achieve wholeness on their own.
There are those who are a bit of all that.
But then, how can we approach the experience of love?
According to Erich Fromm, three essential principles define true love:
Love is expressed by the faculty of loving, not by the object of love.
It’s about giving to others, unselfishly.
Love is a state of being and not of having.
To love therefore begins by making an alliance with oneself.
Then, it is not about looking for a partner to fill a need, but simply to be a partner, a life companion.
Finally, the experience is real when the person we love appreciates, shares and reflects our way of loving.
« Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice. » Erich Fromm
What about in practice?
By Camille Perrusson