What Defines Love, Even As It Defines Us?

Love. No emotion is as all-encompassing or as ill-defined as love. During this month, I’m going to ask for your help, in fact I would love for you to help me define love. Not only romantic love, the pink-and-red hearts-and-flowers that Valentine’s Day has become, but family love, the love of friends, and what happens to us holistically when we’re not getting enough…of love.

Let’s pause for a second. I’m going to ask you right now to, after you read this sentence, close your eyes, get focused, and ask yourself, when you use the word love, what are you essentially talking about? {now you can close your eyes} OK, what was the first word or image that popped into your head? Think of this as a word association game. Whatever you came up with, however odd, symbolizes what runs underneath your efforts to bond with others. Keep it in mind this month, and if you want, let me know what you got, in the comments section below; if you don’t want me to share this info, let me know and we’ll keep it between ourselves. That may be for the best!

What has love to do with trauma, the area in which I specialize? Bessel Van Der Kolk, one of the leading voices in trauma treatment internationally, has long expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of inclusion of a particularly poignant symptom of PTSD:  Isolation. Even those with good-enough experiences growing up, after an overwhelmingly stressful event, start to pull away from friends and family. In my work with couples, one of the chief complaints is that one member withdraws. And for my clients who are barely surviving horror-story childhoods, the uncomfortable dance between the suffocating fear they feel around people and the terrible void they feel at being alone mimics the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof.

Where are you in this mix?  What did you get when you closed your eyes? and what do you think is the most important to consider, when we consider love? Remember, I’ll only post your answers if you don’t tell me not to!



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