Wednesday, March 28, 2007

hooked on a feeling......

Surprise! Betcha didn't expect to actually see a new post. I've been having a difficult time finding a topic - and the motivation - to post about. Yesterday I was reading this post and found I had a few things to say about it. (Chani amended the post to narrow it's focus, my comments are not similarly limited in scope.)

"Love is a behavior, not a feeling".

I started with the assumption that behavior is learned and feelings are innate. I believe that love springs from a capacity we are born with. Someone in a comment somewhere, in response to the statement above, asked, what about the love a mother has for her child? I assert that it is innate. The human animals are programmed for self-preservation. But we also will die to protect our children. Jumping in the path of a bus to push our kids out of the way without regard to the danger to ourselves is not a behavior, it is instinctive. This instinct overrides the instinct for self-preservation. We are born with the capacity to love, the instinct to love. At it's purest, it is selfless - as in the case of protecting our kids from danger. I believe we can have this kind of love for other people - not just our children. I don't want to get into "we were fated to be together" or "one true love" because I don't know if we always know that to be the case. (It may can turn out to be the case, though.) What else keeps two people together when everything would tear them apart except for some innate feeling? Logic telling you that it won't work and your "heart" telling you it will. Or the opposite - loving someone enough to let them go, placing their needs above yours.

This isn't to say that everyone's capacity for love is the same. Not everyone can play an instrument or can play sports or can paint. You can teach someone to do these things, but unless they have a "talent" for it - an innate ability for it - they won't rise above a certain level.

We can also learn how to place others above ourselves, and this could also be called love - but maybe deserves another appellation? Chani's post I think is more about this and describes it better than I can. This is the "love" that is a behavior. Our instinct is to selfishness (self preservation) and with no overriding instinct (the love I describe above) we have to learn to override it. It isn't instinctual, it is considered - but can become automatic through training/learning (a la pavlov and his dogs!). I wish it were instinctual, then good people like Jen wouldn't be at their wits end trying to help others. The world would be a much better, happier place if everyone could learn this love.

16 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

jen said...

Ok, dude. Blogger ate my comment twice now, and it is obviously an act of love to try one more time.

Seriously, I love how you took Chani's thoughts and ran with them. I am more inclined to think we all do have the same capacity for love, and yet we've not been allowed to maximize it.

The question is how do we do that? Frankly, I have no idea (lately) so will be interested to see what others come up with.

Thanks for a great post, friend.

Bones said...

love is such a crappy word. We only have one word for it, but i certainly dont love french fries the same way i love my wife or love my wife the same way i love the red sox. The greeks do it much better with eros, agape, philos and storge.

meno said...

I want to disagree with a couple of your points, but not in any serious way.

"I started with the assumption that behavior is learned and feelings are innate." Some behavior is innate. That's all.

"But we also will die to protect our children." This is true in the majority of cases, but sadly, not all parents care this much, or at all.

If the emotion of love is there, and the loving actions are not, i do not call that love. That's what Chani's statement means to me.

Nice post. Your last paragraph is exquisite. The world would indeed be a happier place.

Mother of Invention said...

I agree with Meno. The behaviours that we think mean love may not be sincere,in fact they may be just to impress others or the object (person)of their love. There may be no true feeling of love in these actions, devoid of emotion.

I don't believe all feelings are innate. Many are learned responses to chemistry, general appeal and actions. Feelings are along a broad spectrum from weak to very strong, and this is often built up gradually. They may be reinforced and made stronger by positive behaviours.

Conversely,and this is where I diverge from Meno's opinion, there may be true feelings of love without the typical actions of love due to various reasons. Perhaps they have never learned the behaviours that we use to express love or they don't feel comfortable executing them.

I'm in agreement with Meno on her point that not all parents care innately...same as some species eat their young.

Bob said...

Jen - you cracked me up. Third time was a charm, huh?

I wish I had an answer for you, I'm waiting for what others have to say too.

Bones - I agree. Isn't there someplace up north where the people have a huge number of words for snow? wet snow, dry snow, packed snow, huge flakes, powder, etc. etc? Love is such an overused word it loses its impact when it is most needed.

Thanks for the comment.

Meno - I was hoping someone wouldn't call me on that. You are right, there are innate as well as learned behaviors. (Trying to) keep my arguments cogent I chose not to refer to that.

I also agree that some "parents" don't care for their children - these are deviants that are born without this vital capacity. I can't understand people like that.

I'm not sure I understand someone having the emotion of love without corresponding loving actions. Do they really have the emotion?

Bob said...

Moi - I was afraid I was going to get into this! I am probably over-generalizing in this post. The gist of my argument is that someone can't learn to love a child or how to love that significant other in their life. They can learn how to treat them well, how to care for them and to be a good partner/parent - but they are missing the innate capacity for spontaneous love.

I think that Bones has a good point in that we are overusing the word love. Can you call the learned behavior of caring for others love? That seems to be the only word we currently have for it.

As for feelings not being innate - I don't think that I agree with you there. If our feelings are responses to chemical reactions, it is still a function of how we are made - which is innate. I don't think we can change how our body reacts to certain chemicals. Some people's propensity for addiction, for instance, is a function of their chemistry. On the other hand, taking SSRI's for depression - we are boosting our body's levels of seritonin and are correspondingly feeling better. The good feellngs are a direct result of the chemicals in your body, which is how our body is designed to work - innate.

Thank you so much for your comment, I am being forced to think through this.

Thailand Gal said...

Bob, reading your post and the comments here... one thing occurs to me. Much of how we respond to certain emotions is acculturated. In other words, one culture might be taught to respond to puppies with warmth and fuzziness. In other cultures, it's acceptable to eat them. They're just another food source.

All this to say that emotions in and of themselves are neutral. How we respond to them and act on them is the real issue.

I believe all human beings come with a basic "software" and that includes certain emotions. It is socialization and acculturation that create the practice of them.

When I talk about love as a behavior, that is what I'm basically saying.

English isn't entirely devoid of words that mean "love" of one type or another. Adulation, affection, allegiance, amity, amorousness, amour, appreciation, ardency, ardor, attachment, cherishing, crash, crush, delight, devotedness, devotion, enchantment, enjoyment, fervor, fidelity, flame, fondness, friendship, hankering, idolatry, inclination, infatuation, involvement, like, liking, lust, mad for, mash, partiality, pash, passion, piety, rapture, regard, relish, respect, sentiment, taste, tenderness, the hots, weakness, wild for*, worship, yearning, zeal. Those are just a few. :)



patches said...

It's a shame many view love is a word devoid of action, they challenge the sanity of those who "work" at love.

Lee said...

I've been thinking about this all day and I wish I had something profound to say, but as usual, I'm kind of tongue tied. I will say though, that in evaluating what I think of "love" all day, I kept coming back to connections. I "love" those with whom I share mutual connections. For me, it is the give and take of understanding, joy, sadness and all those experiences in between. It all comes down to those we choose to share our lives with.

urban-urchin said...

I've been thinking about this.... I believe we are born with the capacity to love, and a number of things (nuture, brain chemistry, etc) factor in to whether that develops and or not. I've been reading and it breaks my heart to see how many parents do not have the capacity to love their children.

Jeremiah said...

You hit it with "selfish". Selfish is not a bad thing. It is pretty much the only way we can judge things. We compare the value we put on our own life to the life of others and we make our decision based on that. Is it important that I survive, and he dies, or is it important that we both survive, or is it important that they survive, and I don't? The decision can vary from a good one, to one that is horribly misinformed. But, it is always based on the individual making the decision.

Sober Briquette said...

I'm struggling with a response for this one because I have a strong feeling there is a "right" answer, but I'm not educated enough in biology and psychology to formulate it.

Thought provoking stuff.

Bob said...

Chani - I agree, we are acculturated to respond to stimuli in certain ways. What I would suggest is that, instead of being born with neutral emotions that are then shaped by our environment/culture; we are born with emotions that aren't neutral that are then shaped by our environment/culture. In your example of how dogs are viewed by different cultures, I suggest that humans have an innate desire to protect our young, and puppies fall into the purview of that desire. The societies that treat dogs as a source of food acculturate their members to disregard that desire as it applies to dogs. Look at how the american culture responds to calves vs. cows. In general, even in those who raise them, calves engender sympathy in people, whereas cows in general engender a desire for a good steak.

As for your brief thesaurus above - you are entirely correct. It is up to us to use the correct term for the correct emotion being expressed and stop using the word love for each of those.

patches - I entirely agree. some people speak the word love as if it is, or it isn't. It devalues its currency as a statement for the closest of feelings we can have for one another, the basis of a relationship that takes a lifetime to build. We should start using more nuanced terms to express our feelings for each other.

Lee - no one says you have to be profound to comment! I appreciate your point of view, no matter what your comment is. Love is used to encompass so many things. I think this is part of the reason there is such a debate as to what it is. Having said that(!), I like what you said about it being about whom we choose to share our life with.

urban-urchin - I think you are saying much of what I am, just much more concisely.

I am afraid to go to the website you mention, I already see too much in our media with regard to how cruelly children can be treated.

Jeremiah - you make a good point. We start with our own frame of reference, we interpret events through the filters of our own experiences. And I agree that this isn't by definition bad, it is a statement of fact. But - we can choose to modify those filters to include the experiences of others. I believe that a measure of our humanity is our ability to take other points of view into account. In other words, to overcome this selfishness.

Thanks for your comment.

De - I struggled for a day or so before deciding to write this post just for the reason you stated. I am no sociologist, biologist, psychologist, behaviorist, or what ever discipline covers human emotional development. So I don't know the science behind our emotional development nor its terminology. But I thought I'd take a crack at it anyway.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mist1 said...

I need to work on my behaviors. My feelings do their own thing.

Bob said...

mist1 - can this behavioral work effect future feelings?