Love and other drugs

By on January 31, 2012
As Valentine’s Day looms and people around the world turn their minds to love and chocolate, the movie title, Love and Other Drugs, got me thinking about the various types of love and the different kinds of “highs” they give us.

Romantic, erotic or sexual love is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of love. Because of its physical nature, this type of love is most “addictive”. Being near the object of one’s desires sends all kinds of juicy chemicals coursing through our veins. Being away from them creates a bittersweet longing that becomes sweeter or more bitter depending on whether said object has gone away for the weekend or decided to dump you for someone else. As great as the highs are with this kind of love, the biggest risk is that these highs keep you focused on the other person at the risk of neglecting yourself.

A pre-requisite for healthy romantic love, is a heaping helping of self love. I’m not talking about narcissism. This creates an artificial high based on an overly inflated sense of one’s own worth and abilities. Healthy self love – also known as self esteem – gives you a different kind of high. If we were to equate it with food, healthy self-esteem gives you the kind of high you get from eating a huge plate of veggies. Erotic love’s high is more like drinking a can of Coke, having a coffee or downing a "genki" drink. The latter “drugs” are okay in moderation, but without a consistent diet of veggies to balance it out, you are headed for trouble.
 
Next comes unconditional love – usually equated with the parent-child relationship. The reality of love in this context, however, is often far from unconditional. The growing field of counseling and psychotherapy is a testament to the very conditional love that all too many people received from their parents.

The Japanese word for this type of love – amae or “indulgent dependence” – is a far more accurate description of the kind of love between parents and children (and sets a far more realistic expectation of parents).

Unconditional love is an ideal to be aspired to by both the giver and the receiver as it gives different but equal highs to each. For the receiver, there is a sense of safety, security and comfort that comes from knowing that they will be loved no matter how big of a screw-up they might be at times. For the giver – in the difficult moments where they are able to truly offer love without conditions – there is the high that comes from rising above one’s baser needs, desires, fears and foibles to be able to be the “rock” for someone else. Unlike the high of romantic love, the “fix” you get from practicing unconditional love lasts much longer. Giving it becomes addictive in a good way – just like eating your self-love veggies. Receiving it builds a healthy “backbone” and the mental and spiritual strength to stand up for what you believe in and follow your passions regardless of what others may think.
 
My favorite type of love – ikigai – might not be an official type of love in many people’s books. Ikigai translates as “something one lives for”. I like to think of ikigai metaphorically as “the love of one’s hands” – like the love a master craftsman expresses through their passion, patience and dedication to to create a finished product. While not everyone produces a physical product, we all have the capacity (and the deep longing) to perfect our “craft”. Whether that craft is making objects, evolving ideas, or developing people, we all have a natural desire to discover and do work that we love. The “high” a person gets from finding and expressing their ikigai is similar to self-love in that it does not depend on any outside participation. It goes hand-in-hand with the other kinds of love as, according to Freud, the foundation of one’s health and humanness can be seen in their ability “to love and to work”. Without the grounding force that the work we love provides, the loving relationships in our life can pull us away from our true center. Without all of the other types of love, work that we love can become obsession.

As you are out there buying "giri choco" for your boss this month, I encourage you to contemplate which types of love you have in your life and to consider how you might expand your repertoire to include the full spectrum above.

Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide. Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance, and profits took shape.  A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive. Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech. She can be contacted through her website at  www.kyoseicoaching.com

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work helps individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. Learn about career and entrepreneur coaching programs (and download some free tools for meaningful work and living your purpose) at www.kyoseicoaching.com or their workplace transformation programs at www.kyoseiconsulting.com