Love is Not a Feeling. What? You exclaim, of course, love is a feeling. I feel it in my chest, stomach and my body tingles sometimes. Yes, those are the physiological manifestations when one has the sensation of ‘falling in love.’
Falling in love and love are two different phenomena. Falling in love can be either a flash of emotions or a first step towards genuine love. “Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; it is a state of awareness, a way of being in the world, a way of seeing oneself and others.” -David R. Hawkins
Falling in love is a strong instinctive attraction to a person. If it is mutual and both people work at their relationship; one day that euphoric experience called, ‘falling in love,’ can grow into genuine love.
The falling in love phenomena is the call of one’s longing to belong, to cathect, but the object is instinctually chosen according to our ideals, dreams and etc., although one may not realize it. We usually fall in love with the person’s appearance, with the way she/he walks, the way he/she talks. Sometimes we impute to our object of love some mystic illusion, ideal qualities and the more we get to know the person the less we fall for him or her. That’s when the feeling of love disappears even faster than it appeared.
The more two persons get to know each other, the more comfortable they get; the less sharp, bright and exciting the falling in love experience is. Some couples continue their relationships and get married; some fall apart. It’s reasonable to say that more clothes in the closet and one more toothbrush in the bathroom is the end of the falling in love phase, but it also can be the beginning of genuine love.
The euphoric feelings we call ‘love’ is the emotion that accompanies the experience of cathecting. Cathecting is the process by which an object becomes important to a person. Once cathected, the object, often referred to as a ‘love object’ is invested with our energy as if it were a part of oneself, and this relationship between oneself and the invested object is called a cathexis. One’s cathexis may be fleeting and momentary. Genuine love implies commitment and exercise of wisdom. When one is concerned for someone’s spiritual and emotional growth, one knows that a lack of commitment is likely to be harmful and that commitment to that person is probably necessary for one to manifest one’s concern effectively. The concern and commitment to another’s spiritual and emotional growth is the purest form of love. It is for this reason that commitment is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship-friends, significant others, husband/wife.
Genuine love transcends the matter of cathexis. When love exists it does so with or without cathexis and with or without a loving feeling-those bursts of butterflies in the stomach, body tingling, etc.
It is easier-indeed, it is exhilarating-to love with cathexis and the euphoric feeling of love. However, it is possible to love without cathexis and without loving feelings, and it is in the fulfillment of this possibility that genuine and transcendent love is distinguished from simple cathexis. Genuine love is volitional rather than euphorically emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of ‘a decision to love.’ This person has made a commitment to ‘be loving,’ whether or not the loving feelings are present.
It can be difficult and painful to search for evidence of love in one’s actions, but because true love is an act of will that transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it can be said, “Love is as love does.” Love and non-love, as good and evil, are objective and not purely subjective phenomena.