What Is Love? | Psychology Today

Hopefully, we have all experienced lots of love. What is love? I’ve come to the conclusion that love is more than just an emotion. It seems to me that love is also a force that shows us reality. To explore this idea further, I will present what three important and insightful thinkers have said about love to see if their thoughts support mine.

Experts on Love

Sigmund Freud, in his book Civilization and Its Discontents, writes that “at the height of being in love the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away. Against all the evidence of his senses from him, a man who is in love declares that ‘I’ and ‘you’ are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact. Freud, who was an astute observer of the mind, appears to be saying that love acts as a force that melts away the perceived boundary between ego and object. Is there an actual boundary between a lover and the object loved or is that perceived boundary an illusion? This post will argue, based on one of the accepted interpretations of quantum mechanics, that the perceived boundary is illusory.

Rumi, a 13th-century Sufi mystical poet, is considered an expert on love. Here is some of what he’s written about love:

  1. “Why struggle to open a door between us when the whole wall is an illusion?”
  2. “If I love myself, I love you. If I love you, I love myself.”
  3. “Love is the bridge between you and everything.”
  4. “This is a subtle truth: Whatever you love, you are.”

Let’s explore these four Rumi quotes. In the first quote, Rumi is saying that a lover does not have to struggle to open a door between themselves and their beloved because the separation between the lover and the loved is an illusion. In the second quote, Rumi says that the lover and object of love are actually, at some level, the same thing. The third quote suggests that love is more than just a bridge between two sentient beings, it is also a bridge, or a force, that can establish a connection between a lover and everything else. The fourth quote makes it clear that the truth about love is subtle and therefore not what we might assume. According to Rumi, though it may be contrary to our experiences, whatever you love, you are.

Plato is considered by many to be the most important philosopher who ever lived. As such, I think it is important to consider what he had to say about love. Here are two quotes that sum up his views of him on love.

  • “Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature.”
  • “Love is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.”

Plato is telling us that love is a force that calls back what we are missing and tries to make us whole again. According to Plato, we are wounded. Love is the force that heals our wound.

My Definition of Love

In my attempt to understand what love is, here is what I have come up with: Love is both an emotion and a force that, as its intensity or its purity increases, increasingly dissolves the perceived, illusory boundary between subject and object. Taken to the extreme, this melting away, this diminishing, of the false perception of a boundary between lover and loved culminates in an experience by the subject of becoming one with the object of her love. This definition assumes that the subject and its object are not, in reality, separate. It turns out that a number of well-respected physicists have interpreted quantum mechanics as saying that subject and object are not separate, they are actually one thing, consciousness.

Quantum Mechanics and Love

Erwin Schrödinger was a pioneer of quantum mechanics and won the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics. In his 1944 book of him, What is Life? and Mind and Matter, he wrote, “Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.” Being a subject that perceives an object implies that the subject possesses consciousness. I think Schrödinger would not disagree with the statement that not only are subject and object one thing but also that the consciousness of the subject and its object of perception are one.

Max Planck, winner of the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics, and considered by many to be the founder of quantum mechanics, in 1931 said, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.” Based on this, and on other things Planck said and wrote, I think it is safe to say that Planck would also not have a problem with the statement that the consciousness of the subject and its object of perception are one.

The physicists, Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, in their book about quantum mechanics, Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousnesswrite about “separability.”

“’Separability’ has been our shorthand term for the ability to separate objects so that what happens to one in no way affects what happens to others. Without separability, what happens at one place can instantaneously affect what happens far away—even though no physical force connects the objects … That our actual world does not have separability is now generally accepted, though admitted to be a mystery … Quantum theory has this connectedness extending over the entire universe…”

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If we extrapolate from what these physicists are telling us, I think it follows that subject and object, consciousness and its object of perception, are not separate. This is the crux of the quantum enigma.

Love Opens Our Eyes

Taken together, what can we deduce from what Freud, Rumi, Plato, and the physicists I’ve quoted have said about love and our universe? I think we can conclude that a lover and the object loved are ultimately not separated because both are the same thing: consciousness. Furthermore, the perceived separateness of lover and loved is a false perception. Love is a force that opens our eyes and shows us reality. In reality, we are all connected, we are all equal, we are all part of the same consciousness.

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