By Asst. Prof. Lourdes Angela Florendo-Pinero, Chairperson, Psychology Department
The concept of love is not at all strange as it is ideally something that we encounter from the moment that we are born. Perhaps, however, it is also one of the phenomena human beings go through that cannot be contained in a “box” that is complete with instructions as to how to handle (and even maintain). There are many approaches to trying to understand love. Biologists and Neuropsychologists have their views. One general thought is love is a response of the brain and that it produces a physiological effect that makes the heart beat faster and gives that light headedness. Social Scientists will also have their own take on love. One psychological theory on love is the Triangular Theory developed by Robert Sternberg. He posits that love is made up of three components: intimacy, passion and commitment. Combinations of these three in all the possibilities become the different types of love (whether passionate, intimate, consummated or committed love, companionate love, friendship, empty, or fatuous love) or non-love. This is however, only a portion of the many and complex ways that scientists have done to help us understand love.
What is love, really? I am sure I am not the only one that has been caught dumbfounded by such a simple, short question. How does one really answer that? Perhaps it may require for one to take a phenomenological approach to be able to come up with a viable answer.
It will sound cliché but I believe I was born into a loving family. As a young child, love was what existed whenever we set our Sundays apart to spend lunch with my grandparents and great grandmother. Love was also that energy that existed between my mother and father. Moreover, it was also when they would hand me and my sisters a surprise when they came home from the office. Love was simply the comfort knowing that when you cried or were afraid of the dark someone bigger and stronger would be there.
When my father died, love became the sight of my mother doing all that she could to put us through school and to provide for the four of us sisters. It also was the assurance that an absence of a parent does not necessarily mean that the part where his love used to exist was also gone. Love then became the strong support of family and friends pitching in wherever they may be able to help for us to overcome such loss.
Adolescence ushered in the era of that profound question in Slumbooks, “What is love?” This is perhaps the first time when I actually had to produce an evidence of knowledge of love. To have that answer recorded on paper. However, even if years have been spent actually knowing and believing in its existence, there is also that awareness that this short question actually does not mean the way that I understand love from before. Sigmund Freud said that the period of development occupied by our years as adolescents actually marks the rest of our life. He calls it the genital stage wherein the focus in relating is really about building romantic ones. Yet it becomes very difficult to write down and point out what that kind of love means, thus I would usually turn to nonchalance and write “Love is like a bubblegum, kung mutapot makabuang” (Love is like a bubblegum that makes one crazy if it sticks). Of course that was not what I exactly understood of love yet it was the simplest way of getting out of that question.
Upon reaching adulthood maybe the bubblegum stuck to me sometimes but then there eventually turns out one that will stick for life. Erik H. Erikson, another Psychologist, identifies a crisis of identity against confusion during adolescents. He also adds that past adolescence, another crisis of identity and isolation will come in. However the former was resolved will affect the way that we will also relate in the next. Simply put he believed that finding one’s identity and being confident in the person that you have become will actually make it easy (or difficult) to become intimately related to another. On the day that my ex-boyfriend became my husband and the days leading to that, I guess I can be confident that I have been pretty much resolving the crises that I psycho-socially encountered positively.
Love once again changed for me when I heard the fast heartbeat of my son in my womb for the first time through the Doppler of the ultrasound. When I saw the ultrasound images of him fluttering his small arms and later on when I first felt him move and tumble and kick. It was another kind of love that I felt for a person whom I entirely did not know yet seemingly knew so well. The first cry and the first sight of him seemingly made me conclude that the unexplainable changes of how I understood love was what can simply be called a mother’s love.
In the days and years that follow how I understand even the love for my husband as I see him as a father also changes and has been changing. Moreover, the love that I have for my mother has taken a new light as well.
So I have resigned to the conclusion that the answer to the question “What is love?” really has to change so that our understanding of the phenomenon becomes fuller and more complete with every experience and every change that occurs in one’s lifetime.
Just this morning, I was watching my son’s eyes flutter to wakefulness as I whispered, “Ho chiaki (Good morning), my little boy.” He quietly turns his body towards me and sleepily replies, “Ho chiaki, Mommy. I love you.” And my heart melts and my day is made: love’s evolution once more proven to me.