PEORIA, Ill. --
Ah… Valentine’s Day. The day for roses, chocolate, Hallmark cards, dinner and dancing, romance and the many expressions of love. What are the special things that make you feel special? What do you really mean when you say you love someone, and how important is it to love yourself, or is that just psychological mumbo-jumbo and gobbledygook?
(Information was used from an article by YES! Magazine. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.)
In the United States, we tend to place a high priority on adult romantic, erotic love as a main factor for a fulfilling life. But did you know that the ancient Greeks had six different words to describe the types of love that were useful for a fulfilling life?
1. “Eros” described sexual passion and strong desire. This type of love was often not viewed in positive terms but, instead, seen as irrational and dangerous. It was connected with a sense of losing control or becoming “possessed” if not extremely careful.
2. “Philia” described a type of deep friendship that often developed as a result of sharing intense emotions and meaningful events with others; a comradery that created a kind of sacrificial loyalty.
3. “Ludus” was a playful love, similar to what we often see in the flirting and teasing stages of young love relationships.
4. “Agape” love was described as selfless. It was the kind of true “gift” kindness toward others that expected nothing in return. It is connected to the concepts of empathy and charity.
5. “Pragma” was mature, long-term relationship love, based on patience, tolerance, negotiation and compromise. It represented the ability to stand together, over time, understanding the need for give and take.
6. “Philautia”, or self-love, was subdivided into two types: unhealthy narcissistic self-obsession, with its demanding sense of entitlement and disregard for others, and healthy self-compassion, where knowing and liking one’s “self” led into a better ability to know and like others.
We could learn a thing or two from thinking more like the Greeks of old. It is likely that only a small percentage of us are involved in what we normally think of as a typical Valentine’s Day romantic love relationship. That can set us up for all sorts of unrealistic expectations and disappointments.
What if, instead, we thought of Valentine’s Day (or all days, for that matter) as an opportunity to practice the healthy aspects of any of the six types of love described above? Then, even in the absence of having a hot romance in our lives, we could enrich ourselves and others through the practice of loving and being loved.