Love is a complex word and can mean so many different things to different people. The Ancient Greeks used multiple words to help understand the different meanings. It is generally thought that they had four main words that described the different types of love:
Agape – Love for everyone
Phileo – Deep friendship
Storge – Long standing love
Eros – Sexual and romantic love
Do we ever stop and ask ourselves what kind of love we are showing and how it is being interpreted?
For example, do we show the same love to our friends as to our children and should that love be different?
What love were we shown when we were growing up? How has that influenced how we show love to others?
Agape – Love for everyone.
What does that mean and how do you achieve love for everyone?
What about when people hurt us? Should we really love the guy with the dog who is begging?
And yet giving financially to causes is at a record level. We see need and we show care. This is Agape love at it’s best. It’s not personal; as we often don’t really know the people we are helping. The hard bit is showing Agape love to the people closest to us.
That’s where Phileo love comes in. Deep friendship. Love the people we know. It takes you up a notch from Agape. This is personal. Friends can, and sometimes do, let us down. We don’t mean to hurt people but it happens. Deep friendship overcomes the hurt and accepts people as they are. It forgives.
Then there’s Storge – long standing love. It’s the love given unconditionally. It accepts that we have flaws and faults and allows forgiveness. This love enables its receivers to feel safe and secure, valued and loved. You see it between partners who have been together for a long time. They accept each other’s differences and don’t feel threatened by them. This is the love we need to show to our children to enable them to flourish.
The last one is Eros – sexual and romantic love. This is high-octane love; a love that makes everything pale into insignificance. It happens at the start of a new relationship and then gets forgotten about as the mundaneness of life takes over. Many relationships flounder for lack of keeping a portion of this alive.
Of course a crucial part of love is having fun and the enjoyment of life. Finding enjoyment in the small things. Using your senses, such as: listening to birds singing, feeling the touch of the warmth of the sun on your face, watching the waves come and go at the beach, or listening to the wind rustling through the trees. These can nourish you and enable you to pass pleasure on to others.
The four different kinds of love help us think about love in terms of loving others. However, to do that means we must have an understanding of loving ourselves. This is the tricky bit. Love of self. We think we know ourselves; we think we know what we are really like. We have those dripping messages running through our heads, the ones we have grown up with and that have taken hold of us. The thoughts that come unbidden to us, diminishing our sense of self. How can we love ourselves when we think we know what we are like?
However, this is crucial.
How can we not love ourselves?
How can we not forgive ourselves?
When we look at these 4 types of love, should we not first think about this in relationship to our self?
What about loving everyone? Can we see ourselves as being worthy of love by others?
Do we see ourselves as deserving deep friendship?
If our closest relationships have broken down, whether with partners or children, do we see ourselves as being ineligible for long standing love?
Lastly where does sexual and romantic love fit into it all?
When do we participate in the enjoyment and fun in life?
Can we love ourselves? Can we recognise that much of how we see ourselves was given to us through others people’s words and actions.
Once we can stop seeing the negatives about ourselves, and start to recognise the positives, we can begin to change some of the messages we are constantly giving ourselves.
What kind of parent are we?
How do our children interpret what we say and do?
If our sense of who we are, is: ‘bad things happen to us’, then how are we going to be able to value and love our children? How do we provide reasonable and appropriate boundaries for our children?
On page 98 of ‘Parenting a violent child’ there is a questionnaire designed to help you consider the type of parent you are. Be brave and fill it in honestly. It could provide you with some clues of where you need to focus your energies.
L – Listen
O – Observe
V – Visualise
E – Energise
Listen to yourself and to your child.
Observe, both yours and your child’s feelings and observe the motives behind what is being said and done.
Visualise how you want things to be. Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.
Energise yourself to be the kind of parent you wish you had had.