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Love and attachment: contemporary issues and treatment considerations - Is It Love? Or Attachment? | Psychology Today


Did you ever experience the unsettling sense  that your sexual desires, romantic longings, and feelings of long-term emotional union  were racing down different tracks? And  perhaps ask yourself: Which of these is love?

“What t’is to love?” Shakespeare asked. Thousands of answers have been offered—but surprisingly few by biologists, including brain scientists. Perhaps at some level scientists share the poet’s conceit that love is ineffable, a human fifth dimension beyond reason’s ken. While scientists regard other complex emotional states such as depression, anxiety, or fear as complex, but not unfathomable, love is relegated to the poets and songsters.

Love is a powerful force; the vast majority of Americans marry. But the divorce rate in the United States is expected to reach 67 percent in the next decade. Currently, some 80 percent of divorced men and 72 percent of divorced women remarry; but 54 percent and 61 percent, respectively, divorce again. High divorce and remarriage rates are seen in many other cultures, as well. It is time to investigate the biology of this bittersweet experience we call love.

The secret to love is that it is the quality of our love for others , not how much someone loves us, that makes us happy. This means we don’t need to “find the right person” we just need to develop and improve our own love for as many people as we can. We may feel that we only really love a few people, but actually our potential to love is limitless! The more people we love, and the purer our love is, the happier we will be.

Love is often confused with attachment. One is a real cause of happiness and the other is an inner poison that eventually leads to pain and anger. If we ever want to enjoy good relationships, we must begin to recognize attachment and make our love real.

These two are easily confused, but it is vital to discriminate between them, because love will bring us only happiness while the mind of attachment will bring us only suffering…
–Eight Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

I’m often asked in therapy (with deep reluctance and trepidation) if it’s a pre-requisite of therapy to explore childhood issues. “That depends,” I say. “I have no desire to dwell in your past but I certainly believe that revisiting or exploring your past childhood relationships might help us both understand your current relationships and how you have come to view the world and the way in which you relate to it.”

Mary Ainsworth, (1913 –1999) an American born psychologist worked with John Bowlby researching maternal-infant attachments. She came to define attachment thusly:

“Attachment may be defined as an affectional tie that one person or animal forms between himself and another specific one – a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time. Attachment is not just a connection between two people; it is a bond that involves a desire for regular contact with that person and the experience of distress during separation from that person.”

One of the most important questions we come to in spiritual practice is how to reconcile service and responsible action with a meditative life that fosters non-attachment, letting go—one that sees the emptiness of all conditioned things. Do the values that lead us to actively give, serve, and care for one another differ from the values that lead us on a journey of liberation and awakening?

To consider this question, we must learn to distinguish between the four radiant abodes, the description of the awakened heart —love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity—and what might be called their “near enemies.” Near enemies may seem to be like these qualities and may even be mistaken for them, but they are not fundamentally alike. The near enemies depict how spirituality can be misunderstood or misused to separate us from life.

Wise spiritual life brings us to true connection. Instead of attachment, it grows with dedication and care, commitment and courage. It fosters genuine love (rather than attachment), compassion (rather than pity), joy (rather than jealousy), and equanimity (rather than indifference), and each of these beneficial qualities infuse our awareness. They enable us to open to and accept the truth of each moment, to feel our intimate connectedness with all things, and to see the wholeness of life. Whether we are sitting in meditation or sitting somewhere in protest, that is our spiritual practice in every moment.

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Love, as an emotion, seems to have multiple meanings depending on the context of its use. One meaning is a short-lived emotional state, such as a surge of passion or affection, but it is also used to denote a long-term experience in that state towards a particular person. In this sense it is possible to express or suppress feelings of love just as one can do the same with feelings of fear, joy, or sadness (Shaver & Hazan, 1988). The word 'love' in emotive language is used flexibly, meaning both fleeting feelings and those of a more permanent nature.

Did you ever experience the unsettling sense  that your sexual desires, romantic longings, and feelings of long-term emotional union  were racing down different tracks? And  perhaps ask yourself: Which of these is love?

“What t’is to love?” Shakespeare asked. Thousands of answers have been offered—but surprisingly few by biologists, including brain scientists. Perhaps at some level scientists share the poet’s conceit that love is ineffable, a human fifth dimension beyond reason’s ken. While scientists regard other complex emotional states such as depression, anxiety, or fear as complex, but not unfathomable, love is relegated to the poets and songsters.

Love is a powerful force; the vast majority of Americans marry. But the divorce rate in the United States is expected to reach 67 percent in the next decade. Currently, some 80 percent of divorced men and 72 percent of divorced women remarry; but 54 percent and 61 percent, respectively, divorce again. High divorce and remarriage rates are seen in many other cultures, as well. It is time to investigate the biology of this bittersweet experience we call love.

The secret to love is that it is the quality of our love for others , not how much someone loves us, that makes us happy. This means we don’t need to “find the right person” we just need to develop and improve our own love for as many people as we can. We may feel that we only really love a few people, but actually our potential to love is limitless! The more people we love, and the purer our love is, the happier we will be.

Love is often confused with attachment. One is a real cause of happiness and the other is an inner poison that eventually leads to pain and anger. If we ever want to enjoy good relationships, we must begin to recognize attachment and make our love real.

These two are easily confused, but it is vital to discriminate between them, because love will bring us only happiness while the mind of attachment will bring us only suffering…
–Eight Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Did you ever experience the unsettling sense  that your sexual desires, romantic longings, and feelings of long-term emotional union  were racing down different tracks? And  perhaps ask yourself: Which of these is love?

“What t’is to love?” Shakespeare asked. Thousands of answers have been offered—but surprisingly few by biologists, including brain scientists. Perhaps at some level scientists share the poet’s conceit that love is ineffable, a human fifth dimension beyond reason’s ken. While scientists regard other complex emotional states such as depression, anxiety, or fear as complex, but not unfathomable, love is relegated to the poets and songsters.

Love is a powerful force; the vast majority of Americans marry. But the divorce rate in the United States is expected to reach 67 percent in the next decade. Currently, some 80 percent of divorced men and 72 percent of divorced women remarry; but 54 percent and 61 percent, respectively, divorce again. High divorce and remarriage rates are seen in many other cultures, as well. It is time to investigate the biology of this bittersweet experience we call love.

Did you ever experience the unsettling sense  that your sexual desires, romantic longings, and feelings of long-term emotional union  were racing down different tracks? And  perhaps ask yourself: Which of these is love?

“What t’is to love?” Shakespeare asked. Thousands of answers have been offered—but surprisingly few by biologists, including brain scientists. Perhaps at some level scientists share the poet’s conceit that love is ineffable, a human fifth dimension beyond reason’s ken. While scientists regard other complex emotional states such as depression, anxiety, or fear as complex, but not unfathomable, love is relegated to the poets and songsters.

Love is a powerful force; the vast majority of Americans marry. But the divorce rate in the United States is expected to reach 67 percent in the next decade. Currently, some 80 percent of divorced men and 72 percent of divorced women remarry; but 54 percent and 61 percent, respectively, divorce again. High divorce and remarriage rates are seen in many other cultures, as well. It is time to investigate the biology of this bittersweet experience we call love.

The secret to love is that it is the quality of our love for others , not how much someone loves us, that makes us happy. This means we don’t need to “find the right person” we just need to develop and improve our own love for as many people as we can. We may feel that we only really love a few people, but actually our potential to love is limitless! The more people we love, and the purer our love is, the happier we will be.

Love is often confused with attachment. One is a real cause of happiness and the other is an inner poison that eventually leads to pain and anger. If we ever want to enjoy good relationships, we must begin to recognize attachment and make our love real.

These two are easily confused, but it is vital to discriminate between them, because love will bring us only happiness while the mind of attachment will bring us only suffering…
–Eight Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

I’m often asked in therapy (with deep reluctance and trepidation) if it’s a pre-requisite of therapy to explore childhood issues. “That depends,” I say. “I have no desire to dwell in your past but I certainly believe that revisiting or exploring your past childhood relationships might help us both understand your current relationships and how you have come to view the world and the way in which you relate to it.”

Mary Ainsworth, (1913 –1999) an American born psychologist worked with John Bowlby researching maternal-infant attachments. She came to define attachment thusly:

“Attachment may be defined as an affectional tie that one person or animal forms between himself and another specific one – a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time. Attachment is not just a connection between two people; it is a bond that involves a desire for regular contact with that person and the experience of distress during separation from that person.”

Did you ever experience the unsettling sense  that your sexual desires, romantic longings, and feelings of long-term emotional union  were racing down different tracks? And  perhaps ask yourself: Which of these is love?

“What t’is to love?” Shakespeare asked. Thousands of answers have been offered—but surprisingly few by biologists, including brain scientists. Perhaps at some level scientists share the poet’s conceit that love is ineffable, a human fifth dimension beyond reason’s ken. While scientists regard other complex emotional states such as depression, anxiety, or fear as complex, but not unfathomable, love is relegated to the poets and songsters.

Love is a powerful force; the vast majority of Americans marry. But the divorce rate in the United States is expected to reach 67 percent in the next decade. Currently, some 80 percent of divorced men and 72 percent of divorced women remarry; but 54 percent and 61 percent, respectively, divorce again. High divorce and remarriage rates are seen in many other cultures, as well. It is time to investigate the biology of this bittersweet experience we call love.

The secret to love is that it is the quality of our love for others , not how much someone loves us, that makes us happy. This means we don’t need to “find the right person” we just need to develop and improve our own love for as many people as we can. We may feel that we only really love a few people, but actually our potential to love is limitless! The more people we love, and the purer our love is, the happier we will be.

Love is often confused with attachment. One is a real cause of happiness and the other is an inner poison that eventually leads to pain and anger. If we ever want to enjoy good relationships, we must begin to recognize attachment and make our love real.

These two are easily confused, but it is vital to discriminate between them, because love will bring us only happiness while the mind of attachment will bring us only suffering…
–Eight Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

I’m often asked in therapy (with deep reluctance and trepidation) if it’s a pre-requisite of therapy to explore childhood issues. “That depends,” I say. “I have no desire to dwell in your past but I certainly believe that revisiting or exploring your past childhood relationships might help us both understand your current relationships and how you have come to view the world and the way in which you relate to it.”

Mary Ainsworth, (1913 –1999) an American born psychologist worked with John Bowlby researching maternal-infant attachments. She came to define attachment thusly:

“Attachment may be defined as an affectional tie that one person or animal forms between himself and another specific one – a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time. Attachment is not just a connection between two people; it is a bond that involves a desire for regular contact with that person and the experience of distress during separation from that person.”

One of the most important questions we come to in spiritual practice is how to reconcile service and responsible action with a meditative life that fosters non-attachment, letting go—one that sees the emptiness of all conditioned things. Do the values that lead us to actively give, serve, and care for one another differ from the values that lead us on a journey of liberation and awakening?

To consider this question, we must learn to distinguish between the four radiant abodes, the description of the awakened heart —love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity—and what might be called their “near enemies.” Near enemies may seem to be like these qualities and may even be mistaken for them, but they are not fundamentally alike. The near enemies depict how spirituality can be misunderstood or misused to separate us from life.

Wise spiritual life brings us to true connection. Instead of attachment, it grows with dedication and care, commitment and courage. It fosters genuine love (rather than attachment), compassion (rather than pity), joy (rather than jealousy), and equanimity (rather than indifference), and each of these beneficial qualities infuse our awareness. They enable us to open to and accept the truth of each moment, to feel our intimate connectedness with all things, and to see the wholeness of life. Whether we are sitting in meditation or sitting somewhere in protest, that is our spiritual practice in every moment.




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