February 14, 2019
How the Supreme Emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become.
When I was a little girl, I knew all about love. I knew that hanging my coat with Joey Greeley’s meant we would be valentines forever. When I was 8 and we moved almost an hour away, I was crushed. Soon though, my next love came riding up on his hot banana bike to keep me happy every moment of every day.
He loved to dance as much as I do, and he adored me, my family, and my no-bake cookies. He was going to be happy forever, doing all the heavy lifting, and worshiping me. At least I had the cookie part right!
Thankfully, I have learned a few things – from almost 39 years of marriage, along with studying Positive Psychology, Imago Relationship therapy, HeartMath, and in general the importance of love and keeping it alive.
According to Dr. Martin Seligman’s well-being theory -- the foundation for positive psychology -- we need 5 things in order to flourish -- and it seems Kiwanis would enhance them all. We need positive emotions, engagement, or flow, good relationships, meaning, or connection to something bigger than ourselves, and a sense of accomplishment.
Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has identified 10 positive emotions: Amusement, awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, interest, joy, pride, serenity, and LOVE.
There’s a reason why so many songs are written about love, including that it is a many splendored thing. It is truly the supreme emotion. It’s not a singular type of positivity. It can encompass all the other positive emotions.
In the early stages of a relationship we are deeply interested in everything the other person says or does. We share amusement and laugh together often. As our relationship grows it brings great joy. We begin to share our hopes and dreams. Once our relationship becomes more solid, we relax into serenity that comes with the security of mutual love. We’re inspired by each other’s good qualities, grateful, and proud -- and perhaps in awe that the powerful forces of the universe have brought us together.
Love, and the other positive emotions, open us up. They broaden our perspective, and they build our resources. Our peripheral vision actually widens. We see more. We become more attuned to others, more creative, wiser, and more flexible.
Love makes us fully alive and is perhaps the most essential emotional experience for thriving and health.
That said, what do we really know about love? I’m going to ask you to forget for a few minutes about the love that is centered on desire. Set aside your view of love as a special bond. Also set aside the expectation that we must love our relatives unconditionally, regardless that their behavior drives us up a wall. If you’re sure love is a commitment, you might want to brace yourself. And it’s not something out there that we fall into and perhaps later fall out of.
I’ve learned that love deserves a major upgrade. That bond and the commitments people build around it are better described as products of love – the result of many small moments in which love infuses us. The body has its own definition of love, according to Dr. Fredrickson -- positive resonance.
Yes, the love I’m talking about is very different from my old fantasies. Love is a state that we would do well to visit often. Love is good for us! Just like our body was designed to extract oxygen from the air and nutrition from foods we eat, our body was designed to love. Love is a life-giving source of energy, sustenance, and health.
Science shows us that love, and its absence, fundamentally alter the biochemicals our bodies are steeped in; and they, in turn, can alter the way our DNA gets expressed within our cells. The love we do -- and don’t -- experience today may literally change key aspects of our cellular architecture next season and next year
Just as our supplies of clean air and nutritious food forecast how long we’ll walk this earth – and whether we thrive or just get by – so does our supply of love.
Have you ever felt an aching sense of longing, like something vital is missing? A deep thirst for more meaning, connection, energy – more something! It’s like you’re craving an essential nutrient that you can’t quite put your finger on.
Distractions call – second or third glass of wine, stream of Facebook posts, texts and tweets, the couch and remote, ice cream – still, you aren’t satisfied.
What we long for is love. This emotion nourishes our body like sunlight, fertile soil, and water nourish plants and allow them to flourish. The more we experience it, the more we open and grow.
I’d like to share a basic HeartMath technique I find helps fill that void. It is also useful for regenerating energy, creating and maintaining heart-focused relationships -- with both ourselves and others -- and for broadening and building capacity in general.
We now know that the heart sends far more information to the brain than vice versa, and the heart has an electromagnetic field that is so powerful it even registers with the people around us.
This technique helps amplify the power of our hearts and our capacity for love. It strengthens the vagus nerve and increases heart rate variability, which lowers blood pressure.
This Heart Lock-in Technique has also been shown to boost the immune system. We would normally do the simple 3-step process for up to 5 minutes, but this brief exercise will be enough for you to get the idea. As we cultivate the wonderful energy field of our heart, we regenerate our whole being, and it’s also a nice way to prepare for sleep.
Step 1. Focus attention in the area of the heart. Notice your breath. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual.
Step 2. Activate a feeling of love, appreciation, care or compassion for someone or something.
Step 3. Radiate that positive resonance all through your body, out into the room, and into others in the world.
Practicing this settles us into an elevated and growing field of energy that affects the way we go forward. And, remember, the change in our energy field affects those around us, as well.
Love is an emotion – a momentary state that arises to infuse the mind and body alike. It happens whenever connection blossoms within the space between two or more people -- the sacred space, according to philosopher Martin Buber, where relationship lives.
It even happens within short-lived experiences, like might take place with the stranger seated next to us on a plane when we’ve opened up, talked, listened attentively, and really seen each other -- human essence to human essence -- with respect and appreciation.
Love was clearly in the room last week at Slates during the Monday night concert where Laura Hudson did a tribute to the late Eva Cassidy. She mentioned the divisiveness in our country right now and talked about how we all fundamentally want the same things for our families and loved ones, whether black, white, brown, yellow, blue, or red.
She asked us to hold the hand of the person next to us. To my left was my husband Dennis, who also took the offered hand of Marilyn, a lady we’d just met minutes earlier. I connected with the sincere eyes of a stately appearing older gentleman looking down from the high-top table to my right as he reached for my other hand.
I found myself tearing up, listening to Laura’s captivating voice sing Eva Cassidy’s rendition of John Lennon’s beautiful song, Imagine, while we all held hands. I realized that, in that moment, each of us was becoming something larger than ourselves.
Quite simply, Love is connection, and love blossoms virtually anytime people – even strangers – share positive resonance. This is when shared positive emotion combines with behavioral synchrony and mutual care.
Love requires two pre-conditions -- the perception of safety -- and a sense of authentic connection. These aren’t quite reached with X’s and O’s, GIF’s or Bitmojis. Our body hungers for moments of oneness and behavioral synchrony that don’t translate in texts.
Loving connection can, and I dare say should, be re-cultivated every chance we get. Studies show that we need to share a minimum of 5 positive experiences for every one negative experience, for a relationship to be healthy.
Seeing love as positive resonance can motivate us to reach out for a hug, give a compliment, or share something inspiring or silly. In these small ways, we plant additional seeds of love that help our bodies, our well-being, and our relationships grow stronger.
Eva Cassidy’s favorite song is also my favorite song. It’s the last song she ever sang in public -- Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do? They’re really saying, “I love you.”