Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
Everywhere I look these past few weeks, there are Valentine’s Day reminders to celebrate love. Shop windows and stores display red roses, candy, cards, and other trinkets to remind us that we must pay attention to the ones we love. These are Hallmark moments that prompt lovers to do something meaningful to show each other that they are loved. It’s nice to give and to receive these tokens and gestures of love. Love is a beautiful and powerful thing. If you let it, love will be your light in the darkness-the truth that allays doubt.
According to licensed psychologist Dr. Rachel Needle, an associate professor and coordinator of Clinical Experiences at South University, West Palm Beach, “Falling in love is associated with increased energy, narrowing of mental focus, sometimes sweaty palms, light-headedness, racing heart, and a lot of positive feelings. Specific chemical such as oxytocin, phenethylamine, and dopamine play a role in human experiences and behaviors that are associated with love. They function similar to amphetamine, making us alert, excited, and wanting to bond.”
Love can give you a ton of energy. It can make the difference between feelings of happiness and well-being and feelings of depression. Loving someone can see you through uncomfortable situations and inspire your creativity. Many people will tell you that they could not have gotten to where they are in this world without loved ones by their side. Love is powerful and compassionate and can aid in the healing of many ills.
However, there is a shadow side of this wonderful gift of love. Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with it. The focus on things like cards, candies and flowers perpetuates the myth that love can somehow be bought. The bigger the gift; the greater the love, and that for the right price, you can experience true love. Also, for too many people, love has become synonymous with sex. Some people don’t know the difference. With sex you can give your body without giving your heart. Almost anyone can do that. Love demands heart.
Then there are those who are operating on the assumption love is some mysterious thing that just happens to us and over which we have no control. Consistent with the old blues song “Love will make you drink and gamble--make you stay out all night long...” We fall in love and from that point on, we’re helpless and powerless over it’s influence. Yes, love is powerful but we choose to love. And we must choose loving behaviors to sustain it.
What’s a Person to Do?
1. Extending your love to another person is something that shouldn’t be confined to one day in the year. We can show our support, care, understanding, encouragement and affection at any time and to anyone.
2. We must realize that Valentine’s Day has so little to do with love. Love isn’t a gift that can be exchanged. Love is so precious and so pure; it can be given and received but never bought.
3. Love does heal, but only up to a point. You can't solve someone else's problems, and they can’t fix yours. You have to step up to the plate and take care of yourself the best way you can. Love will help to give you the courage. A loving heart heals, but, so does persistence, knowledge, generosity, imagination, and hard work.
4. Love exists in all of us and so does fear of pain. Getting through this life requires us to use a judicious amount of both. The brave amongst us are courageous enough to take the plunge and give our hearts. By protecting our hearts, the rest deny the very essence of our selves. Mother Theresa is quoted as saying, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
So, what’s love got to do with it? Everything. The fabric of our lives is woven from strands both dark and bright. Treasures are found when we weave the light and dark strands into something useful and beautiful that is not for ourselves alone. Love gives entrance into what it means to be human. May this be so for you.
© Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D. January 23, 2013
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a private Clinical in Springfield for more than 40 years. She lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles.