It’s the subject of literally countless works of art.
It’s the feeling we all want to have most.
And yet, we don’t actually really understand what it is.
I’m talking about love.
We all think about it.
And I can guarantee you’re thinking about it wrong.
First, a definition:
Love is a feeling. It’s a set of sensations in your body. And it’s created by your thoughts, just like any other feeling.
I know, you probably think you love someone because of their character or personality or looks or actions. Right?
You’re not alone. But you’re wrong. We love people because of our thoughts. Other people don’t earn, create, or destroy our love.
Love is determined simply by our thoughts that we love someone. If you think you love someone, you’ll feel love for them. You’ll even look for more and more things about them to love, like a well-trained hunting dog (except instead of chasing after rabbits, your brain will chase after positive qualities—how wholesome is that?!).
So why do we find it difficult to love some people, and why do we want to stop loving others?
It’s because we assume that other people have to deserve our love, or that our love is somehow of benefit to other people. We think they can feel our love.
But they can’t. Nobody else can feel your love, and you can’t feel anyone else’s love. Because your thoughts create your feelings and their thoughts create their feelings.
We’ve all experienced someone else being very into us—whether a friend, a date, a family member—but we find their devotion off-putting. They love us a whole lot, but we don’t feel their love. It doesn’t feel good to us, because of our thoughts about it.
And most of us have loved someone else who was totally unmoved by our love. Because they can’t feel what we’re feeling.
Only you can feel your own love, and your love is the only love you can ever feel.
Let’s take this a step further: This means you can love whoever you want, whenever you want. Love is ALWAYS an option for you.
A lot of our suffering comes from denying ourselves the feeling of love because we’re afraid of losing it.
Let me give you an example. Earlier this year I was dating someone, and we had to end the relationship because of some outside factors. We were both sad about it.
I thought I was doing everything to process the loss—I allowed my sadness to pass through me, I had done a good job of staying in the present in the relationship. I wasn’t projecting our relationship into the future or making the ending of it mean anything about me, my value, or my future happiness.
But still, I had a thought error that caused me some unnecessary suffering: I had the idea that going forward, I would no longer get to feel the positive feeling of loving him.
I was mourning the loss of the love I felt for him.
But then I realized, I didn’t have to lose that love at all.
If I think thoughts about loving those things about him, I feel love for him—whether we’re dating or not.
I can always choose to feel love for him, whether we hang out next week or never again.
If I think thoughts that create love, that’s what I’ll feel. I don’t actually have to let go of that feeling of love. I can choose it.
Does the idea of choosing to love someone even when a relationship ends worry you? If so, it’s because you think that choosing to love someone carries a risk or is dangerous somehow.
You try to stifle your love for people to mitigate this risk. But this sense of love as scary or risky comes down to two thought errors:
1. You think there’s a limited amount of love to go around.
2. You think that loving someone means we have to act or not act a certain way.
People worry about getting “hung up” on someone and being unable to “move on.” However, this assumes that if I love someone, I can’t love other people. But that’s not true—love isn’t about attachment. If I sat around thinking thoughts about how I could only be happy with the guy from my story above, that I needed to be able to date him or else my life would be full of pain and misery—those thoughts would be problematic.
But that thought pattern has nothing to do with love. That’s a thought pattern about scarcity (believing there isn’t something better out there for me) and attachment (believing reality has to be a certain way for me to be happy).
Choosing to love someone has nothing to do with that person being able to make you happy or needing to be in your life forever in any particular way. It’s simply creating the feeling of love in your body, for your own benefit.
People also think that loving someone implies taking (or not taking!) a certain action. We think if we love someone, we have to try to be with them, or do things for them.
But you can love someone and never speak to them again. Choosing to love someone doesn’t mean you have to do anything in particular about them, to them, or for them. It doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice for them or make them happy. It doesn’t even mean they have to be a part of your life. You can choose to love someone and all that means is you are creating the feeling of love for yourself.
If you believe that love is limited or comes with a predetermined script of how you should act, of course you’ll worry that love makes you powerless. You’ll think it controls you or makes you vulnerable. And then you may feel trapped, obligated or resentful. Because you’ll be afraid of losing the feeling of love.
But whether or not we feel love is up to us. There is no downside to choosing love, and there’s never a shortage of it to go around.
Choosing to love someone makes me feel enormously powerful. I feel untouchable. I feel grounded, secure, and expansive. Nobody can take that love away from me, and I can feel it any time I want. What could be better?
Choosing to feel love is never a bad choice. It’s never been the wrong answer for me. When I choose to feel love, it’s for my own benefit. Love is a beautiful feeling and I’m the one who gets to feel it.
Loving unconditionally, without attachment, is the most sacred practice I have.
And the more I learn to love others, the more I learn to love myself.