“The deepest need of man is the need to overcome his separation, to leave the prison of his loneliness”, said Erich Fromm. Unfortunately, a society that nurtures values such as individualism and competitiveness makes us feel inadequate if we recognize that we need to be loved. Emotionally numbing the individuals, condemning them to loneliness as a symbol of success is one of the paths that leads to alienation and despair.
However, the need for love is not a weakness, and recognizing it is a symbol of wisdom and emotional maturity. In fact, one of the most limiting and harmful beliefs that we can feed is to think that the need to be loved is a weakness.
Love as a source of inner strength
It is no coincidence that love is “attacked” since it is one of the main sources of empowerment. Centuries ago the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse said: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, loving someone deeply gives you courage”.
In reality, longing for love is not a weakness. We are not conceived to live as hermits in society and to be fully self-sufficient. A life without love implies withering inside because intimacy, whether in terms of a couple, friends, family or any other kind, becomes a kind of psychological oxygen. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke summed it up perfectly: “Love consists in this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other”.
Therefore, we need to recognize our need for love and stop thinking about it as a weakness or something to be ashamed of.
In fact, a research conducted at Northwestern University revealed that the level of satisfaction with the relationship and intimacy that we have established is the best predictor of our level of happiness.
An enriching relationship impacts double on our happiness than our professional career, friendships and even our health. It is no coincidence that another experiment conducted at John Hopkins University discovered that when the loved one holds our hand, it can relieve pain and help our physiological functions return to normal.
At this point it is important to make a distinction between a healthy need and the need that generates dependency. The need that breeds dependence comes from the lack of security and self-confidence. That need does not bring happiness but on the contrary, it causes unhappiness and often drives us to fall into the networks of manipulative people.
However, a healthy need for love, when it is repressed because we do not want to accept it, can become a sickly need that generates dependency.
On the contrary, the need for healthy love, accepted and channeled, drives the connection and allows both people to feed and grow. When we recognize the need to be loved and to establish a deep emotional connection, we can try to satisfy it in the healthiest way, preserving our identity and bringing true value to the relationship.
How to dignify the need for love?
Dignifying our need to be loved can be a complicated process, especially if we have been educated to be ashamed of that need, if we think that success is synonymous with complete independence and self-sufficiency and that the longing for love is a weakness. In that case, it will be necessary to arm yourself with patience and dismantle the conceptions that prevent you from accepting this deep need.
- Accept and explore the need for love
The first step is to validate that feeling that you have probably experienced for a long time but that you have repressed. Find a sense of that need and, above all, navigate through it without expressing value judgments, assuming a Mindfulness attitude.
- Use love as a means to connect
Imagine that same need in the people closest to you. This little exercise will help you develop a more empathetic attitude and generates greater intimacy and connection. Understanding that the others harbor your same fears and insecurities will bring you closer to them. When in a relationship both are ashamed of their need for love, it is likely that this relationship ends badly, because that need will not be satisfied and both will be locked behind a mask of coldness and security. However, vulnerability is what brings us closer, not extreme confidence or superiority.
- Love that is not expressed, withers
Think about how you will implement that discovery. How can you express your love? Keep in mind that some people are not prepared to receive so much love because they keep raised their emotional barriers, but you can dose it in small gestures that are collapsing, brick by brick, that wall.
However, remember the words of Eric Fromm: “There is only an act of love […] that involves caring, knowing, responding, affirming and enjoying a person, a tree, a painting, an idea. It means to give life, to increase its vitality. It is a process that develops and intensifies itself.” That level of full and mature love is reached when we love and accept, when we leave behind fear and are willing to connect from our essence.
Paying attention to your needs, instead of being ashamed and repress them, will lead you to a fuller and happier life. The journalist Franklin P. Jones had already said: “Love does not make the world go round, but it makes the trip worthwhile”.
Goldstein, P. et. Al. (2018) Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction. Proc Natl Acad Sci; 115(11): 2528-2537.
Finkel, E.J. et. Al. (2013) A brief intervention to promote conflict reappraisal preserves marital quality over time. Psychol Sci; 24(8): 1595-1601.