As the name of my slot, “Life’s Perks”, suggests, I have an intention to write about different topics, that can help the reader to appreciate life a little bit more. And this time (and over the next seven articles) I am going to talk about Wellbeing. Now, wellbeing is a very popular topic today, which means that there is plenty written about it. You may ask, “Why should I read this chap’s articles?” For that, I would say – there is no reason. That is apart from the fact that I am suffering from chronic depression for over a decade and ventured into the field of the science of wellbeing, theology, and positive psychology to find tools for my survival, but, instead, found something that made me feel happy again. And now I want to share those techniques I found, with you. I will not load you with information. There are plenty of amazing books (some of which I will recommend to you) that will provide the information you need in a much better form than I could. Besides, an article is not a place for information overload. Instead, I will speak from experience on what, how, and why to do, and why it will work.
So, shall we begin?
Our first stop will be, as the subtitle states, self-love.
First of all, why do I talk about love? As I mentioned, I have the intention to share with you something that may improve your level of happiness. But when we talk about happiness, the majority of people would agree that love is one of the key components for it. However, love isn’t a simple subject. There is an interesting phenomenon about it that was well described by psychologist Erich Fromm.
«Not that people think that love is not important. They are starved for it; they watch endless number of films about happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of trashy songs about love – yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything that needs to be learned about love.»
We want love, we believe it is important, and… we have so little understanding of it. Yet love might be the most important part of our life. Why? If we will look closely at our world we can discover that human beings are the only species on this planet who have the need to love. Animals are capable of love, and examples of that love never fail to amaze us, but they do not need it. If an animal will never make a love bond with anyone it still will be capable to function, go about with its life. But we, if we could not find any object for our love, be it another human or pet, will begin to develop neuroses and it may lead even towards the decline of our physical health, and an early death. We are wired to love. However, as Erich From mentioned, we know little about how to love and do not even have a concept that we need to learn how to do it.
I am not going to talk about the reasons why we exist in such a peculiar situation. It a big phylosophical topic, and it won’t be right for this platform. As for what to do with it, we will have a look at it now. The answer is simple, we need to learn to love. Furthermore, there are hints out there that can help. If to be precise, there is one main directive on the topic,
‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.“ Mark 12:30-31
Those are very familiar, and well-used phrases. However, do people get them right? Historically those commandments were misinterpreted. Based on them, people were told that living for one’s self is a sin. That one needs to live only for others. But let’s look at those directives closer. Those commandments specify that you need to love your neighbour as you love yourself. This is a crucial point. Have a look at another observation from Erich Fromm,
“Love of others and love of ourselves are not alternatives. On the contrary, an attitude of love toward themselves will be found in all those who are capable of loving others. Love, in principle, is indivisible as far as the connection between „objects“ and one’s own self is concerned.” ― (Erich Fromm: Man for Himself. An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, New York (Rinehart and Co.) 1947, p. 129.)
“…my own self must be as much an object of my love as another person. The affirmation of one’s own life, happiness, growth, freedom is rooted in one’s capacity to love, i.e. in care, respect, responsibility, and knowledge. If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too; if he can love only others, he cannot love at all.” – Erich Fromm “The Art of Loving.”
As the diagram below shows, to expand our ability to love we need a harmonious relationship between love toward ourselves and love toward others. The more we love ourselves, the more we would be capable of loving others. Only when such a harmonious relationship between those two loves is established our ability to love will begin to grow.
What I find amazing is the fact that across the centuries many theologians, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists, through independent researches arrived at the same conclusion.
“Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” Brené Brown “The Gifts of Imperfection” (2010)
Only through the harmonious relationships between subject and object, in the give-and-take actions, the power for existance, action and multiplication could be generated. These messages emphasise an importance of both positions – love to the neighbor and love to yourself.
So, this suggests that we need to learn to love ourselves, master this art, that is neglected by the majority of the people. And that is what I suggest you start right now. Go get pen and paper. I am serious. And I will suggest you better get plenty of paper. Later you may get yourself a notebook for such exercises.
Ready? Think about different ways to love yourself consistently. Think of something that you can schedule in your daily/weekly routine. It shouldn’t be just pleasing yourself. It should be good for you and bring satisfaction, be it a very small one.
1. Take at least 3 minutes to write down how you can love yourself. Write as many different ways of expressing self-love as possible. Do not write it as a list, write it as a narrative. Think about variety, be bold and inventive, but practical. If you are new to this, start from something simple, like having a cup of tea in peace and quiet, once a day, or a quiet walk in the park, and then build your narrative on it.
Write non-stop. Do not stop to think. Dream while you are writing.
2. Chose one thing from what you just wrote. Something you may put into practice right now, maybe even today or at the very least tomorrow.
In the next 3 minutes write about it. Describe how you will feell yourself when you will begin to practice it regularly. How will it change your perception of yourself? How will it affect your relationships with others? How will it affect your life if you will practice it for a month; for a year?
Write non-stop. Do not stop to think. Dream while you are writing.
3. Think about what you just wrote. Is it valuable for you? Would it improve your life? Would it make you happier?
Now, in the next 3 minutes write down what will happen if you would not put it into practice. How would you feel yourself? What will you deprive yourself of? What will you deprive of the people who are close to you?
Write non-stop. Do not stop to think. Think while you are writing.
How did you find it? Have you been surprised with how many things and thoughts you were able to come up with? But now, please, do not stop here.
Do not delay putting what you wrote about into practice. You deserve to be happy and for that, you have to Love yourself.
Art of Loving – Erich Fromm
Man for Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics – Erich Fromm
The Gifts Of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brené Brown
Exposition of the Divine Principle.