After reading Bell Hooks’s All About Love, I realised that what I knew about love was very limiting. Hooks basically dismantled what I thought I knew and built it up as a multifaceted action that begins with self. It elicited so many questions about love while simultaneously answering them in 238 pages. After reading this incredible book (that I highly recommend), these are the few things I now know love is not.
- Love is not a feeling, it’s an action
I have always known love to be something you feel towards someone else, no matter my behaviour to them. But Hooks looks at love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. This definition looks at love as a verb, something you do to someone rather than something you feel. This makes sense because to really love someone means to want the best for them and that is rooted in what you constantly do and say to them. Whereas feelings are fleeting, temporary, constantly changing.
- Love is not about others, it’s about yourself
We often hear ‘you cannot love someone until you love yourself’ and for me, that’s where it stopped. I didn’t actually think about it deeply enough. I realised that loving yourself is not just waking up and feeling good about yourself, it is accepting who you are and doing what it takes to make sure you are thriving. Once we can do that for ourselves, we are able to extend that to others because we know what it is. It is difficult to treat others better than we treat ourselves. Once we know love within ourselves, it will show up in all the interactions we have.
- Love is not inherent within us, it is taught
With that said, I think that we are intrinsically love. Let me make it make sense. I believe that as we grow into this world, our environment, its systems and structures can take us away from ourselves. We are put into boxes and often face traumas that build mechanisms within us to protect ourselves. This in turn feeds into our fears and love does not thrive in fear. To love we need to (un)learn and this can only be done by those who know love. Our first contact with love is in the home and if those in our home do not know pure love then how can we? Love is a commitment demonstrated by actions. It is constant in everything that we do and say to ourselves and others. It’s a lifelong practise that should be taught from childhood in order to realise it as adults.
- Love does not coexist with abuse
I have been in a few situations where a loved one would say mean things or act with violence all in the name of love. I grew up thinking that being punished by adults is a form of love, it was done to make me a better person. Of course that’s the way the adults knew love too which is why it became a cyclical pattern that was passed down through generations. Hooks discusses this distorted view of love and how it contradicts what love actually is. This does not mean discipline is not necessary, it is, but it should be done in a way that aligns with what love is. Instead of making someone ‘better’, abuse can cause trauma that negatively affects how a person lives their life. Remember, love exists when we act in a way that “extends one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”.
- Love is not power, it is equality
Power and equality mean different things to different people but essentially, if one or all parties in a relationship want to maintain control, then it is difficult for love to exist. This does not mean that there is no care or deep affection for the person(s), there very well could be. However, struggle for control where one person needs to exert power over the other person loses focus on the work needed for love to thrive. Oftentimes, power and control come from fear and mistrust, and with both those components, committing to loving someone is impossible. Love means releasing control and trusting in the other person. Love is free.
- Love is not unattainable
Love takes a lot of work that is consistent. It is not a destination that we reach but a practise we commit to. First within ourselves, then towards others. Everyone talks about love; from the music we listen to, to the movies we watch, to the books we read. At the same time, we can be too scared to actually love because it means releasing our ego, unlearning what we once knew and taking the time to be more thoughtful. This is not easy, especially if we haven’t done the work within ourselves. But let’s not forget that we are intrinsically love. Love is us. As we relearn how to fully love and blossom in the joy and peace it brings, we are returning back to ourselves.
And that my darling, is within your reach.