Existential Love

A few blog posts ago I talked about whose fault is loneliness. Feeling lonely often corresponds to feeling unloved. I’d like to consider the dynamics of loneliness and love a bit longer. How do you relate love and loneliness in your life?

The following quote from Irvin Yalom might help clarify what we search for in others, and loneliness as those needs, unfulfilled.

Growth-motivated and deficiency-motivated individuals have different types of interpersonal relations. The growth-motivated person is less dependent, less beholden to others, less needful of others’ praise and affection, less anxious for honors, prestige, and rewards. He or she does not require continual interpersonal need gratification and, in fact, may at times feel hampered by others and prefer periods of privacy. Consequently the growth-motivated individual does not relate to others as sources of supply but is able to view them as complex, unique, whole beings. The deficiency-motivated individual, on the other hand, relates to others from the point of view of usefulness. Those aspects of the other that are not related to the perceiver’s needs are either overlooked altogether or regarded as an irritant or a threat.

Irvin D. Yalom. Existential Psychotherapy (Kindle Locations 5185-5189). Kindle Edition.

It is ironic that independent and growth motivated individuals who are able to sustain themselves on their own make the most supportive partners. You are my partner because I admire and respect your existence, independent of me. I don’t need you to fulfill me, rather, I will work to support and witness your existence. I love you in that I offer my attention and energy in service of your existence. This attitude isn’t self-sacrificing per se. It simply resists self-aggrandizing. Your needs are as important as my needs. Reciprocity takes effort. That is the work of love. Many simply concede to lives of loneliness, maybe because the work of love seems out of reach and overwhelming. To honestly answer, why am I lonely? what am I searching for? what do I need? takes courage. Can I accept and receive the answer without judgment? Unless I take responsibility for my own attitudes about love and loneliness, I cannot mature.

“Infantile love follows the principle ‘I love because I am loved.’ Mature love follows the principle: ‘I am loved because I love.’ Immature love says, ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says, ‘I need you because I love you.’ Fromm’s point that love is an active, not a passive, process has extraordinary ordinary importance for the clinician. Patients complain of loneliness, of being unloved and unlovable, but the productive work is always to be done in the opposite realm: their inability to love. Love is a positive act, not a passive affect; it is giving, not receiving-a “standing in” not a “falling for.”

Irvin D. Yalom. Existential Psychotherapy (Kindle Locations 5213-5217). Kindle Edition.

Do you feel immature, mature, in-between in love?

May you be deeply engaged in the work of love,


Are you enjoying your privacy or are you lonely?
Photography by Nate Dale – New Adventure Production

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