I’m taking a moment on this Valentine’s Day morning to revisit psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm”s writings on love. In Fromm’s view, love is a state of ‘doing’ – love is work, but the best kind of work. In his 1956 book, The Art of Loving (http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Loving-Erich-Fromm/dp/0061129739), he writes about the active character of love which encompasses four qualities: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. One must apply these four qualities to self and to others to fully experience love.
Care and responsibility teach us that love is not a passive emotion; it requires participation and nurturance from us. Respect and knowledge of the self teaches us about others. Learning to be compassionate with self leads to more compassion and empathy for others. These last two qualities also teach that love does not seek to control or dominate the beloved.
In essence, Fromm’s concept of love teaches us that the most important relationship you have is to yourself.
You must cultivate self-awareness, care for yourself, respect for yourself, and take responsibility for yourself in order to maturely manage your relationships and embrace others. Once you love yourself more productively, you are able to take more productive action in your relationships.
As coaches, we use Fromm’s four qualities of love to help parents increase their self-care and participate more fully in their families. Love, seen from this view, is a skill that we can practice and hone our whole lives.
“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving