People need a lot more than love. Food and water, sleep and safety, connection and purpose and all the rest. But even if they have all of those things, their whole-human set will still be incomplete without love. As I've started slowly and cautiously pulling my head out of America's inflamed butthole, that's what I've been seeing most starkly all over. The absence of love. People's need for it. Their lack of it. Their opposition to it. Their often hollow calls for it. And whatever they have or lack, it's in me too. It follows then that I have a little of them in me. And dare I say you have a little of me in you. And as hard as it is for me to love myself, and for most people to love themselves, it's less hard to love others within whom one can see oneself, and this, I think, is our highest priority right now. To find ourselves in others, and to find them in us, and to find and develop new ways to love each other.
That does not mean telling "the other side" to love more. Nor does it mean telling them they're guilty of not loving the right way, or evil for not loving enough. It also does not mean thinking these things but pretending publicly not to; people can smell gross fakery and it smells awful. For most of us, it means putting in the work. It means cultivating love. Restoring the love you may have lost with age and just to life. It means actually loving those on "the other side" (not to mention "your side") despite it all. Loving them despite their myriad and complex flaws and deficits, which remember, you have too. And all any one of us has to do to see that is look deeply enough in any one of us.
I of course say these things because I see these qualities in you. And I see them in you because I have them in me. And I'm working on it, is what I'm saying. And we're all working on it, is what I hope I can soon start telling the people where I live. Because they ask about you. Because they see you in me and me in you. And some of them are children. And I would like to one day tell them tales of the promised land, where we led with love and compassion, rather than tales of the failed experiment, where we led with inflamed buttholes.
Brian Leli, November 2020
Kendrick Lamar, "DNA.," DAMN.
In his book Spiritual Evolution, the psychiatrist George Vaillant writes that “successful human development involves, first, absorbing love, next, reciprocally sharing love, and finally, giving love unselfishly away.” Humans not only have a need for belonging and connection, but also have a need to feel as though they are having a positive impact in the lives of other people. To have the capacity to give love to those whom we don’t even have direct contact with, or feel a personal connection to, is a major pathway to a life of greater health, vitality, meaning, and growth as a whole person, not to mention a way of feeling more secure. As Claire Nuer, a Holocaust survivor, terminal cancer survivor, and pioneer in the field of Personal Mastery, put it, “The only way to create love, safety, and acceptance is by giving them.”
Herein lies a paradox: if belonging and connection really are security needs, then those who are engaged in high-quality connections should be love-gratified, no longer needing love in their lives—being love-satiated, they shouldn’t be driven to experience or express any further love. Instead, Maslow observed that the opposite is often the case: “Clinical study of healthier people, who have been love-need–satisfied, shows that although they need less to receive love, they are more able to give love. In this sense they are more loving people.”
Maslow noted that when love is discussed in research papers and textbooks, the topic often focuses on love as a deficiency: “The love need as ordinarily studied ... is a deficit need. It is a hole which has to be filled, an emptiness into which love is poured ... Intermediate states of pathology and health follow upon intermediate states of thwarting or satiation.” But he recognized that beyond a certain point of love fulfillment, we become more capable of turning our love outward.
Maslow explicitly distinguished “needing love” from “unneeding love” and referred to the former as D-love (deficiency love) and the latter as B-love (“love for the being of another person”). As Maslow noted, whereas D-love can be gratified, the entire concept of gratification hardly applies to B-love. Those who love from a place of B-love do not need to receive love except in “steady, small maintenance doses and they may even do without these for periods of time.”
Instead of needing, B-love is admiring, and instead of striving for satiation, B-love usually grows rather than disappears. As a result, B-love is typically a more enjoyable experience, as it is intrinsically valuable (not valuable as a means to some other end). Maslow wrote: “B-love is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a richer, ‘higher,’ more valuable and subjective experience than D-love (which all B-lovers have also previously experienced).”
The notion of B-love is similar to Buddhist meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg’s notion of “real love,” which she defines as the innate capacity we each have to love—in everyday life. According to Salzberg, love is a freely given gift and we all have deep reservoirs of love within us that we can tap into anytime to generate even more love in our lives.
Similarly, in his book The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm argues that mature love is an active, not a passive, process; an attitude, not a feeling. The beauty of viewing love as an attitude, or an orientation toward others, is that you don’t need to wait until you have “positivity resonance” with another person before acting lovingly toward them. This is why I find it necessary to distinguish B-love from the need for connection ... As a person matures, and the needs of others become just as important as the needs of one’s self, a person gradually transforms the idea of love from “being loved” into “loving,” from a state of dependency in which one is rewarded by being loved to a loving orientation in which one is capable of loving the world at large. Fromm writes, “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.’”
Scott Barry Kaufman, Transcend
Chloé Valdary, TED2020 Talk
The self can be our greatest resource, but it can also be our darkest enemy. On the one hand, the fundamentally human capacities for self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-control are essential for reaching our goals. On the other hand, the self has a perpetual desire to been seen in a positive light. The self will do anything to disavow responsibility for any negative outcome associated with it. As one researcher put it, the self engenders “a self-zoo of self-defense mechanisms.” The defensive strategies to see the self in a positive light can be collectively summed up as the “ego.”
A noisy ego spends so much time defending the self as if it were a real thing, and then doing whatever it takes to assert itself, that it often inhibits the very goals it is most striving for. In recent years, social psychologist Heidi Wayment and her colleagues have been developing a “quiet ego” research program grounded in Buddhist philosophy and humanistic psychology ideals, and backed by empirical research in the field of positive psychology. The quiet-ego approach focuses on balancing interests of the self and of others and cultivating growth of the self and of others over time, based on self-awareness, interdependent identity, and compassionate experience. Paradoxically, it turns out, quieting the ego is so much more effective in cultivating well-being, growth, health, productivity, and a healthy self-esteem than focusing exclusively on self-enhancement.
B-loving people are much more likely to express the following four deeply interconnected facets of the quiet ego, which any of us can cultivate in ourselves:
Detached Awareness. Those with a quiet ego have an engaged, nondefensive form of attention to the present moment. They are aware of both the positives and negatives of a situation, and their attention is detached from more ego-driven evaluations of the present moment. Rather, they attempt to see reality as clearly as possible. This requires openness and acceptance to whatever one might discover about the self or others in the present moment while letting the moment unfold as naturally as possible—an important component of mindfulness. It also involves the ability to revisit thoughts and feelings that have already occurred, examine them more objectively than perhaps one was able to in the moment, and make the appropriate adjustments that will lead to further growth.
Inclusive Identity. People whose egos are turned down in volume have a balanced or more integrative interpretation of the self and others. They understand other perspectives in a way that allows them to identify with the experience of others, break down barriers, and come to a deeper understanding of common humanity. If your identity is inclusive, you’re likely to be cooperative and compassionate toward others rather than working to help only yourself. Especially during moments of conflict, when your core values are challenged, you are capable of nevertheless listening to the other perspective and learning something from the person. Even if all you learned is how much you still believe in your own viewpoint, you still treated the person as human first.
Perspective-Taking. By reflecting on other viewpoints, the quiet ego brings attention outside the self, increasing empathy and compassion. Perspective-taking and inclusive identity are intertwined, as either one can trigger the other. For instance, realizing what you have in common with others can stimulate a greater understanding of their perspective.
Growth-Mindedness. Turning down the dial on one’s ego also allows for a mindset of personal growth. An interest in changing oneself over time increases the likelihood of prosocial behaviors because it causes one to question the long-term impact of their actions in the moment and to view the present moment as part of an ongoing life journey instead of a threat to one’s self and existence.
Scott Barry Kaufman, Transcend