Reflections after Valentine’s day.
February is a terrible time of the year.
There is absolutely nothing happening. Not a holiday in sight. Everyone is still broke from their Christmas efforts and a depressing long, dry January. It is still cold and grey, rainy as well if you are particularly unlucky. Often, we can at least have the consolation that it will go quickly; a short month. Except this year, which happens to be a leap year.
The only highlight in the whole month, for me, is Valentine’s day, nicely placed right in the middle.
I know what you are thinking: it is just one more of these celebrations of obscure origin, made up and sustained by commercial interests that force us into conforming to habit or tradition. Buy flowers, buy presents, buy dinner, buy, buy, buy. Oh and it also has to be planned well in advance as well or if you live in a big city and your partner expects a big gesture, you may be in for some drama.
This year a friend of mine sent a desperate plea to a restaurant on 12 February, begging for a table. Self-appointed TWBIN — the worst boyfriend in London — managed to charm his way and secure one of the best tables. Not only that, the (female) waiter loved him and assured him that she would personally serve him and his girlfriend. One of those emails that maybe end up going viral:
I have to admit, my partner and I do not make great efforts for Valentine’s day, mostly because he is British and I have lived in the country for too long — therefore any overt expression of romantic interest or emotional involvement already feel slightly uncomfortable. Nothing to do with the depth of my affection — or heart-shaped chocolates for that matter.
Valentine’s day, however, remains one of my favourite days of the year.
This is the one day when we are allowed to talk opening about love. Whether it is by celebrating romance, longing for romance, taking refuge in friendships or Anti-Valentines events — I have taken part in these in the past — or complaining about the cheesiness of it all, at least once a year, it is almost impossible not to think about love, even if it is just for a few hours.
It is a pity that the English language — and many other languages for that matter — has only one single word to describe love. This may be efficient but clearly insufficient; there are many nuances to the feelings we may hold for another human being, God and humanity.
No one gave more thought to the concept of love and its expression than the Greeks, who had no less than six terms to describe it: agape (love for God and from God, charity love); eros (intimate love, including of sexual nature); philia (friendship, affection); storge (affection between parents and children); philautia (love for oneself, self-compassion); xenia (loving friendship or hospitality).
The Greeks knew best: love is such an important part of our lives that it truly deserves this detailed analysis.
Despite what our materialistic society wants us to believe, when it comes down to it, love is what shapes the day.
For it we take puzzling, irrational decisions. To obtain it we sacrifice time and money; to keep it we risk our resources, we move countries, we temper our moods and count till ten, we start acting like we promised ourselves we never would — often like our own mothers. We act against our own selfish interests. Sometimes we are not even aware that our unhappiness stems from lack of love.
In my experience as a coach and hypnotherapist, when clients show signs of trauma, at the very core, underneath layers of superficial issues, there is always a real or perceived lack of love. Maybe as a child they felt rejected by parents or teachers; maybe they misinterpreted whatever was happening around them at such a young age. Not feeling loved enough as a child projects its shadows into adulthood, which devastating consequences.
Scriptures in all major religions state very clearly that the Love in which we exist loves us for our very being. We cannot escape that fact that we are a valued part of creation and our presence is necessary, despite our personal choices, our gifts and abilities or the actions we take.
Believing that we are deserving of love just because we happen to exist is life changing. Actually, it is the most powerful belief that we can hold.
If you are already convinced, congratulations. If you are not, the self-help industry has exploited this obvious need and produced endless literature to convince you that you are deserving of love and have the right to receive it.
How about doing a quick experiment — tell yourself: I don’t believe I deserve love, but what if I did What if I DO?
Play with the idea, quieten down any reservations from your rational mind — remind yourself and act “as if” you deserve all that love. Even if you live in a cave, you can still believe that you deserve more love and therefore giving it to yourself (for instance by showing compassion to yourself, see philautia above).
If you are someone that has no qualms in giving yourself pleasure as needed and putting yourself first more often than not — no judgement here — what does the act of giving love look like to you? it may be just listening to those around you with more interest. This thought experiment can even change your personality, with surprising consequences. Most of us do not live in caves but still do not give or take enough love to and from ourselves or others.
We are shaped by societies that value efficiency, and often the most efficient thing to do is not the most loving one.
What does giving or experiencing love mean for you, personally? It may mean spending more time in Nature or with family and friends, or by yourself. Or should I say with yourself. You could start a dialogue with your young self to reassure him or her that you’re right there in the future vouching for them. In business, how would we operate if we behaved as if loved our colleagues and the world we live in?
If you change your heart even a tiny bit, your life will change.
Matters of the heart are what truly makes the world go around . Give and take more love. It is not too late if you missed your chance at Valentine’s day.