Monday, July 14, 2014

Unconditional Love

The infant, at the moment of birth, would feel the fear of dying, if a gracious fate did not preserve it from any awareness of the anxiety involved in the separation from mother, and from intra-uterine existence. Even after being born, the infant is hardly different from what it was before birth; it cannot recognize objects, it is not yet aware of itself, and of the world as being outside of itself. It only feels the positive stimulation of warmth and food from, and it does not yet differentiate warmth and food from its source: mother. Mother is warmth, mother is food, mother is the euphoric state of satisfaction and security. This state is one of narcissism, to use Freud's term. The outside reality, persons and things, have meaning only in terms of their satisfying or frustrating the inner state of the body. Real is only what is within; what is outside is real only in terms of my needs--never in terms of its own qualities or needs.
When the child grows and develops, he becomes capable of perceiving things as they are; the satisfaction in being fed becomes differentiated from the nipple, the breast from the mother. Eventually the child experiences his thirst, the satisfaction of milk, the breast and the mother, as different entities. He learns to perceive many other things as being different as having an existence of their own. At the same time he learns to handle them; learns  that fire is hot and painful, that mother's body is warm and pleasureful, that wood is hard an heavy, that paper is light and can be torn. He learns how to handle people; that mother will smile when I eat; that she will take me in her arms when I cry; that she will praise me when I have a bowel movement. All these experiences become crystallized and integrated in the experience I am loved. I am loved because I am helpless. I am loved because I am beautiful, admirable. I am loved because mother needs me. To put it in a more general formula: I am loved for what I am, or perhaps more accurately, I am loved because I am. This experience of being loved by mother is a passive one. There is nothing I have to do in order to be loved--mother's love is unconditional. All I have to do is be--to be her child. Mother's love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. But there is a negative side, too, to the unconditional quality of mother's love. Not only does it not need to be deserved--it also cannot be acquired, produced, controlled. If it is there, it is a blessing; if it is not there, it is as if all beauty had gone out of lie--and there is nothing I can do to create it.
For most children before the age from eight and a half to ten, the problem is almost exclusively that of being loved--of being loved for what one is. The child up to this age does not yet love, he responds gratefully, joyfully to being loved. At this point of the child's development a new factor enters into the picture: that of a new feeling of producing love by one's own activity. For the first time, the child thinks of giving something to mother (or father), of producing something--a poem, a drawing, or whatever it may be. For the first time in the child's life the idea of love is transformed from being loved into loving; into creating love. It takes many years from this first beginning to the maturing of love. Eventually the child, who may now be an adolescent, has overcome his egocentricity; the other person is not any more primarily a means to satisfaction of his own needs. The needs of the other person are as important as his own--in fact, they have become more important. To give has become more satisfactory, more joyous, than to receive; to love, more important even than being loved. By loving, he has left the prison cell of aloneness and isolation which was constituted by the state of narcissism and self-centeredness. He feels a sense of new union, of sharing, of oneness. More than that, he feels the potency of producing love by loving--rather than the dependence of receiving by being loved--and for that reason having to be small, helpless, sick--or "good." 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."
Excerpt From: Fromm, Erich. “The Art of Loving.” iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright
Check out this book on the iBooks Store: