According to Oxford Dictionary, love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection, or, a great interest and pleasure in something. Although there is a set definition oflove, does thatmean we all perceive it in the same way?
The experts here at Florida A&M University believe that we begin to develop a sense of love as early as in the womb, and it’s within those early stages that we learn how to perceive it. This poses the question:Does the way we experience love as children impact our view on love as adults?
Psychology professor, Dr. Huberta Jackson-Lowman, says children who have grown up feeling loved and valued will generally carry those feelings into adulthood.
“They will tend to experience a greater sense of trust in others and believe that they are worthy of being loved,” Jackson-Lowman said. “On the other hand, children who have not been loved or who have experienced conditional love will most likely feel insecure, unsure about whether they can trust others, and doubt their loveableness.”
According to psychologytoday.com, a three-year-old may use concrete objects when expressing love, so it’s imperative that they have a positive outlook on love. In order to do so, studies show that when spouses love each other and show it, children stay in school longer and marry later in life.
Director of the Centre on Population Dynamics at McGill University, Sarah Brauner-Otto says that family isn’t just another institution.
“Family is the place where we also have emotions and feelings,” Brauner-Otto said.“Demonstrating and providing evidence that love, this emotional component of family, also has this long impact on children’s lives is really important for understanding the depth of family influence on children.”
As children, we tend to be unconditional in our expression of love. We will seek love from thosewho are caring for us, whether they are attentive, nurturing, protective or negligent, and abusive. Our caregivers are our world and it is to them that we turn for love, affection, nurturance, and protection.
Business administration sophomore Janay Pope believes that a child’s first experience with love and affection should come from family and friends.
“Children who are loved unconditionally typically carry that form of affection into adulthood,” Pope said. “How a child is loved may affect how the communicated understand the emotions of not just themselves, but also others around them.”
When it comes to love, it can be tricky to decipher through what is real and what is not. As a child, you can only take what you are given and learn from that. In my opinion, an individual can be loved as a child, and know what it is to love, but still chooses to make their own definition. On the other hand, an individual can receive no love as a child but can grow up to be an advocate for it.
Unfortunately, not all children are fortunate enough to grow up in a loving home. If a child has had negative experiences growing up, therapy may be beneficial to them.Cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, group, or family therapy- are modalities that can help those whose childhood experiences have negatively affected their ability to love.
Dr. Jackson-Lowman also suggests spiritual practice and the use of affirmations directed at changing our beliefs on love should also be employed.
“In order to love others, we need to love ourselves first, Jackson-Lowman said. “You cannot give what you do not have.”