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The Role of Love in Mental Health

Love is unconditional approval

When we are sick in our minds, we have this punishing sense of how terrible we are, even if we often can't point to a specific crime. We are appalled by, and unforgiving of, who we are.

In this situation, a loving companion can make all the difference. They don't try to persuade us of our worth. They make pleasant conversation about something that won't make us anxious. They can tolerate how ill we are and will stick by us. They love us for who we are rather than what we do.

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The healthy mind filters through thoughts
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A healthy mind is an editing mind that filters through particular ideas and ...

A healthy mind resists temptations

A healthy mind resists unfair comparisons. It does not allow the successes of others to make us feel inadequate; neither does it frequently find fault with its own nature.

A healthy mind keeps at bay critical judgements. It does not tell us how appalling we are; instead, it allows us to talk to ourselves as we would to a friend.

A healthy mind keeps a good grip on fear

A healthy mind knows that there are endless problems we could worry about. It can distinguish between what could conceivably happen and what is likely to happen.

It avoids catastrophic imaginings. It is confident that terrible things will either not happen, or it could be dealt with ably enough.

A cultural endorsement of love
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Love is often seen as the exciting feeling we get in the presence of someone with great intelligence of beauty that we hope will reciprocate our interest and whom we badly want to touch and one day...

Love is focused on the other person
  • This type of love is displayed when we come across the itinerant drunk - weather-beaten and ranting - and do not turn away but consider them as a version of ourselves, falling prey to the same passions and getting upset by similar losses and worthy of their own share of compassion.
  • We also show love to the well-dressed person shouting grandly at an airport, filled with self-righteousness, and do not dismiss them as insane or entitled, but as vulnerable beneath the bluster.
  • We show love when we see a small child throwing themselves on the floor, and do not focus on how piercing their screams are, but that their pain is in its general form ours too.
  • It is love too when our partner is sometimes plainly irrational, unfair, and maddening, and we do not direct back a full dose of righteous anger but hold back and wonder how this formerly sane adult should have fallen apart in this manner. It is to hold open the idea that they might not have slept very well, are perhaps panicked by the future, and don't understand how to master it.
Love for the weak

It is no particular accomplishment to love someone who is on their best behavior.

What is needed for our attention is the love of what is crooked, damaged, and self-disgusted. Here love is the effort required to imagine oneself into the life of another person who has not made it easy to admire or like them.

Talking horizontally and encouraging honesty
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Sigmund Freud discovered that there is a remarkable difference between what people will tell you when they are sitting up and looking at you in the eye, and what they will say to you when they ...

When we feel discouraged to speak

We perhaps don't realise that seeing another person's face can discourage us from speaking the truth. We may hold back and edit our presentation in the light of their reactions.

With Sigmund Freud's example in mind, we should find our own forms of horizontal conversation. After dinner, we might suggest that we all go and lie down somewhere and become newly conscious of voices and nuances when we don't have to look at others' expressions.