Love is one of the most sought after feelings in the human condition. It should come as no surprise then, that it is ultimately a favourite source of inspiration for writers, musicians, and artists alike. It is something which drives us, something which fulfils us, and something which simply makes us happy. Capturing and successfully conveying the deep and meaningful emotions that accompany love is one of the most rewarding challenges an artist can face, and one which I thoroughly enjoy. Love can be simple, or entirely complicated. It provides a whole rainforest of possibilities for a writer or an artist to explore, with a thousand different seasons to depict.
But what is it about love that we so desperately seek and desire in our lives to feel ‘whole’?
1) SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Did the bond of love originally serve a higher evolutionary purpose in primitive humans for the protection and nurture of their offspring? From a logical point of view, yes. If a child had both parents working as a unit to protect and provide for it, it stood a greater chance of survival. In turn, this would increase the couple’s chance of reproductive success and promote survival of fittest. But does this explanation seem too cold and scientific? Is love about more than just surviving?
2) WE ARE SOCIAL CREATURES
The architecture of our brain designed for higher social cognition is comparatively much larger than any other primates and mammals. This brain area effects things such as conscious thought, language, behaviour, emotion regulation, empathy and the ability to understand the feelings and intentions of others. In sum, you could say that humans are hard wired for connection. It is simply the way that we are made. The hardware of our brains facilitates our continuous desire to be a part of something BIGGER than ourselves. To love, and to be loved in return, is one of the deepest connections we can obtain with another whilst remaining autonomous individuals. There is something innately gratifying about such an experience. Not only that, but it puts all of those fancy brain areas to good use- and that’s nice as well as productive isn’t it 🙂
3) WE HAVE AN INNATE DESIRE FOR ACCEPTANCE
From an evolutionary view point, an innate desire for acceptance from others stems from our primary drive to survive. Yes, it is quite logical that safety comes in numbers, and a group can expend a far greater effort in the provision of shelter and hunt for resources than a single individual. Just like being able to feel pain, hunger and thirst, our need for acceptance evolved as an effective survival mechanism. But doesn’t our deep desire to be connected to others feel far more meaningful than just safety and food? Today, it is entirely possible to live a solitary existence with an easy access to an abundance of modern conveniences. But for most of us, such an existence would not be a happy one. The need for approval has been conditioned within us since birth and has an array of psychological effects on our fragile self esteem.
“Approval from others gives us a higher sense of self esteem. We’re convinced that their recognition matters to our self-worth and how deeply we value ourselves.”
Put simply, if others like and accept us, then we find it far easier to like and accept ourselves. And that’s a happy feeling filled with sunshine and daisies isn’t it? 🙂
With that nugget of information in mind, imagine how we would feel if we were not only accepted by another, but deeply loved and cherished. Surely if another human being can not only like, but LOVE us, than we absolutely must be doing something right in life! This level of acceptance works miracles for our self esteem and how highly we value ourselves. I like to view love as the body guard for our self esteem. Although it is innately fragile, with the right care and support from a loving relationship, our self esteem can become as safe and protected as a castle surrounded by a deep moat, impenetrable to the sting of a well aimed insult. What’s more, in a world that is often full of uncertainty about how we choose to live our lives, love gives us the warm and fluffy safety blanket to feel safe in being exactly who we are. The icing on this sweet little cake is knowing that we will be fully accepted and understood by those who love us (regardless of how nutty we really are).
4) ARE WE AFRAID OF BEING ALONE?
We are socially encouraged to be ‘with’ and not alone. This message infiltrates our daily lives in all manner of ways. Think about the songs you hear on the radio, images you see in the media, adverts on TV, the stories you read both as an adult and as a child. Do many of these encourage a solitary life? Probably not. A life which includes connections to others is arguably the norm, and those who choose to lead a solitary life are perceived as being outside the boundaries of the norm. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with such a choice, but it is viewed as unusual. Disregarding an evolutionary viewpoint (i.e. the drive to survive), what is the nitty gritty psychological reason that so many of us seek deep and meaningful relationships to avoid being alone?
At a conscious level:
- Is it simply more rewarding and fulfilling sharing your life with others?
At a deeper, subconscious level:
- Does having a soul mate to share your life with serve to beautifully soften the daunting reality that we are born into, and will leave this world, alone?
5)WE ARE MEANING SEEKING CREATURES
As a highly intelligent species, we are continually searching for explanations for, and attribute meanings to a mind boggling array of things. Most notably, we are obsessed by the question for which we have no definitive answer ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Such a question has been the subject of much philosophical, scientific and theological debate throughout history. Yet despite the reams of postulated explanations to this question, we still seem dissatisfied with the results, and still search for our own answers.
Does love give us this sense of meaning and a purpose to our lives for which we are so desperately searching? Perhaps it provides us with our own personal source of comfort to believe that we exist to share our lives with the ones that we love, and to enjoy the moments and memories that we create together.
6) LIFE CAN BE AS UNPREDICTABLE AS THE WEATHER
Nothing is guaranteed in our journey through this world, and circumstances can change as often as the tide creeps onto the shore. It’s incredibly comforting to know that there will always be someone to turn to in times of hardship, sadness and need. Someone who will be there to pick up the pieces with you, and help you glue them back together again.
7)ARE ARTISTS, STORY TELLERS, POETS AND MUSICIANS TO BLAME?
Finally, it occurred to me to question whether it is the artists, writers, poets and musicians who are perpetuating and idealising a life of romantic love, and as a result, partly to blame with our obsession about finding love? Think about it. From an incredibly young age we are BOMBARDED with the idealised notion of romantic love. I always used to wonder about songs when I was little- why did they all seem to be about love, is that all there is to sing about? Why were most Fairy Tales and Disney films saturated with stories of beautiful princesses finding their princes?
SO IN SUMMARY…
Taking all of the above points into consideration, who can really blame us for seeking out love in our lives, for our obsession with it, and for our use of love as a HUGE source of creative inspiration. The need for love and connection is not only hard wired by our biology and ingrained by our evolution, but it is also POWERFULLY enforced by the world in which we live. Love will always be a muse for artists, writers, poets, musicians, and philosophers (to name just a few). We strive to make sense of the things we cannot explain with creativity as our outlet. I can’t image that this will ever change 🙂
What do you think?