Of all the gifts we have to give to ourselves, to each other and to the world, love is the greatest.
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The word "Love" can mean many different things, depending on ones circumstance and perspective. When we are talking about love it is helpful to know which classification of love we are referring to. A Psychology Today article byDr. Neel Burton provides a succinct and informative explanation of the various classifications.
Philautia, or Love of Self
Healthy self-esteem, and love of one's self, is a product of self awareness and continually striving for self improvement. Developing the skills to be able to understand ourselves and see our own self worth enables us to also understand others better and identify their true worth as well. Achieving self love is an important step in being able to truly give one's love to another.
Eros, or Sexual or Passionate Love
The ancient Greeks believed Eros was akin to madness, as the level of passion evoked by Eros and the actions of those experiencing this type of love often defies logic. "In modern times, Eros has been amalgamated with the broader life force, something akin to Schopenhauer’s will, a fundamentally blind process of striving for survival and reproduction.
Phila, or Friendship." (From Neel Butons' 7 Types of Love).
Philia, or Friendship
The main characteristic of the love that friends have for one another is a shared goodwill that is rational and virtuous. Plato believed that a love born of passion, Eros, that evolves into friendship, Philia, is the best kind of love, as it converts the strength of sexual passion from that of possessiveness into a true bond of mutual respect and desire to help improve one another and the world for the benefit of each other.
Storge, or Familial Love
The love of one's family is an unconditional love and one who's bond can grow out of Eros or Philia. It is one of the strongest and most enduring forms of love.
Agape, or Universal Love
Being able to love strangers, the world, animals, nature or on a metaphysical level is an altruistic type of love, which evolves from the unselfish desire to improve the world for ourselves and those we love.