Even the Founding Fathers of Psychoanalysis Wrestled with Love
> 2/14/2008 12:46:54 PM

In honor of this most sentimental of holidays, we offer you the opinions of the grandfathers of psychotherapy on one of the fundamental human emotions: love.

Any psychoanalytic overview must begin at the beginning, with that still-controversial master of understatement, Sigmund Freud.  To Freud, one's inclinations in love return, as do all things, to the maternal/paternal. The boy seeks to replicate in his lovers the deep, warm, reassuring affection of his first love - mother. And the daughter looks to defeat her own mother by winning her father's love - a desire replayed in her adult relations with men, in which she looks for showers of affection like those delivered by her father.

In considering his various thesises, one must note that Freud himself was certainly not the most generous or optimistic of men:
"I have found little that is "good" about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think."

Love, for Freud, seemed nothing more than a weakness:
"We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love."

But perhaps Freud had hope for mankind's amorous affectations after all:
"Whoever loves becomes humble. Those who love have, so to speak, pawned a part of their narcissism."

He went even futher:
"Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness...work and love, that's all there is."

Carl Jung, another prominent follower of Freud, eventually parted ways with his predecessor over his perceived negativity. Jung was more of an idealist, a spiritualist... dare we say, a romantic? In his mind, love was the union of two disparate parts constituting a whole; a yin-yang equation. His own words sum his ideas up best:
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."

Jung spoke of a contradictory tension:
"Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other."

Jung was never quite able to find a perfect balance between the competing impulses. But he encouraged thousands of others to believe that such a state could and did exist. Alfred Adler, another father of psychoanalysis, warned that love is a sacrosanct idea not to be taken lightly: it signifies not merely fondness or desire but a generous, giving impulse that humans could inspire in one another.

Love, Adler said, is "entirely positive in its precepts," and in its true form it is "always altruistic, never selfish." We could all do with a little more of that sentiment in our lives.

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