I feel like this should not be a difficult question to answer. We've been discussing on another thread that "god is a concept," and I'm wondering if "Love is a concept" as well? Can it be defined? Grasped? Examined objectively?

I do realize that this is not related to "Atheism," but it is a question that I'm struggling with personally. Realizing that there are probably no gods was never a big deal for me. I was able to see that my religion of Christianity is a sham. It didn't bother me too much. But the result of that realization has been to look back at my life - the things that have happened to me, and my own actions and decisions with a new perspective.

Like many women and men too, I have lived through different abuses, and I've always felt like a victim. Well....what they don't tell you when you begin to peel back the layers and look at reality without the blinders of religious concepts like "purity" and "forgiveness" and "god's will" (need I go on?) it forces a person to look deeper at themselves. In my own experience, moving from victim to Survivor has come with a series of realizations that are not comfortable or pleasant. It is not the same as assigning "self-blame," which is (imho) part of "playing victim" but when you finally get to the place where you can recognize your own contributions to any given problem, it forces you to confront those things within yourself that are the ugliest. Those things that you don't want anyone to know. Those things you may have always hated in others, and when you realize that YOU are that way too.....it hurts. These are the very things that get ignored when you are a Christian because you simply say, "god forgive me for my sin" and you move on...no effort is put into self-realization, or dare I sau "self-actualization."

In my own personal experience, one of the detriment of joining with a domestic violence agency has been that they tend to live "in crisis." Just as we sometimes need a catalyst for change that will pull us OUT of an abusive situation, or a broken relationship, or any kind of volatile circumstance, we also need a catalyst to move us away from the cycle of being "forever victims." Once the "crisis mode" is over, it's hard to see the Forrest through the trees. It's difficult to realize that you have "normal" staring you in the face, and you are no longer in danger. It's difficult to let down your defenses and admit that you no longer need to live your life in fear, and that you are safe. The culture of "domestic violence awareness" is good at getting people help to escape life-threatening circumstances, but does very little to help you when you need "tough love" and someone to say, "You don't need us anymore. You are strong enough to handle this on your own."

.....But simply realizing "just" this alone is still not as deep as it goes. It goes deeper than that. As a Survivor of domestic violence, as well as childhood abuse and neglect, I've lived almost my entire life "in crisis" of some kind. Now that I am no longer "in crisis" I've spent a great deal of time trying to really grasp why I still feel like I need a sense of closure. And more importantly, how I can find a way to really move forward and live a healthy, happy life.

When I went home to see friends and family over the holidays, I mustered up the courage to open all of the "prison letters." Letters written from a man who started having sex with me when I was 15. I initially didn't go into it with any expectations other than a deep sense of curiosity as to what I would find if I dared to look back at them.

I learned something about myself that I am still coming to terms with...I do not think that I ever loved him. If you asked me at any given point if I loved this man, I would have always said that I do love him, even though he's no good for me. Now I'm not so sure. I now wonder if the truth is that I was simply addicted to a feeling I once had when I was with him....but that feeling is NOT love...

The same could be said that I'm not even sure if I loved my ex-husband. I think that our relationship was such that we both needed things that the other person could fulfill, and so we were together. That is not to say there wasn't moments of truly good feelings, but I don't think I could honestly say "those feelings" could be defined as love.

All of this pondering within myself has left me restless, exhausted, and confused. It's very painful, because it means that all the men I've been with in the past, I never truly loved, and they never truly loved me. In order to adopt this perspective, it required admitting MY weaknesses, and exposing a side of myself that I do not find pleasant. It requires admitting that I do not know what love is. It makes me confront the fact that I contributed to the creation of an environment that fostered the abuse to happen in the first place. (*note: that is NOT the same as saying I was "at fault" but simply admitting responsibility for my part in it.)

There is a part of me that tends towards feeling on one hand, sorry for myself, or responsible for all of this. And the other extreme of feeling like I was "the abuser." I had to remember that my childhood experiences are at the root of who I've become, and the people who abused me as a child were also victims of many abuses. That is not to excuse them. The people who hurt me as adults do have the blame in that. And as for my peers who molested me, they too were victims. They were simply imitating what was done to them.

And so in admitting to myself that I really do NOT understand what love is, I want to know what you all think. Christians say things like, "God is love," and "Love is patient, love is kind....." up to now the "1 Corinthians" definition of love was always what I thought love was. I am admitting that I have no idea what "true love" is, or if there is such a thing.

What is your definition of "true love?"


Is love just like god? (just a concept?)

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There's real love and there are other things masquerading as love.

Real love is selfless, and I define it this way: "Love is wanting what's best for the other person, whether it would make you happy or if it's what you would want for yourself." This kind of love is typically exhibited mostly by good parents for their children and good friends for the other.What I referred to as something masquerading as love is what most of us call and know as romantic love. It's really best viewed as a kind of OCD rather than as love.

Based on your definition Unseen I've loved many people. I do think a distinction must be made though because many people could fall into the trap of loving and taking care of everyone except themselves. This means they neglect themselves. I don't know if you can "truly" love a person in the way they deserve before you are able to love yourself first. This spirals into co-dependence: the flip side of abuse, and it is just as unhealthy.
RE: "Love is wanting what's best for the other person, whether it would make you happy or if it's what you would want for yourself."

How do you deem "what's best" for another person? Is that based on their opinion of what's best for themselves? Or your perceived assessment of what's best for them?

I am not saying it's "wrong" I am just asking for more clarification.

How do you deem "what's best" for another person? 

You're asking the wrong question. It's not about looking out and conducting an investigation or giving the other person a questionnaire. It's about looking into yourself and asking what your motives are. 

For example, your best friend announces that she has been offered a job far away. While a real opportunity for her, it will be too far for weekend visits. What is your first response? Is it, I don't like this, I want to try to talk her out of it? Or is it, I am glad for her and for how this will improve her life?

I like your definition of real love, but I'm not sure why the cynicism about most romantic love being the masquerading version?

Because it's fundamentally selfish. You want the other person, a life with the other person, etc.

It bears no relation to wanting what's best for the other, except perhaps for deluding oneself that the other needs you as much as you feel a need for them.

Romance can lead to true love. Old married couples tend to end up being good friends.

Remember that romantic love sometimes leads to murder, murder/suicide, sexual domination and enslavement, etc., in the most extreme cases. In less extreme cases, it can get pretty stalkerish.

Love is a concept, we use to describe our instincts, conscience thoughts, and actions involved in protecting our families and also the urge to mate/reproduce. Courting in the animal world has often evolved into seemingly bizarre behavior and we are no different. The fact that we are born helpless is a clue as to why we assign such importance to "love". We are very dependent on each other.

Is the love, care, and attention a mother gives her baby actual love, or is it instinctive? And can it be both?

Here is something I ran across today.


I have to admit that I think this is me. I've tried to break this bond I have, it's just not working! Today I saw my therapist and we did an EMDR session...im still processing it.

He got out of prison/recovery today and is on parole. I already am feeling suffocated and trapped, scared, confused, and I know I need help. I feel sometimes beyond help. I think being able to identify that it is Stockholm Syndrome is a step in the right direction.

Anyway.....here is the article.....this is not love.

When You Love Your Abuser: Stockholm Syndrome and Trauma Bonds

They say that when you get burned by fire you don’t put your hand in the hot oven again. But that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes, it’s the fact of being burned that emotionally bonds you to an abuser. In fact, studies show that emotional abuse intermixed with small acts of kindness can bond some victims to their abusers even more than consistent good treatment can. So far I’ve used the word “victim” to describe the women (or men) who suffer at the hands of psychopaths. Yet I don’t really like this word for several reasons. It tends to imply a certain passivity, as if the woman herself had nothing to do with the decision to get involved with the psychopath or, worse yet, to stay with him even once his mask of sanity started to slip. It’s rare that a psychopath physically coerces a woman to get involved with him or to stay with him. Although he intimidates and brainwashes her, generally the victim cooperates.

This isn’t to imply, at the opposite end of the spectrum, that the women who get involved with psychopaths are “guilty” or deserve the mistreatment. In fact, that’s the other main reason why I don’t like the term “victim.” It evokes certain notions of moral purity that put the victim on trial. There used to be a conventional prejudice, for example, that if a victim of rape dressed in a provocative manner or walked around alone at night, then she wasn’t really “innocent” and somehow “asked for it.”

We realize now that this perception is false and prejudicial. Women can be targeted and abused without being perfect angels themselves. Analogously, one shouldn’t have to have to prove one’s perfection in the court of public opinion to gain sympathy for being used and abused by a psychopathic partner. Nobody capable of empathy and love deserves the kind of brainwashing, intimidation, lying, cheating, manipulation and distortion of reality to which a psychopath routinely subjects his partner. Despite the fact that I don’t like some of the connotations of the word “victim,” however, I use it because I believe that the women who become involved with and stay with psychopaths of their own free will are, in some respects, being victimized. To illustrate how you can be victimized while colluding in your own victimization, I’ll rely upon Dr. Joseph Carver’s explanation of Stockholm Syndrome in his article “Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser.” (drjoecarver.com)

Carver states that he commonly runs in his practice into women involved with psychopathic partners who say something to the effect of, “I know it’s hard for others to understand, but despite everything he’s done, I still love him.” While cultivating feelings of love for a partner who repeatedly mistreats you may seem irrational, it’s unfortunately quite common. Psychological studies show that molested children, battered women, prisoners of war, cult members and hostages often bond with their abusers. Sometimes they even go so far as to defend them to their families and friends, to the media, to the police and in court when their crimes are brought to justice.

This psychological phenomenon is so common that it acquired its own label: “Stockholm Syndrome,” named after an incident that occurred in Stockholm, Sweden. On August 23rd, 1974, two men carrying machine guns entered a bank. They held three women and one man hostage for several days. By the end of this ordeal, surprisingly, the victims took the side of their captors. They also defended them to the media and to the police. One woman even became engaged to one of the bank robbers. Another spent a lot of money for the legal defense of one of the criminals. Those who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome develop an unhealthy positive attachment to their abusers. They come to accept the abuser’s lies and rationalizations for his bad behavior. They sometimes also assist the abuser in harming others. This psychological condition makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the victims to engage in behaviors that facilitate detachment from the abuser, such as turning him in, exposing his misconduct or leaving him.

This unhealthy bonding solidifies when the abuser alternates between the carrot and the stick conditioning, as we’ve seen in the case of Drew and Stacy Peterson. He interlaces the abuse–the lying, the cheating, the implicit or explicit threats and insults, and even physical assault–with acts of “small kindness,” such as gifts, romantic cards, taking her out on a date to a nice restaurant, apologies and occasional compliments. Needless to say, in any rational person’s mind, a cute card or a nice compliment couldn’t erase years of abusive behavior. Yet for a woman whose independent judgment and autonomy have been severely impaired by extended intimate contact with a psychopath, it can and often does. Such a woman takes each gift, hollow promise and act of kindness as a positive sign. She mistakenly believes that her abusive partner is committed to changing his ways. She hopes that he has learned to love and appreciate her as she deserves. She wants to believe him even when the pattern of abuse is repeated over and over again, no matter how many times she forgives him. This is what trauma bonding is all about.

A victim of Stockholm Syndrome irrationally clings to the notion that if only she tries hard enough and loves him unconditionally, the abuser will eventually see the light. He, in turn, encourages her false hope for as long as he desires to string her along. Seeing that he can sometimes behave well, the victim blames herself for the times when he mistreats her. Because her life has been reduced to one goal and one dimension which subsumes everything else–she dresses, works, cooks and makes love in ways that please the psychopath–her self-esteem becomes exclusively dependent upon his approval and hypersensitive to his disapproval.

As we know, however, psychopaths and narcissists can’t be pleased. Relationships with them are always about control, never about mutual love. Consequently, the more psychopaths get from their partners, the more they demand from them. Any woman who makes it her life objective to satisfy a psychopathic partner is therefore bound to eventually suffer from a lowered self-esteem. After years of mistreatment, she may feel too discouraged and depressed to leave her abuser. The psychopath may have damaged her self-esteem to the point where she feels that she wouldn’t be attractive to any other man. Carver calls this distorted perception of reality a “cognitive dissonance,” which psychopaths commonly inculcate in their victims. He elaborates:

“The combination of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’ produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and ‘placed all their eggs in one basket.’ The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.” (drjoecarver.com)

I stated earlier that the only way to escape this dangerous dependency upon a psychopath is to remove yourself permanently from his influence. Any contact with him keeps you trapped in his web of manipulation and deceit. In some respects, however, this is a circular proposition. If you have the strength to leave a psychopath and the lucidity to reconsider your relationship with him, then you’re probably not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. You may have been temporarily lost in the fog of the psychopathic bond, as I was. But those who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome find themselves lost in a dark tunnel. They don’t know which way to turn anymore. They probably need outside help to see the light and save themselves. So what can family and friends do for them?

Liane Leedom addresses this question in an article called “How Can I Get My X Away From the Psychopathic Con Artist?” (lovefraud.com, September 7, 2007). She advises a subtle intervention rather than clobbering the victim with accusations against her abuser, which may put her on the defensive. As we recall, psychopaths establish control of their victims BITE by BITE, like emotional vampires. Once again, “BITE” stands for “behavior, information, thoughts and emotions.” Psychopaths attempt to control all aspects of their partners’ experience of reality.

To counteract their dangerous influence, you need to BITE back. Give the victim a true perception of reality and real emotional support. If and when she complains about her psychopathic partner, don’t rush to join her in criticism. She’s likely to start defending the psychopath again. Instead, be a good listener. Draw out calmly and rationally the implications of the actions which upset her. Show her that you understand and support her. This way she’ll have a standard of comparison between her partner’s abusive behavior and your genuine caring. As we’ve seen, a psychopath is bound to make his partner feel insecure and pathologically dependent on him. Encourage the victim to find other sources of satisfaction in her life, which are not motivated by the desire to please him.

The issue of motivation is key. Psychopaths’ partners commonly lose weight, dress better, find better employment, pursue more interesting hobbies, all of which may appear to be positive signs. But they’re not if these self-improvements remain motivated by the desire to gain the psychopath’s approval or avoid his disapproval. The quest for his validation keeps the victim–and her self-esteem–enchained to a disordered human being whom she can never satisfy and who doesn’t have her best interest at heart. Above all, Leedom suggests that family and friends of the victim should make it clear that they will be there for her once she disengages from the psychopath. She won’t find herself lost, unloved and alone, as the psychopath probably leads her to fear in order to keep her under his control.

Sometimes, family and friends of the victims notice similar behavior from the victim as from the psychopath himself. Both, for instance, may lie. Leedom and other psychologists state that, sadly, this phenomenon is also quite common. We’ve seen that contact with a psychopath tends to be contagious and destructive, like a virus. It distorts your perception of reality, corrupts your moral values and diminishes your empathy for others. According to Leedom,

“This is what happens when you have any association with a psychopath, no matter how you know them and whether or not you live with them. This is why I strongly encourage family members to cut the psychopath off. Psychopaths’ whole way of relating to the world is about power and control. This need for power and control is very personal. They do it one person at a time, one victim at a time. They do it very systematically with malice and forethought. When they succeed in hurting someone or getting another person to hurt him/herself or others, they step back, revel in it and say ‘I did it again, shit, I’m great!’ (they use a lot of foul language also).” (lovefraud.com)

Just as most people experience a visceral pleasure in making love, or eating chocolate, or seeing their children’s team win a game, so psychopaths experience great pleasure when they hurt others. They enjoy corrupting their partners so that they too become manipulative, deceptive and callous like them. For a psychopath, destroying his partner from the inside/out–her human, moral core, not just her daily life–represents a personal triumph. Psychopaths identify, pursue, isolate, corrupt, devalue and eventually discard one victim at a time. By this I don’t mean to suggest, of course, that they’re faithful to anyone. But they focus their energy in a single-minded fashion on destroying one life at a time, one person at a time. Women seduced by psychopaths enter what psychologists call a “hypnotic state.” They shut out any aspects of reality that would reveal the truth. They focus instead only on the parts of reality that conform to the distorted perspectives presented by their partner. This logic often applies to the psychopath’s family members as well. I’ve already mentioned that Neil Entwistle’s parents supported their son even after he was convicted of murder. Parents who behave this way, Leedom explains, “want to have the perfect family as much as anyone else. They therefore normalize and justify all of the psychopath’s hurtful controlling behavior.” (lovefraud.com) Of course, when parents go so far as to either ignore or justify murder, their behavior crosses the line into pathology.

Yet no matter how much love and support you may offer the victim of a psychopath, like individuals who suffer from other kinds of addictions, she can only save herself. Ultimately, it’s up to her to find the inner strength to confront the truth about the psychopath. Psychologists state that, generally speaking, the longer a woman stays with the psychopath, the less likely she is to recover from that harmful relationship. Her tortured love for him may last for the rest of her life. But it’s highly unlikely that the psychopath will stick around for that long. If you don’t leave a psychopath, chances are that he’ll eventually leave you to mine for new opportunities elsewhere. Leedom adds, “The question here is whether this will take so long to run its course that the victim will lose herself completely. When that happens there is great risk of suicide when the relationship falls apart.” (lovefraud.com) Hopefully, the more information we spread about psychopathy, the easier and sooner victims will recognize the symptoms of this personality disorder. This information can give them the strength to escape psychopathic seduction and control before it’s too late.

A chemical reaction in the brain and a social-biological-cultural phenomena pf which we do not have a particularly sophisticated understanding yet. 

I love the person who freed me from depression.  This is a very pure and powerful form of love and I feel very fortunate to experience it.  Before this I never knew what it was to truly love but this has shown me.  I used to be much more petty and selfish than I am now.  

I agree with what Unseen says, and I also think that 1-Corinthians has it spot on.  

Think about how you feel about your son.  That's real love.  

"... a way to really move forward and live a healthy, happy life."  I would say, think about the things you need to do, and the things you love to do, and work out how to achieve them.  Follow your dreams or find new ones.  Do things that maintain your health and wellbeing such as going to the gym and eating sensibly. 


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