Review of "The Five Love Languages"

Five Love Languages in a nutshell
Five Love Languages in a nutshell

The general content of Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts is easily summarized. Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch are the five ways that people are able to perceive the love of their partner. The presence or absence of these acts within the love relationship will determine whether the emotions evoked from the daily exchanges are good or bad. A repeated metaphor that Chapman uses is that of the gasoline tank. Having a full tank means that one is filled from one’s partner expressing love in the manner that they expressed they preferred to their partner while a low tank means there is no expression of love whatsoever or they are expressing it in a manner that is not aligned with their partners wishes. This is a very important distinction not only as it determines the quality of the love relationship, but the entire perspective of each party involved. Writing on the wider effects of this love tank, Chapman writes on page 37:

“When your spouse’s emotional love tank is full and he feels secure in your love, the whole world looks bright and your spouse will move out to reach his highest potential in life. But when the love tank is empty and he feels used but not loved, the whole world looks dark and he will likely never reach his potential for good in the world.”

As such a powerful determinant of our perception of reality, Chapman strongly encourages his readers to become more fluent in their understanding of their own desires and the desires of their partner so as to increase their capacity for and ease in obtaining peace of mind and happiness. If psychologist William James is correct is stating that the deepest human need is that for appreciation – these are the means of expressing that appreciation.

In order to better do this Chapman distinguishes between being “in love”, which he says is more aptly classified as limerence, and loving someone. The feeling of being “in love” is a more or less temporary madness that other research has likened to a period of intense intoxication due to the mind-body’s ready release of various pleasurable neurotransmitters. Being “in love” is a dangerous state of being as it is one of almost total fixation that will cause someone to pay no heed to work, school other aspects of life. Research tell us that this feeling, however, lasts at most a mere two years and it is only with the practice of these interpersonal exchanges that it can grow to a love that it more mature and rewarding as it is predicated on choice.

Chapman’s valorization of choice moves beyond this into his description of the first love language, Words of Affirmation. This is not just to give encouragement, but to also bring attention to the manner in which we comprehend the relationship and share that understanding with our partner. For instance, by bringing in the option of choice in exchanges, ie. “Could you please..?” instead of demands “I want you to…” a sense of autonomy is emphasized that allows for agency to develop. He further emphasizes the power of words as it relates to the role of forgiveness. He states that we can either chose to be Judges, and thus gradually disrupt and destroy the relationship, or Forgivers. Once Judgment is kept a permanent distance is created. Emphasizing the power of it’s opposite he states: “The best thing we can do with the failures of the past is to let them be history… Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offense up against the offender. Forgiveness is an expression of love” (47).

Chapman is clear that there is often more than one love language present spoken by our partner and that we must be open to listening to what it is that they say they want rather than expressing to them what it is that we want or what it is that we have learned that we are supposed to do based upon our familiar upbringing or cultural messages. Failing to be aware of them is, in essence, to fail the relationship as true love liberates and lacking such a mutually beneficial dynamic then it does not meet this standard.

Throughout the book, Chapman provides anecdotes based upon his counseling practice on how people’s increased ability to read their partner’s needs for Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch and giving it to them radically changed their relationship. The application of them, as the stories included by Chapman shows, is not always easy as a partner may be running on an empty tank and thus slow to register improvement – but over a long enough period the committed person is always able to accomplish their goal. Minor changes in inter-personal exchange can result in major changes for both the individuals and the relationship. There are plenty of short thought experiments in the form of questions directed at the reader to help them realize how it is to better obtain this knowledge about one’s relationship and they are in a format that does not break up the pacing of the book. For these and many other reasons I can foresee myself heartily recommending this book in my private practice to couples in search of counseling.

Prayer as a Practice of Spiritual Alchemy: Why and How to Create Moments of Ritual Mindfulness

The saying of prayers before the performance of a certain rites is a recurrent practice through varied religions, be it before the taking an animal’s life, before a meal, when giving dues to the dead, the dawn of the day, the birth of a child, or saying blessings before the beginning of a season. The context is myriad but the form is the same: words and actions are tied together in aspiration for a specific sentiments actualization.

While the rationale for some such religious actions may be based on a conceived need to appease or please a deity, it’s important that those that are more scientifically minded not conceive of themselves as superior without seeing the deeper truth underlying such acts of “magic”. Thinking responsibility, and thus examining and testing our presuppositions, we learn that the vocalizer and the experiencer of those vibrations are in fact actively practicing manufacturing upon the plasticity that is their mind and body.

In a manner similar to that of a camera, that upon which our consciousness reflects gives form to our thoughts. This, combined with other elements, determines how it is that our psyche is constructed and thus how we view the world. Just as changing one’s environment, purposive social interaction for positive transformation and actively re-educating oneself are three manners in which to accelerate positive self-transformation cognitively, so too is prayer.

Establishing certain times during the day to remind ourselves of the manifold possibilities held within our True Nature’s potency can be a powerful practice on the path towards self-liberation. Doing so during the many moments in which we normally take care of our body – such as when we feed it or just before we go to sleep – or act in a ritualistic manner are especially powerful due to their daily recurrence.

One such daily action ripe for prayer is bathing or showering. When doing so we are literally removing secretions and things that have attached to us that we do not want: a fittingly poetic moment to own with intention if ever there was one! An example of a short prayer that one could repeat in such a situation is as follows:

As I wash my body I also clean my spirit and mind
And return to the state of essence purified
The best of the day stays while the rest leaves
Exiting through the trunk and extremities

Writing your own prayers based upon your self-proclaimed values is a wonderfully creative method of expanding your spiritual practice. While it need not conform to any structure or stricture other than that which you think is appropriate, making some reference to the acts that you are performing at the moment will increase it’s resonance.

If you want, following this opening prayer, you can also allow yourself to alight upon specific examples of non-alignment with your values you perceived or experienced through the day. After you’ve noticed their emergence, you should forgive yourself for the false thinking that allowed it to emerge and restate your intentions and commitment to being clear of heart and mind in your future actions.

The Two Choices our False Feelings of Separation Presents: Growth or Decline

“No llores porque ya se terminó… sonríe, porque sucedió.”

– Gabriel García Márquez

Moments of separation between people, be it the death of a loved one, a close friend moving away physically or due to new life choices they’re making as well as the breaking up of a romantic relationship can have a have a powerful impact on the way in which we view ourselves and the world. The context of the events leading up to such circumstances will further inform how we treat the event. An unforeseen death may leave one feeling that they live in an arbitrary, meaningless world; a close friend moving away due to new life choices or opportunities may make one feel slighted or that there is now something missing in a milieu once seen as abundant, while a break-up can lead one to feel rejection or resentment.

The quote by Gabriel García Márquez that opens this blog is not meant to indicate that we should not feel these losses by suppressing our emotions. Doing so would only hold and perpetuate anger, despair, doubt, resentment, jealousy or feelings of loss within and so keep us from being present. However much we feel this, we must also not fixate upon such feelings.

It is a product of delusional thinking that any relationship between people is permanent. Each individual has their own needs and desires that can and oftentimes do come into conflict with others. No matter the lofty expressions of commitment or the amount of time spent together building a relationship, such relationships, just like our mortal life spans, will always come to an end on a long enough timeline.

At these moments of separation we are presented with two choices. We can continue to hold on to those feelings based on fear that evoke such internal commands such as “Never trust anyone again”, “Don’t get close to anyone”, or “The actions in my life have no meaning” or we can see the experience as one from which we can instead grow through forgiveness of ourselves and others.

For instance, an unexpected death can inspire us to apply more energy and vitality to the areas of our life with which we feel passion, for we too are mortal and can leave this coil without a moment’s notice. The moving away of a confidant or comrade can be recognized as prods to meet someone or several new people that can perhaps expand your personality in new ways that may bring you even greater joy and happiness. Separation with a romantic companion can be a point at which to examine aspects of the self that had informed such a decision so that future romances need not repeat similar travails.

We all have incredible personal strength and power that at times we seem afraid to exercise. Once we recognize these truths of the human condition, we no longer need to hold onto those lower emotional sentiments that inform our personality to our detriment. While it may be hard to recall at the moment, we must always view these instances as opportunities from which to learn and grow. To not do so we condemn ourselves to unlearn our truly resilient nature free that is free of only the fetters that we would place upon ourselves.