Most people are confused about love. (I sure was for a long time.)
And I don’t mean confused in the way that a teenage boy doesn’t understand how to interact with a girl.
I mean confused like the time your Grandma thought “Facebook” was the name for your school yearbook. It’s a fundamental misconception about what the thing is.
Though you probably know what Facebook is, you might have some fundamental misconceptions about what love is.
There are three common misconceptions (or myths) about love that most people carry around. (Usually, without even realizing it!)
I’ll get to what those are in a second…
But first, we have to remember something important:
Your Life Experience is Defined by the Stories You Believe
You are the person you believe yourself to be because of the story you tell yourself about yourself.
It’s a little meta, but when you look at it, it’s true. For everything.
Apples aren’t the thing itself, they’re the thing PLUS the story you tell yourself about them. (“Tasty!” or “Too sugary!” or “One a day keeps the doctor away!” or …)
Your job isn’t the job itself, it’s the work PLUS the story you tell yourself about it. (“This is my calling!” or “I hate this.” or “I like it and it pays the bills!” or…)
Reminds me of something my mom told me this week–that she’s trying to like salmon. She used to not like it. (“Too fishy!”) But now she’s open to changing that story because she knows it’ll benefit her health.
Salmon isn’t just salmon. It’s the fish PLUS the story you tell yourself about it.
Based on your stories, the way you experience things fundamentally changes.
Which means the story we tell ourselves about love is super important.
Depending on what your story is, you’ll experience more or less love in your life.
Which brings us back to those 3 Myths About Love I mentioned earlier.
3 Myths About Love (That Limit Your Ability to Experience It)
MYTH #1: Love is something rare to find. Most of the time you’re living your life and interacting with others, you aren’t experiencing love. It’s too special to have all the time!
MYTH #2: Love must be reserved for your inner-circle.Love is like “I love you” and you only say that to your very closest friends/family/life partner. Or it’s like the specific desire/yearning you feel for the touch of a lover.
MYTH #3: Love is a place you arrive at or fall into. Once you “fall in love” with your soul-mate, you’ll be living happily ever after.
If you believe these stories about love, you can find ways to “validate” them in your life experience. (You can do that with any story btw.)
But in doing so, you’re setting yourself up for a diminished experience of love. It’s like you’re removing the pedals from your bike, and letting out all the air from your tires before trying to ride it. You might happen to arrive somewhere interesting. But you’re limiting your potential.
“So…if those stories aren’t necessarily true, and are setting you up for a worse experience…what’s the alternative?”
Glad you asked.
3 Mindful Alternatives: Stories About Love That Are Worth Believing
Each of those myths has a mindful alternative that sets you up for a more abundant experience of love in your life.
This was important to me last year after I went through a breakup.
I wanted to know how I could create a life of love and connection outside of the context of a romantic relationship.
Turns out, you can totally do that. And, these mindful alternatives can bring you more (and deeper) experiences of love even if you’re already in a relationship of some kind.
#1: Love is Ever Present (if You Seek it)
Barbara Fredrickson is one of the world’s leading positive psychologists. Her research on the subject of love thwarts many common misconceptions.
This starts with the definition of what love is.
“Perhaps counterintuitively, love is far more ubiquitous than you ever thought possible for the simple fact that love is
It’s that poignant stretching of your heart that you feel when you gaze into a newborn’s eyes for the first time or share a farewell hug with a dear friend. It’s even the fondness and sense of shared purpose you might unexpectedly feel with a group of strangers who’ve come together to marvel at a hatching of sea turtles or cheer at a football game.
The new take on love that I want to share with you is this: Love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people—even strangers—connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong.“~ Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D.
Love is not something spooky or mysterious. Love is simply a moment of connection shared between two or more people.
Fredrickson characterizes this experience as one of “positivity resonance.” Which is an experience where you and another share a positive emotion together. Where you feel a shared desire to invest in each other’s wellbeing.
Sometimes we sustain these moments for longer periods of time. And other times, they’re super brief.
This perspective takes some of the pressure off of love. If it’s simply a moment of connection, you can find (or create it!) anywhere.
#2: Love is an Experience You Can Create with Everyone (Even People You Dislike or Disagree With)
Limiting your experience of love to a small subset of people is the silliest thing ever.
It would be like me saying: “I can only eat salads on Fridays.”
I love eating salads. AND they support my wellbeing. Why would I ever limit my ability to experience them?
Same thing with love. There’s no good reason to limit your opportunities to experience it.
As Frederickson shared, we can see love as a feeling of positivity resonance with another human. And as such, we’re free to CREATE these feelings every day. With every
Frederickson calls these “Micro-Moments of Positivity Resonance” or MMPRs for short.
It’s a funky name, but it’s a super helpful way to think about interacting with others. With MMPRs in mind, every interaction with another human become an opportunity to experience connection.
Some queues I think of that help me do this are:
- Breathing consciously and staying present
- Making eye contact
- Letting myself be curious about the other
This is easy for people we feel neutral to positive about. But what about those people we some sort of contracted mental state towards?
That’s where a practice called “Active Love” comes in. (Shoutout to Barry Michels and Phil Stutz and their book The Tools.)
It works like this:
- Notice when you’re “trapped in the maze” of negative thoughts with someone.
- Pause and take a breath, imagining your energy going from your head into your heart.
- Smile lightly and take another breath to focus your energy in your heart region.
- Think of something awesome about the person you’re feeling contracted towards. Send them some compassion for the challenges they may be facing.
- Imagine beaming them
love. Kinda like the Care Bear stare, imagine a beam of love and light emanating from your heart and directly towards theirs. Might feel a little cheesy, but it’s awesome. And in my experience, it works.
#3: Love is a Practice (And a Temporary State Which you Enter and Leave Throughout Each Day)
“True love” isn’t a destination to arrive at. It’s a means of travel along your life journey.
Just as joy or sadness or anger are temporary feeling states, so is love. Which means living a life of love and connection is about cultivating more of these moments in your day.
Love is a skill that you can PRACTICE!
“Love is not a magic bullet. You can no more expect to become healthier through a single, isolated micro-moment of positivity resonance than you can by eating just one piece of broccoli per year. Yet just as a steady diet of a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables does indeed make you healthier, so does a steady diet of a wide range of loving moments.”~ Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D.
There are two easy ways to start practicing love.
First, by creating more MMPRs each day. I’m so on-board with this practice, that I have a box on my Daily Wins Checklist for tracking how many MMPRs I rack up in my day. (My current goal is 5!)
(And the cool thing I’ve found: when you get better at creating MMPRs with strangers, or people you don’t know well…creating them with people you already know gets easier too.)
Second is by practicing loving-kindness meditation. This is a practice focused on extending well-wishes to yourself and others. If you’ve never practiced it before, it’s powerful. Fredrickson compiled a bunch of loving-kindness meditations on her website that you can check out.
Make Love a Priority and Put it Into Practice
“A single gust of wind, after it moves on, hardly alters the shape of a tree. Yet when you find all the trees in a given area leaning decidedly to the west, you can see the lasting effects of the prevailing winds. The new science of positivity resonance tells us that when you make love your prevailing desire, you remake whole domains of your life. You become appreciably and enduringly different, and better. You uplift others, helping them become different and better as well.”~ Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D.
Let’s make experiencing love a priority. It really does make all areas of life better!
First, consider: Are you willing to let go of any stories you’re holding onto that limit your daily experience of love?
Second, open yourself up to experiencing more love in your days. Lean into the fact that you DON’T need the perfect life partner to experience a life of love and connection. You don’t need any sort of perfect conditions. All you need is a bit of courage, and willingness to go first in an effort to connect with others.
Third, actively SEEK micro-moments of positivity resonance in each day. And if you feel inspired, track them as I do in a journal or DWC. This keeps the practice top of
Here’s to you, multiplying the amount of love in your life.
- If this lands with you, I recommend checking out Barbara Fredrickson’s book Love 2.0.
- Shoutout to Brian Johnson at Optimize for introducing me to Fredrickson’s work and The Tools.
- My friend Michael Balchan wrote a nice piece about eye-contact. It’s a helpful skill to practice if you want to create more
micro momentsof positivity resonance.