As you read this maybe you are in love, looking for love or swearing off all romance and love. All of the latter can be true or none of it can be true for you. All experiences are welcome.
Queer Black Feminist writer bell hooks beautifully and deeply explored love in all about love. Last month I read hooks’ all about love, and felt moved by hooks’ observations on love.
As inspired by hooks - A few questions to hold in mind regarding love: How are you defining love? Where did this definition even come from in the first place?
While reading hooks my mind often wandered to my own childhood and the learning I internalized about love. Countless hours listening to love songs sinks in and has quite the impact, no doubt. For instance, I have listened to and loved many, many songs centering on unrequited love. So queer, I know.
Society also has a way of serving up harmful messaging (e.g., being lesser than, unworthy of love) to queer folks about the kind of love we are deserving of from others. How many narratives of queer characters in film and tv showcase a doomed love affair of some sort for queer folks? Far too many. You deserve the full, deeper love, on your terms (not society’s terms), if you choose that for yourself. hooks spoke to the need for authenticity and truth in cultivating love for self - “when we can see ourselves as we truly are and accept ourselves, we build the necessary foundation for self-love.”
A lot of folks learn about love from their families of origin too. The latter can be problematic, especially for queer folks because not all families are accepting, affirming, and loving. In all about love hooks called into question what can be considered love within our families of origin. hooks provided an invitation for critical thought on love - “Abuse and neglect negate love. Care and affirmation, the opposite of abuse and humiliation, are the foundation of love. No one can rightfully claim to be loving when behaving abusively.”
Learning around love can be transformative for queer folks, or any human who wants to grow and heal. What does this have to do with therapy, anyhow?? Well, love plays many roles in therapy. Even if love may not be on your radar, therapy can help you in developing a deeper love for yourself and others. And when the latter happens there is more connectedness in your life. When folks are connected, they are more present in their life. In all about love hooks described the choice to love and to connect: “The choice to love is a choice to connect - to find ourselves in the other.”
“Love is love”, right? And again, what is love? Is love the butterflies in your stomach, racing heart beats, etc.? In one of my many favorite passages in all about love hooks redefined love as a choice and an action. She wrote, “To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility.” Love is not like a Colorado tumbleweed. It does not just blow right in. It’s a choice. By choosing, you are open to love, open to receiving and giving love.
Past hurts and/or trauma often influence how individuals can show up for love. Similarly, society impacts how individuals can show up for love. For example, gender roles, if going unchecked, often are a source of lies taught to us about ourselves and others. Knowing and living your truth, as well as speaking your truth are crucial parts of love. hooks wrote, “Lies may make people feel better, but they do not help them to know love.” Therapy can be a place for redefining love, as well as healing the hurts and trauma from the past. When you acknowledge and grieve a difficult childhood, for example, you can then show up openhearted, choosing to give and receive love.
Seeing love as a choice and a responsibility, as well as not something that just happens like magic, can be a transformative new learning. You are not a passive passenger in this life. Of course, any one of us can choose to be passive or choose to do the work of love. hooks named the work to be done regarding love. She wrote, “To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients - care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” There is important work to be done around love. I invite you to bring more of this deeper work, as well as this kind of love to yourself and all your loves this February. You are loved. You are loving. Love is possible. Choose it for yourself, your loves and your community. And if you are interested for more, consider checking out all about love from your local library or buy a copy so you can make it yours, and return to your favorite passages over and over again.
About the author: Sharon F. Hester, LPC [she/her] is a licensed mental health therapist proudly offering Queer-affirming therapy in Denver, CO. Reach out today to discuss starting therapy.
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