Most of us think of love as a romantic, Cupid-style, head-over-heels feeling – but for Ancient Greeks, this was just one of the eight types of love.
It can be easy to feel like you are missing out on love if you are not coupled up and making googly eyes at someone on a regular basis. Our society obsesses over romantic love, holding it up higher than any other relationships or emotions that we might experience. The Ancient Greeks did not.
Our idea of love is a cultural construct. If you want more love in your life, broaden your understanding of this multi-faceted emotion.
The Eight Types of Love
- Eros (Passionate Love)– Taking its name from the Greek god of fertility, Eros best defines our modern concept of romantic love. Eros is primal, powerful, and intense. It is guided by lust, pleasure, and infatuation – and it often involves a loss of control. For this reason, the Ancient Greeks didn’t necessarily think that it was always a good thing. It can be dangerous and is likely to burn out quickly unless supported with one of the less superficial loves below.
- Ludus (Playful Love)– Often paired with Eros and associated with puppy love, Ludus is the playful affection that you feel during the early stages of a relationship. You laugh, you tease, you flirt. But you also feel Ludus when you’re laughing and bantering with friends, dancing with strangers, or sending flirty messages online. Ludus makes you feel young and euphoric.
- Philautia (Self Love) – Loving yourself is the bedrock for loving other people. Having pride in your work, taking care yourself, and maintaining a loving inner dialogue are all parts of Philautia. Self-loathing people have little love to give. After all, you can’t “love your neighbor as yourself” unless you love yourself first. Beware the negative form of Philautia, narcissism. An Ancient Greek idea that we know all too well today, narcissism is defined by self-obsession, vanity, and a narrow focus on one’s personal gain.
- Mania (Obsessive Love) – Unbalanced Eros and a lack of healthy Philautia can easily foment into Mania, or madness. Stalking behaviors, co-dependency, extreme jealousy, and violence are all symptoms of Mania. Love can be a balm for low self-esteem, and Mania sufferers are desperate to keep the sense of self-value that their desired partner provides.
- Pragma (Committed Love) – A hallmark of healthy, long-term relationships, Pragma is a deep understanding and unique harmony between two people. While Eros is about finding love, Pragma is about giving love. Patience, tolerance, and compromise are essential elements.
- Storge (Family Love) – Naturally flowing between parents and children, Storge is a familiar fondness most often associated with kinship. It often involves an unbalanced relationship, where the flow of love is asymmetrical or even unilateral. Born out of familiarity and dependency, Storge is unconditional. It is a very powerful force, and can also be generated between friends, bosses and colleagues, and owners and pets.
- Philia (Friendship Love) – Philia is the love between equals who share goodwill toward each other. Ancient Greeks valued Philia over all other types of love. Features of this deep feeling of friendship include loyalty, the sharing of emotions (good and bad), and a sense of shared sacrifice. Philia is a virtuous, intimate companionship that has the power to transform eros from lust to spiritual understanding.
- Agape (Compassionate Love) – Agape is selfless, unconditional love for the entire world: neighbors, strangers, everybody. Existing on the spiritual plane, it is the highest form of love – and the one in shortest supply in today’s society. Empathy fuels Agape love, which is given freely without any desires, expectations, or judgment.
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