Eros is passionate romantic love which is termed as a suffering form of madness, ‘divine madness’ by Socrates. Cupid causes people to fall in love despite their will and sometimes their best interests, hence Cupid is often depicted as blindfolded, which has extended into modern idioms like ‘love is blind’.
Philia is friendship and goodwill that depends on shared interests but also on admiration of goodness, virtue and the better good of the group.
Storge is love for the familiar, for family and friends old enough to become family. Passionate love often transmutes into this kind; whereby we like and are comfortable with what we know.
Agape is altruism or a kind of universal love for people from a Godly or imagined outside perspective. Curiously, it has been proven that the extended compassion to everyone typified by agape is good for mental health; as in the compassion meditations common in mindfulness where love for self is extended from family or lovers to friends to strangers to ‘enemies’.
This is wonderful lesson of Narnia creator, C.S. Lewis in his brief but revealing The Four Loves a book that explores the constituents of routinely monolithic ‘love’.
Later intellectuals have suggested adding to the Greek words for love for modern use: three more words:
Philautia is self love, compassion, respect, admiration. From the myth of Narcissus the negatives of narcissism, self-obsession is obvious. But self-compassion is the best kind of understanding since self-compassion extends to compassion for others; as contemporary mindfulness propounds.
Ludus is the playful flirtation where sex may or may not happen and has less ramifications than eros or philia. It can be short-term or long-term and the playful side of possibilities and ease valued above sanctifying, or bond-making.
Pragma is practical love, working for what will work and how to make it work rather than expecting it to because of the mere feelings of eros or storge alone. Accepting the flaws in the beloved to the point they are sympathetically allowed to be distinctly unlovely, at times, and that not matter enough to ruin a relationship.
Of course, the Greeks had unique words for love especially of love for fraternity, brothers, and love of wisdom – philo-sophy – among others. Interpersonal love typifies the first four, yet that the latter three were created later on perhaps indicates the need to express what has come about later–or was such a given as to never need a word in ancient Greece at all. Phil-autia is literally love-self, Ludus a Roman word for play, pragma a pragmatic approach to love. The words we use to think about emotions in the 240 or so words that go through our heads every minute does have an affect on how we feel – an emotionally intelligent love is to accept its varieties and nuances over the catch-all that ends up signifying without precision, merely ‘good feeling’.
The research demonstrates this, in the especially wonderful book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Professor Feldman Barrett. These words are valuable for a nuanced emotionally intelligent understanding; but so are the ordinary English nuances of love: desire, lust, admiration, fondness, arousal, wistful memory, compassion, smitten, enjoyment, elation, respect, goodwill, camaraderie. Consider less what you love, but how you love; with the words that your mind, tongue, or fingers select for use. A good love will have many of these qualities, but no love all of them wholly.
The imprecise words of ‘Mindfulness’ and ‘Emotional Intelligence’ will be subject to future posts; stay tuned.