The 5 Dimensions of Love

One cannot be healthy without love. Love is an essential ingredient for health. Not only for us all as individuals, but also at the family, local, state, national and international levels. Which has lead me to think a lot about love lately. Specifically altruistic love, which is the selfless concern for the wellbeing of others. The opposite of which would be selfishness and unconcern for others. Altruistic love is good for us. It makes our societies healthier, happier and more cohesive. These thoughts on love inspired me to pick up one of my books from my undergrad days: Unlimited Love: Altruism, Compassion and Service, by Dr. Stephen G Post.

Dr. Post, one the most amazing professors I have had the pleasure of knowing, learning from and being inspired by, has committed a lot of his academic work to studying altruism. In order to study altruism, one has to have ways to quantify and measure love. And although not everyone is interested in the academic study of love, it can be interesting to ponder the vast spectrum of types of love. In talking about ways in which to measure love, Post references Pitirim A Sorokin's The Ways and Power of Love.

According to Sorokin's work, there are 5 dimensions of love that can be utilized as measurable outcomes when conducting research on love.

1. Intensity: This can be measured in time, resources or energy. This may range from giving someone change for the bus to donating bone marrow to a complete stranger. 

2. Extensivity: This is the range of one's love, from loving oneself to loving all of mankind. Other ways to break it down are to consider the "order of love;" how does one's love for their family differ from that for their friends to other members of their clan, country, religion, or all of mankind?

3. Duration: This may range from brief moments, to months to years, to an entire lifetime. The love a mother has for her child may likely last a lifetime, whereas romantic love is generally of a shorter duration. 

4. Purity: This represents the level of ego involvement in the love. How much is asked for in return for love and how much love is given without any interest in any return? Pure love is said to be completely disinterested in any return. It is given without an agenda.

5. Adequacy: This is the giving of love that is appropriate, actually needed, and results in positive outcomes. Love that results in adverse outcomes scores low on adequacy. 

Interesting stuff! I was especially struck by the importance of "extensivity" and "adequacy" in light of much of the division and "us against them" mentality that seems to be pervasive in recent times. 

So let's all give a little more love to help make each other healthier and happier, and make the world a better place. 

Mass Wedding, Hangzhou, China, Fall 2005. 

Beautiful day. Over 100 couples wed.

Lots of love.