The Three Types of Love that Impact Individual, Society and Business

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Are you in love, or are you looking for love? Do you love your customers? Do you love your work? Do you love someone? Do you know what is love? 

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I would like to explore how LOVE impact individual, society and business.

According to the ancient Greeks, there are seven major types of love, but I will share three of them (to keep this article shorter).

1. Eros – Physical Love 

The first type of love is called Eros, aka physical love, named after the Greek god of fertility. It is a passionate and intense form of love that arouses romantic and sexual feelings. But the Greeks didn’t always think of it as something positive; Eros was viewed as a dangerous, fiery, and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you. This is what happened to Jack, the leading male character in the movie The Titanic, who died saving Rose, his newfound love because his behaviours were driven from Eros. But Eros has a critical role to play for individual, society and business as a whole. 

For individuals, the presence of Eros strengthens the bond between two people and fosters closeness, love and affection between couples. It is a significant binder that helps couples iron out the differences between them. From a scientific angle, chemicals at work during romantic love are oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones that have roles in pregnancy, nursing, and mother-infant attachment. The release of oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, provokes feelings of contentment, calmness, and security – we definitely need more.

The love hormone provokes feelings of contentment, calmness, and security

For society, Eros might just lend a hand to put a brake on the global population decline. According to a report by United Nations, by 2100, the world’s population is projected to reach approximately 10.9 billion, with annual growth of less than 0.1% which is a steep decline from the current rate. Read here on UN’s article on world population. Some have argued that global population decline is great news for the environment, helping to ease the strain on land, air and water, and contributing to efforts to limit the impact of global warming. Others raised the alarm on the loss of workforce potential and reduced economic growth, posing a formidable fiscal challenge. 

Business leaders are similarly concerned with shrinking consumer size and labour shortage. At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai held in August 2019, Tesla CEO Elon Musk remarked: “I think that the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse — not explosion, collapse.” Alibaba founder Jack Ma agreed and added: “The population problem is going to be facing huge challenge. 1.4 billion people in China sounds a lot, but I think next 20 years, we will see this thing will bring big trouble to China. And … the speed of population decrease is going to speed up.”

Perhaps it’s time businesses should invest in campaigns to promote Eros on Valentine’s Day, instead of selling more products and services in the pretext of Valentine’s Day (or Single’s Day).

2. Philautia – Self-Love

 The second type of love is Philautia, self-love. Self-love is a foundation of love. It is impossible to have a real love for others until you first love yourself. The Greeks believed that the only way to true happiness was to learn unconditional love for yourself. 

As a coach, I’ve seen many people who are dissatisfied and unhappy with themselves due to their constant self-criticism, and a persecutory inner voice that tells them they need to be perfect and how they could’ve done things better at work and in life. We can be too hard on ourselves. 

I firmly believe that we need to work equally on both our physical health and mental health. It saddens me to know that globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In a WHO report, it wrote: “Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, mental health and mental disorders are not accorded anywhere near the same degree of importance as physical health. Rather, they have been largely ignored or neglected.” The Lancet Commission 2018 Report estimates that mental health crisis could cost the world US$16 trillion by 2030.

As I walk past 24-hour gyms that focus on physical health, I can’t help but wonder if we can have similar 24-hour outfits that strengthen emotional and mental health. Kudos to individuals like Ms Angie Chew, who set up Brahm centre in 2012 to provide emotional and mental support to the Singapore community. For her laudable efforts to promote a happier and healthier living, she recently won the Straits Time Singaporean of the year 2019. Read her story here

Mental health crisis could cost the world US$16 trillion by 2030

It is noteworthy to mention that more and more business leaders and HR practitioners have begun to invest in a mentally healthy workplace with concerted efforts. There are significant business benefits, from increasing a workforce’s mental wellbeing, higher productivity and sales to more creativity and customer satisfaction. In 2018, twenty leaders in Singapore’s private and public sectors came together to form the WorkWellLeaders Workgroup to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices for a more caring and resilient workplace.

Philautia takes time and perseverance to harvest, but Philautia helps us get over disappointments and the failures that we experience in our lives. I love this quote by author and motivational speaker Katrina Mayer “Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.”

3. Agape – Selfless Love

Finally, and perhaps the highest form of love or the late Whitney Houston famously sang “The greatest love of all” is Agape or selfless love. This is a love that you extend to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. A person who epitomises selfless love is Mother Teresa who devoted her life to caring for the sick and poor. For her life’s work, she was canonised as a saint in 2016 by Pope Francis.

The world is currently facing the horrific COVID-19 outbreak with estimated economic losses amounting to more than US$3 trillion by the World Bank in a recent Forbes article. Amidst the heart-wrenching facts and stories we’ve read, it is immensely heart-warming to see Agape in action. From the selflessness of the healthcare professionals risking their lives fighting coronavirus at the frontline (read CNA article), banks offering financial assistance to affected SMEs, wealthy individuals donating money, VWOs/NGOs conducting fundraising to buy medical supplies, to university students delivering meals for fellow students who are on leave of absence.

Let’s continue to make Agape love contagious!

Let’s make Agape love contagious!

What can we learn from these three different types of love? What are the Greeks really trying to teach us? Like the Greeks, let’s nurture the varieties of love and tap into its many sources. Don’t just seek Eros, but cultivate self-love by being kind to yourself, or develop your Agape by helping others. Love comes in many forms. Love is beautiful; love is a practice; it is not something you find or don’t find. You can practice love for the rest of your life. 

On this Valentine’s Day, I wish you abundant happiness and love, but above all, I wish you an abundance of love to share with others.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Written by Catherine Chai, Principal Consultant, Trainer & Facilitator