The Heart and Soul of Love

The Beatles declared, “all you need is love.” Lady Gaga wants “your stupid love.” Beyonce is “drunk in love.” Love can be confusing. What is healthy love? Discover helpful tips to love yourself and others well.

You don’t have to look far to see the word love used in our world today. If you do a quick online search, love appears at least 15,570,000,000 or 155.7 billion times on the Internet. People can say they love a great steak or a Runza® or the Huskers or the Hawkeyes, but what really is love and why do we all need it in our lives?

What is the importance of love? 

The importance of love is simplistic and complex at the same time. Love is necessary, and it’s a need not a want for every living creature—especially us as humans. The idea of what love can feel like and be like is that love is not just a noun, it’s a verb. Love is an action. Love is a warm blanket for your soul. You can receive and feel love and give love to yourself and others. Love is so important because it really does shape our entire lives. 

When it comes to our identity, what’s truly going to shape us is how we were nurtured. We can ask ourselves: Was there patience in my life? Was there guidance in my life? What was I taught? The degree of investment of love by those around you will shape you for the rest of your life. I don’t know anything else that’s so prominent as a life-shaper.mi

How does love shape us?

The idea of shaping love begins when you were a child. Your parent’s role or a caregiver’s role was to educate and to discipline. Both educating and disciplining have to be done with the idea of nurture. When there’s nurture, there’s love. More specifically, if I nurture you, I am going to lift you up. If I’m going to correct you with respect, I am going to discipline you and then hug you. I am going to remind you how special you are and then tell you, “Honey, there’s a better way you can choose.”

Shaping love for someone involves tone of voice and word usage. It’s modeling humility. Shaping our view of love when we were a child has a layer of complexity. But what was modeled to us can also prevent us from giving and receiving love as we grow up. If love was not modeled to us in a healthy way, we can run into problems throughout our lives. 

What makes love scary?

If love is conditional, it comes with an expectation. For example, if you know you can’t make mistakes, or you have to be a certain way, or you have to earn love, then the message you receive is, “I’m only worthy of love on a conditional basis.” As you grow up, if you feel like you are not worthy, you may be cautious of giving and receiving love. If you were raised in a household with harshness and abrasiveness, then you may not know how to give and receive love in a healthy way. For a lot of people, love is scary because they didn’t experience healthy love on a consistent basis as a child. 

How can love be reshaped?

I stress the importance of your relationship with yourself. If you can’t love yourself or you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself, you will struggle with giving and accepting love. It is important to get interconnected with your innermost vulnerabilities. One vulnerability may be a tendency to feel responsible for other people’s emotions. If you’re in a relationship with your child, partner or parent, for example, and this loved one is growing through something tough, you may be quick to throw aside everything and try to claim responsibility for fixing things. When you do, you may not be able to enjoy your own interests and passions because you feel like you have to hold space for the other person. 

Or maybe your vulnerability is a sense of jealousy in relationships. If you know you can get jealous, maybe you learn to check that vulnerability at the door and allow people to be independent. Or perhaps you are aware you tend to be codependent because you worry the other person is going to leave you. There may be some abandonment issue behind all that. 

The more you can recognize your vulnerabilities, the more you will feel safe and calm in a relationship of any kind. When you become more self-aware and extend compassion and love to yourself, you become less fearful of giving and receiving love. The relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have. That’s why we all need time to step back and think and meditate on and process our thoughts and emotions. 

What happens to us physically and emotionally without healthy love?

The body holds the score of the mind. If we don’t feel like we’ve received the type of healthy, consistent love that we need, we will feel it mentally and physically. If we were not modeled healthy, consistent love, then we were shaped with unhelpful assumptions of love and our role in the world of relationships. We take those unhelpful assumptions in and carry them into adulthood. In behavioral health, we call that adult-child issues or adult-child vulnerabilities. Often we don’t know why we have an unhelpful assumption or we’re not even aware that we have this unhelpful assumption.

An unhelpful assumption could be that we’ve become conditioned to faulty automatic negative thinking about ourselves, about others, about love, about what we choose to be in life. This negative thinking becomes so heavy on the mind, which a lot of times leads to depression or post-traumatic stress, depending on how severe the situation we faced. Anxiety can be daunting with this too. Depression can create a part of us that holds anxiety. 

As these emotions affect us, they can affect our physical health too. Common physical symptoms of depression include pain in the joints, limbs and back, gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, sleep disturbances and appetite changes. Anxiety can leave us with a racing heart rate, heart palpitations and chest pain. Anxiety can also cause headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, fatigue and continual worry and irritability. If left unchecked, anxiety can become chronic and increase our risk for depression. 

Not dealing with underlying emotional stress can interfere with your quality of life from many angles. So much of your emotional angst can be traced to your childhood and an unhelpful viewpoint of loving nurture. But guess what? You can correct this. You can update your system. In essence, you can give yourself what you need now that you didn’t have then. Nothing is beyond repair is this regard. 

How can we build healthier love into our lives? 

Besides getting to know your yourself and understanding the relationship that you have with yourself, it is life-affirming to also recognize what you value. Know what you value and then put your time and energy into things that match your values. This is how you love yourself. This is self-respect. 

So know your values and make sure your time is aligned with your values. And then understand what you need and not be afraid to recognize those needs. Ask yourself, What are my needs in life? Then communicate assertively and openly those needs to the appropriate people. Be sure to meet yourself where you are and always with self-compassion because that’s one thing you can never have enough.

Communication is really an art. If you’re not used to communicating your needs, then this can seem foreign. But the more you practice communicating what you need, the more you do it naturally. It’s also important to recognize any automatic negative thinking. I call it our mental tape deck. If you hit “reject,” your brain won’t hear those negative message. I like to tell people, if you learn the power of your mind, you’d never tell yourself another negative thing. So be aware of how you speak to yourself. 

Does reshaping our viewpoint of love really work?

Absolutely. One woman I was working with was not modeled healthy, consistent love as she grew up, and that taught her to be quite hard on herself. But the more she learned to love her inner child and love herself, everything else in her life fell into place, especially with her husband. 

When you learn to love yourself, you learn to recognize your own vulnerability. You also learn to spot other people’s vulnerability more quickly — their pain, their suffering, the things that shaped them. When you can do that, you’re able to step outside of the box and take things less personally. 

For this client, learning to understand her vulnerabilities helped her spot her husband’s vulnerabilities. This helped her see him for who he is, his strengths, his weaknesses and his struggles. She realized she didn’t need to react to his vulnerabilities because she now understood that his vulnerabilities had nothing to do with her.

Seeing this helped her to communicate more love to him and helped him get the help he needs. Love and compassion create a domino effect. It only takes one person to model compassion and love consistently to reset our mind’s connection with healthy experiences of love. 

When is it time to seek professional help with mental health?

When the little things that don’t normally get us down start to feel like big things that are really adding up, this is an indicator that our mental health cup is too full. We all have a mental health cup in which none of us are superheroes. No one is immune from the challenges of life. If you feel this mental log jam, it is time to unpack that and process because maybe you’re more vulnerable than you realize. 

If you find you’re not able to self-regulate or you can’t find your inner peace or grounding zone, that space that gives you relief in your self-care, it’s probably another indicator that it’s time to make some space to clear your mind.

Think Mental Health Resources 

At Think, we understand the interconnection of physical and emotional health. The Think Whole Person Healthcare’s Behavioral Health services are here for you when life’s challenges feel too much to handle alone. Our insightful and caring therapists and psychiatrist know just how to guide you through a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, grief, obsessive/compulsive disorder, substance abuse, addiction, acute mental health issues and more. 

Our licensed mental health professionals will discuss with your Primary Care physician how to best attend to your individual physical and mental health. We can arrange sessions with individuals as well as with couples and families. All of you — including your thoughts and emotions — matter significantly to us.


Think Whole Person Healthcare makes it easy to receive both preventative care and treatment for a wide range of health conditions. From the fluctuating blood sugar levels to the persistent joint pain, our physicians, advanced practice providers and specialists are committed to you and your family’s lifelong health and well-being.

Our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our comprehensive healthcare services, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page. 

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