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The meanings of the word love

Professor Stephen B. Levine

Love is often invoked in therapy, is presumed to be the overarching ideal context for sexual function, and is vital to our psychology at every stage in life. Yet the subject is generally avoided by mental health professionals, sexual therapists, and sex researchers. This presentation provides nine overlapping meanings of love. The work is a personal synthesis based on decades of clinical immersion as therapist, extensive reading including the scientific literature, and personal experience. This presentation is intended to help clinicians to understand what they and their patients mean when we invoke the term love.
The presentation will focus on the nouns of love, but each of the nine separate meanings of love implies a psychological process of love. Thus, the nouns of love are actually a shorthand introduction to the verbs of love. Love is an idealized ambition, an arrangement or a deal, an attachment, a moral commitment, a management process, a force of nature, a transient emotional state, an illusion, and a stop sign. The nouns of love and the verbs of love rest on their ability to disguise themselves from us. This keeps love somewhat mysterious and out of the comfort zone of therapists.


Conflict of Interest: None disclosed
Financial Support/Funding: None disclosed
Recorded: Sydney, Australia, April 2007

Stephen B. Levine
Stephen B. Levine
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Professor Stephen B. Levine

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Co-director, Center for Marital and Sexual Health
Author of: Demystifying Love: Plain talk for the mental health professional.2006. Routlege, New York

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