What Is a Loving Attitude & Why Is It Important in Life?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Transcend" by Scott Barry Kaufman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a loving attitude? Why is the ability to love others so important?

If you have a loving attitude, it means you have the ability to selflessly give love to others. According to psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, the ability to love is a vital human need and is necessary for personal development and growth in life.

Read on to learn about the importance of a loving attitude and how to have one, according to Kaufman.

The Need to Love

In Transcend, Scott Barry Kaufman identifies the ability to love as an important aspect of growth. Though this may seem like it should fall under our need for connectedness, Kaufman makes an important distinction: the need to feel loved is vital to our security, but the ability to give love is vital to our growth. The need to feel loved is a somewhat selfish desire that depends on others to give you what you lack. The ability to love others entails having a selfless, loving attitude toward the world that helps you grow and live a more fulfilling life

Why Develop a Loving Attitude in Life?

Kaufman claims that the ability to love is conducive to growth for several reasons. First, people who have a more loving attitude toward others are less likely to need love from others while simultaneously being more likely to maintain healthy, strong connections. In other words, the more loving you are, the more love you’ll receive. 

Another reason having a loving attitude is so beneficial to growth is that it helps you maintain your connections to others (answering that basic need) without losing your sense of agency or identity (maintaining a healthy sense of self-esteem). If you’re too caught up in your need for others to love you, you may lose your sense of self—you may be so focused on being a good partner or friend or maintaining love that you lose sight of your own needs and wants. But if you’re more focused on giving love, you can maintain healthy, mutually beneficial relationships in which both sides grow as individuals while also strengthening their connection. 

Love as Dependency 

In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck provides further insight into what makes a healthy, loving relationship and how the need to be loved can hinder individual growth. First, Peck dispels the myth that love is about dependency. Genuine love, according to Peck, involves choice—it’s not about needing someone; it’s about not needing them but choosing to love them.

The belief that without love you can’t feel whole can be extremely harmful. Peck refers to this overwhelming need for love as a passive dependent personality disorder, which he says leaves you unable to give love to yourself or others. 

Common characteristics of passive dependent personality include the insatiable need for love, the inability to be alone, a lack of genuine intimacy, and a lack of identity. These traits, as Kaufman would likely point out, are all symptomatic of a feeling of deficiency. Like Kaufman, Peck argues that such dependency can hinder growth. He says that dependency hinders spiritual growth because the dependent person is only worried about their own needs rather than building a genuine, lasting relationship. 

Why a Secure Attachment Style Matters

To develop a loving attitude, it’s important to understand how your attachment style can affect your views on giving and receiving love. When you’re an infant, you develop a secure attachment to your caregiver when you can rely on them to respond to your needs. As you grow older and develop more relationships, your emotional attachment style is also influenced by other attachment figures like romantic partners, close friends, siblings, or other family members. If you feel the people close to you have been sensitive to your wants and needs throughout your life, you’re likely to be a more trusting person and feel you’re worthy of love and support.

How to Develop a Secure Attachment Style

Kaufman acknowledges that your attachment style stems from childhood experiences and often extends into adulthood, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with one particular attachment style for life.

The first thing to do if you wish to develop a more loving attitude and secure attachment style is to recognize your current attachment style and how it’s affecting your relationships. Take a long look at yourself and determine how you feel about yourself and how worthy you think you are of love. Then, examine your current relationships and the people closest to you. People tend to attract others with similar attachment styles, so if you notice most of your friends seem to have an anxious attachment style, there’s a good chance you do too.

Once you’ve determined your attachment style, here are some things you can do to make it more secure:

  • Work on yourself, not just your relationships. If you become more comfortable in your own skin, your relationships will benefit as well.
  • Rid yourself of toxic relationships. Sometimes a friend or loved one just isn’t good for you and you need to move on from them.
  • Work on expressing your emotions. Whether you’re anxious or dismissive, learning how to recognize and share your feelings can benefit your relationships.
  • Confront your past. Since insecure attachment almost always comes from unhealthy relationships, you may need to confront your past to heal from traumatic or harmful events. Therapy can be especially helpful in this regard.
What Is a Loving Attitude & Why Is It Important in Life?

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Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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