Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Director of the Social Psychology Doctoral Program and the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory, President-Elect, International Positive Psychology Association Kenan-Flagler School of Business
this week I introduce a new word that I've coined Positivity Resonance.
I use it to describe the micro moments of connection that you can experience in
the company of others, when a positive emotional experience unfolds between and
among you at the same time.
Here, and more extensively in my second book, Love 2.0,
I make the case that positivity resonance is the core and essence of love.
A quote from American author Ursula LeGuin fits well here.
Love, she says, doesn't just sit there like a stone.
It has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
Let's get started with week four.
So welcome back.
I want to hit you guys with a big question to start off with.
What is love?
What is love to you?
Or you know, if that's too large a philosophical question for
this time of day maybe what is Hollywood or the dominant cultural script.
[INAUDIBLE] say about love?
>> Maybe that you find this one person to complete you,
and then all of your troubles go away and you live happily ever after.
[LAUGH] >> Yeah.
>> So there's a lot of focus on love being exclusive.
>> Yeah. >> Or that it's, it's.
You know finding that soul mate.
>> And that without it you're incomplete.
>> Yeah. >> In some way.
>> Right, right so it's like this, you know, big achievement of life.
Any other take.
>> It's a, it's a transaction.
>> You know two people coming together, it lasts or it doesn't last.
You move on to the next person, yeah.
And it's kind of a commitment to someone in that it's unconditional, that you kind
of, I love this person and nothing can change that, whether that's, you know,
a mother and a child or, you know, one person and their romantic partner.
It's kind of this bond, almost.
>> Yeah, yeah.
And I think that's.
Certainly very true of love, that it's part of our most important bonds.
But in some ways, I think that that view can eclipse our ability to
see love in smaller chunks if, if you will, just smaller pieces.
And I think what you're saying about transaction kind of brings it
a little bit more to the scale of emotions.
Where as more commonly we think of love as a status, haha, you know.
And what I've been finding is that,
you know, it's kind of hard to talk about love from the scientific perspective,
because people have so many preexisting views about what love it.
You know, kind of hard-won personal experiences that,
or, or things they've just absorbed from the culture.
And you know, science, scientists tend to stick into, with jargon terms.
And one of the reasons I've chosen not to with this, to really use a, a more common
language word like love, is because I, we, we take love to be really important.
We put it up on a pedestal.
We see it as as a super important part of life.
I think that there's one positive emotion that more than the others
really deserves to be up on that pedestal [LAUGH] in terms of having that,
that reverence that we have and
I think if we just use a dry jargon phrase for it you know, we wouldn't, we wouldn't.
Invest that much im, importance in it.
So, this is why one of my aims in using
thinking that we might need an upgrade of our view of love, or love 2.0,
is that, you know, our, our existing views of love serve us reasonably well,
but maybe we could be served better by thinking of love with.
A new, a new approach.
And the approach that we've been developing in the last, several weeks,
to look at positive emotions as these tiny engines that broaden our awareness and
build our resources can give us a new perspective on what love is.
At it's core love is an emotion.
I mean it, it's a bond too.
And one of the things that's confusing about love is we use the word love for
all these different things.
You know we use it for the bond, we use it for the soulmate you know, situation or
romance or we use it for, you know, oh, I'd love to see you this afternoon.
[LAUGH] You know, just in a casual way, too.
So I, I think of that as this larger, you know,
all these concepts kind of interrelate with one another.
And it can seem kind of confusing, like, well, where's, you know,
what's the real core of it?
And from a scientific perspective,
I've come to think that these the tiny emotional experiences of connection,
earlier I said that I thought love was an all of the above emotion.
That it's, you know, joy felt with others, gratitude felt with others.
So if we think of love as, as the positive emotion that we co-experience.
I think that can help us see what drives and keeps our bonds strong or
what keeps us, you know, feeling like we're part of a community.
So one of the things that I think is, is helpful is for,
is just to acknowledge that, you know, people have all kinds of views of love.
And so when I'm going to be talking about love from a scientific perspective,
I think it's really important to say what, what I'm not saying, what,
what love isn't [LAUGH] from this view, okay?
So some people equate love with sexual desire.
I'm not saying it's that.
It can be related, but it's not one in the same.
It's not necessarily romance or commitment or even a bond.
Now it's related to bonds and I, I'll explain how but it's.
I'm not saying it's one and the same with that.
And also, kind of, you know, challenging for some is that I don't think love
is exclusive, I don't think it's lasting, and I don't think it's unconditional.
I think you had said unconditional.
>> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] And
I'll explain why I think it's not those things.
But I think, you know, we have these kind of romanticized myths about what love is.
That, kind of put it in that, that span.
So, and, and
the science of love, there's an aspect of psychology, relationship
science that kind of owns the topic of love and studying love relationships.
And there's a couple of views from that part of science that I think is useful.
So in a way what I'm doing here is,
is providing a mashup of relationship science and emotion science.
And seeing what together they can illuminate about what love is.
Relationship science tends to take love as a status.
When you think about all the different people that you
have love relationships with.
It's, you know,
your, your romantic partner, your parents, your children, your best friend.
And, and from this view,
people, researchers have tried to figure out what's the, what's the core that
goes across all those very different kinds of love relationships.
And drilling down to that and, and then asking people to
describe you know, their different kinds of love relationships.
What emerges from the data is that investing in the well-being of somebody
else just for their own sake is kind of a core element of love.
And when that's not present, then, then people would question,
well, that's not love.
So it's like, you know, just an example.
you, it, you don't love someone because they make you breakfast in the morning.
That's not because of, you know, there's.
Something in it for you, but it's, it's that investment in the other people.
If, if you ask people to imagine a relationship with that subtracted out,
then that kind of calls into question, well that's not love.
Another take from relationship science is kind of the,
the flip side of that caring or investment.
In the well being of the other, and that is feeling that somebody is invested in
you or feeling that someone understands you or I think of that as like,
you know, feeling like you get me.
[LAUGH] You know?
Like there's that sense of someone understands what, what matters to you,
how you work, and they use that privilege, knowledge for
your benefit, not, you know, so it's kind of like feeling seen.
In some ways.
What I think is missing from relationship science is
that those two takes are kind of taken as, an achievement.
Like, once a relationship is in that stage, you,
you feel those things kind of permanently.
It's kind of like a status change.
And, and what an emotion's perspective invites is to be thinking about it in,
In, in, emotions, arise like a wave, and then they dissipate.
And so, if we're really honest with ourselves, you know,
we're, we're not chronically invested in the well-being of the people.
In our lives, that we love.
You know, we, we have, may have a bond with people, but, like, for, for
instance, right now, I, I say I love my husband.
But right now, I'm in the m, I'm in the midst of talking to you guys about love.
So I'm not actively showing investment.
In him at this moment, that, you know, it's something that rises and dissipates.
So the, what emotion science adds is this momentary lens.
Another thing that it adds is that sense of, emotional states are embodied.
again, relationship science kind of works with the psychology in the head and
less with the full psychology of, you know, embodied emotional states.
And then the last thing that I brought positive an emotions
science lens can add is this broaden and build logic that we've spent.
So much time talking about that positive emotions have
a momentary effect in terms of expanding us.
And a benefit of that momentary effect shows up over time.
So just to, I want to share with you, I've shared already what I think love isn't and
so I want to share what I think love is.
And the, the definition that I'm pulling together by
weaving together insights from relationship science, emotion science,
what we see in the laboratory, is that love is an interpersonally situated
experience marked by increases in shared positive emotion.
Biobehavioral synchrony, which I'll explain to you guys in a, in a moment.
And then this mutual sense of care, this mutual sense of, you know,
I'm invested in you, and you're invested in me.
And, and, it, it's in a light way,
you know, sort of like a, a, a caring sentiment.
And over time, so those are the momentary effects of positive emotions.
Of love and, and of shared positive emotions.
And the more that you have experiences like that,
the more you built that sense of [SOUND] oh we really clicked we really connected.
or, or we get a sense that our, our bond is stronger or our community is stronger.
Our sense of commitment.
So the things we sometimes think of as love,
those, those larger things like the bond, the commitment the loyalty.
I think those are products of these micromoments.
So these micromoments are what, are the kind of the engines that.
Or the nutrients, you know, mixing all my metaphors here.
The nutrients that help builds this healthier sense of connection.
So when we think about, or, you know, thinking about love in these
ways of momentarily shared positive emotions.
This is what I call positivity resonance.
So it's like a, a co-experience of a positive emotion.
There's a way in which, you know, what I'm feeling starts to be a little bit of
what you're feeling, and it kind of reverberates back and forth for a bit.
I'm, I'm wondering if you guys have, you know, examples of.
Experiences from your own life where this view of what love is might fit.
>> Well I had a really great experience just recently with my little nephew.
We were going out to do something, to go to a garden,
and we were putting on his shoes, and he's learning to tie his shoes right now,
so my impulse was to, you know, just get 'em tied so
we could go outside, but he really wanted to do it himself.
So we ended up spending about ten or
15 minutes sitting there and really going through and it was just.
I really, I found at first I wasn't that invested in it.
I wasn't that into it.
And consciously really leaned into the experience of being with him, doing that.
He kept getting so excited and there was this feeling of real pride and
joy and it was just really amplified as we felt that together and
he finally he did it and he was just so proud.
And I don't know if I've ever felt so
proud in my life as teaching my nephew how to tie his shoes.
It was so beautiful.
>> Oh, that's a great example.
>> Yeah. >> It's also a nice example of how you
kind of have to slow down to make these to,
to, to really fully absorb all the potential in in an experience like that.
I have a really good one.
Whenever something happens with our children that's positive,
I can look at my wife and we're both just staring at each other.
And we're not saying anything, even we're not really a facial expression.
We're just, like, enjoying the moment.
>> Uh-huh. >> And so, you know,
you can really feel that kind of connection by just totally looking
at each other.
>> Yeah, yeah. >> I have a question for you though.
>> Uh-huh? >> Can you, this definition,
can you love your dog?
You know I think with mam, our mammal pets, yes.
>> Because of that shared-
>> Yeah. >> Or maybe-
>> Yeah. >> Commitment and thing.
>> Well and also I think the, the nervous system of mammals is,
is close, I think our fish and our reptile pets-
>> It'd be tough, right?
[LAUGH] >> May be tougher.
>> [LAUGH] >> But the mammal pets, you know,
there's a lot of.
You know, people feel that connection with the eye contact with their pets.
I know I feel this with my cats.
I think of it as cross species friendship.
[LAUGH] You have these cross species you know, moments of,
of enjoying each others company.
So and there's a simplicity to that.
And so you know, some examples of this I think, you know.
Smiling at a baby, you know.
There's a simplicity there without all the extra baggage.
It doesn't even have to be your baby.
It can be a baby on the plane, haha.
So it's, and I think there's a way in which that non-verbal dance
piece of it shows up clearly when you're thinking about interacting with a baby or
a child or a pet.
But, you know, that nonverbal dance piece is still there when you're
interacting with adults, it's just that we have, you know, all these other roles and
scripts that we carry with us.
>> I have a question.
So is this definition, does it include love for a non-lifeform?
Yeah. >> I'm thinking about love in the sense of
longing for something.
>> Yeah. >> So you want to go hike.
>> Yeah. >> You want to go paint
>> You want to go
read >> Yeah
>> You have a love for that.
>> Yeah, you know, that's a very real, experience you're describing.
So I'm not,.
In any way downplaying the intensity of that.
But this definition is really about interpersonal connections, or
inter, being connections if you think of the pets.
>> Right. >> Or mammal pets.
Yeah, it's transactional, whereas,.
I think there are really important draws that we
feel to the things that we're passionate about.
Where it's, whether it's hiking or painting or other things.
And we tend to use the word love there too.
>> But here I'm talking about inter, interpersonal connections.
So great, great question though for clarification.
Any other observations you guys have?
Okay, so I'll dive in with some other examples in a moment.