With our terms defined, let’s look at the question again:

“Is love a want or a need?”

Using these definitions, the question becomes less nebulous. We are asking if the lack of love will or will not cause death or other grievous physical, emotional or intellectual damage.

Let’s take the physical side first, and start by eliminating that small percentage of cases where a lack of a specific love results in the taking of a life. The percentage is too small to be meaningful, and there are probably other problems at work that contribute mightily to that situation.

The only other data of which I am aware is a study done on the welfare of infants without parents in England during World War II. These children were moved to centers which provided the basic physical necessities of life (air, water, food and shelter) and attempted to provide, with a very small staff, at least some measure of affection, if not love. The incidence of unexplained death was vastly greater in this population than in the population at large.

On the intellectual side, the lack of love may have an effect, as well. The viewpoints and concepts of persons without love may be expected to be different from those with love. This, however, hardly constitutes grievous damage. Intellectually, there is room for an infinite variety of viewpoints and concepts. That is not damaging, just stimulating.

Now, for the emotional. This is the realm of the subjective, but all things are quantifiable to some degree. In the infant study mentioned above, a very large number of the control group grew up to be repressed, and unable to express emotion. They grew up to be generally depressed and despondent, without apparent reason. The study concluded that this was a result of a lack of love during what are generally known as “the formative years”.

After the formative years, a lack of love, by our definition, will very often have the same result. A person in love, whether a new love or a long-lasting love, is a happier person than a person without love, whether newly lost or never gained. Both the act of loving, and the act of being loved, have a profoundly positive effect on human beings.

Nor is love controllable. If you think you can control it, just try to will yourself either in or out of love. It can’t be done. You may be able to transfer you love, yes, but that’s as far as it can go. 

Kermit []