It’s been over 2,500 years since Lao Tzu was around. His wisdom definitely stands the test of time, none more so than the 5 types of love.

The first 3 are ‘pathological contradictions’ of Love.

The last 2 are healthy expressions of it.




Possessive Love:


‘That is, loving an object because we are capable of possessing it, or at least believing we possess it’


This is the lowest form of love, so much so it’s not really love at all. It’s the eternal quest for ‘things’ that we ‘must’ have. Be it money, material possessions or a partner. It’s the objectifying of people and things, think the Male chauvinist. This type of ‘love’ turns the pure, selfless act into a selfish and manipulative feeding of the ego.


We see this in the example of a Man and his ‘trophy wife’. He buys her things and says he loves her, but she’s merely a possession to him. Another sign of so-called ‘success’.


Codependent Love:


‘This is rooted in the experience of powerlessness and expresses itself as an addiction to control or being controlled’


These relationships are far too common today. Think of the male who needs to control and know everything about his partner - where she is, where she’s going, where she’s been, who she see’s, he checks her phone to see who she’s been messaging, he verbally abuses her and all her happiness and enjoyment must revolve around him.

Then from her side, she stays in the relationship because she’s become addicted to being controlled. She fears what will happen if she ever left, so she puts up with it.


It’s hard to see when she’s in it, but once she gets the courage to leave then we always hear “what was I thinking? Why did I stay so long?”


This is also a contradiction of love, but on a lesser level than the first, possessive type of love.


Romantic Love:


‘It is generally an unconscious escapist attempt to compensate for the absence of self-appreciation’


This is the search for that ‘perfect’ mate. The one that will make everything ok in our world and make us ‘complete’.

These are two ridiculous notions. First, that we’ll find someone who fits that ‘perfect’ image we’ve made up in our head. And second, that we need someone to complete us.


We’re all perfect just the way we are. That imagined person in our head doesn’t exist so we’re just chasing a unicorn and trying to change people.


We’re already complete, just the way we are. So once we realise that we should set out to find someone that has also realised that they’re complete.

Then two complete people can come together and share the experiences of life. Not because they need that other person, but because they enjoy each other.


This is also a contradiction of love as it drives a wedge between the essential self and the imagined deficient self.




Subjective Love:


‘It is the expression of a state of lovingness. There are no ulterior motives, no objects of material value to be acquired. The person who experiences this love is relatively without armour’


This is the type of love where we’re not fixated on a single object or person. We’re not looking to possess, be co-dependent or change someone. Love is freely given and received.


This is a state of love where we start to live in harmony with all things. We start to love not just people, but plants, trees, rocks, animals, art, the sky, the stars…….the universe.


We don’t love with conditions, if someone doesn’t love us back that's fine, we can still love them anyway.

Most of the time we have conditions on our love;

‘I’ll love you if you love me back’

‘I’ll love you if you’re there for me’

‘I’ll love you if you never leave me’

‘I’ll love you as long as you keep acting this way’


These aren’t real love.

When we drop the conditions we shed our armour, we live in harmony, we love everyone and everything just the way it is. We experience life in a loving way.


Become Love:


‘It is the experience of our total humanity, stripped of every shred of alienation, stripped of every premise of aggressive civilisation. It is complete self and social actualisation’


This is the ideal state of being that Lao Tzu defines as pure love or the Great Integrity.


He describes it as a state that can not be reached as long as we live in an acquisitive society. Within civilisation this pure love can only be dreamed of, sensed or tentatively experienced.

This type of pure love requires a transcendence of all the fragmentation’s that have defined our personal and social lives over the past millennia.

It is nothing less than the total liberation of each and all of us. For us to experience the universe on its own terms.


So according to Lao Tzu if we’re lucky we might get a temporary moment in time to feel the 5th love.

But the 4th is definitely attainable in this life and is something I feel we all should be aiming for.


Love yourself and others without conditions.


Ryan Hassan, Co-Founder at The Centre for Healing.

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