THE LEGEND OF VALENTINE’S DAY
The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as the month of romance, and that Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is murky, the stories all emphasize Valentine’s appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure.
February has long been a month of romance and love. However, people still wonder and ask:
"What is love?" This was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012, according to the company.
LOVE. It seems that no other concept has puzzled humankind so much. It is love that gives life, and people lose their lives in the name of love. As a professor who wrote several books on the subject, Dr. Leo Buscaglia admits, that to define love is virtually impossible. That may be, but people continue to try.
I have mentioned in previous articles the mental and emotional state, known as the mind/body connection that plays a major role in health and wellness. Love is considered the most powerful positive energy on earth that promotes compassion, healing, peace and humility.
Love has consequences for health and wellbeing. The better we understand the neurobiology of love and its implications, the greater our respect for love’s role in mental and physical health. Love is closely related to the concept of pleasure and positiveness, i.e., joyful mental states.
Engaging in joyful activities such as love, activates areas in the brain responsible for emotion, attention, motivation and memory (i.e., limbic structures), and it may further serve to control the autonomic nervous system, i.e., stress reduction. Thus, love is capable of stimulating health, well-being and productivity.
During Valentine’s month , what can we learn about love? In the much-acclaimed book, “The Road Less Traveled”, psychiatrist M. Scott Peck offers his insights about love. From empirical observations, Peck perceived there are many echelons of love: sharing, caring, trust, passion, and compassion, with the highest level of love being a divine essence.
Love is a profound concept. It is a value, an emotion, a virtue, a spiritual essence, an energy, and to many people, an enigma. Love can inflict emotional pain just as it can heal. It can make a fool out of the bravest man and a hero out of the underdog. The power of love can be as subtle as a smile.
There are different kinds of love. Love for parents, partners, children, country, neighbor, God and so on. All have different qualities. Each has its variants – blind, one-sided, tragic, steadfast, fickle, reciprocated, misguided, or unconditional. Love is a kind of passionate commitment that we nurture and develop. That’s why it is more than just a powerful feeling. Without the commitment, it is infatuation. Without passion, it is dedication. Without nurturing, even the best love can wither and die.
What love is, depends on where you are. Secure in it, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air—you exist within it, almost unnoticing. Deprived of it, it can feel like an obsession: all consuming, a physical pain. Love is the driver of many great stories; not just romantic love, but the love of a parent, love of family, or love of country.
Love, particularly in the beginning (i.e., falling in love), can sometimes be stressful. However, it still possesses a strong, stress reducing potential. By helping individuals to cope with stressful situations, love represents an essential ‘ingredient’ of a healthy and satisfying life.
Reproduction and sexual behavior are just one aspect of love. Community and social support, health and survival (of the individual and the species) clearly indicate further beneficial properties of the biological love concept. Social support also has health benefits. The absence of positive social interactions or social bonds is typically associated with physical and mental illnesses.
Positive emotions, such as compassion and happiness help us to feel better, particularly when stressed. Love, compassion and joy help our immune system function better to combat illness and disease.
“Peace, Love and Healing”, by Benie Siegel, M.D., published ten years ago, offered the revolutionary message that we have an innate ability to heal ourselves. ”Love and peace of mind do protect us”, Siegel says. “They allow us to overcome the problems that life hands us. They teach us to survive…to live now…to have the courage to confront each day.”
Unconditional love is a powerful stimulant of the immune system. The truth is: love heals. Miracles happen to exceptional patients every day- patients who have the courage to love, those who have the courage to work with their doctors to participate in and influence their own recovery.
We say love is blind because it helps us see the world in ways that are important for survival. Loves’ blindness is therapeutic because it allows us to function without storing the images of life’s difficulties. Siegel says: ”If you can’t love, at least develop amnesia so you can live a more peaceful life, unable to remember all the things people did to upset you…”…”don’t do things to avoid death, but do things to
enhance the quality of your life, and you’ll be surprised how long you live.”
You’ve heard that attitude matters. This seems to go with having positive expectations and always seeing the glass as half full. It’s about finding order and a sense of peace, so that you can deal with the difficulties in life. If your attitude about work is, “It’s work and I don’t like it,” then Monday mornings are a threat to your health. Studies show that on Monday mornings there are more heart attacks, suicides, strokes, and illnesses. However, if you change your attitude, the situation changes. You can quit your job if it’s affecting your health, or you can go to work with a different attitude and you’ll be amazed how things change.
A fundamental problem many people face, is the inability to love themselves, having been unloved by others during a crucial part of their lives. This frequently occurs in childhood, when our relationship with our parents establishes how we react to stress. As adults, we repeat these reactions and become more vulnerable to illness. The ability to love ourselves, combined with the ability to love life, enables us to improve the quality of life.
If you’re ill or are facing adversity, you can begin to heal yourself by following the paths others have followed. Forgive yourself and others, live with hope, faith and love and watch your life and the lives you touch improve. Remember that success and healing refer to what you do with your life, not to how long you live.
That’s important because when you perceive a threat, you go into survival mode. Your body is under stress; your cortisone levels go up and immune function goes down. If people live that way, constantly fearful, they are prone to illness. But, when they feel the love within, health is enhanced. You will heal faster, resist illness, and have a more healthy life.
Your beliefs become your biology.
The idea of love was mentioned in the December issue as being one of the gifts we can give ourselves. While Valentine’s is usually expressing our feelings towards another, it is important to remember that the love begins with oneself. It was a gift given to us at birth. And, what we have received, we can give. We cannot give what we do not already possess. And so, the expressions—‘giving is receiving’; or ’what goes around, comes around’.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” Buddha
Since love is such a miraculous healing force, shouldn’t we think of it more often than the 14th of February?
Love, Medicine and Miracles, by Bernie Siegel