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Does yearning mean love?

Yearning is a feeling of intense longing or desire for something. It often arises when we feel incomplete or unsatisfied with our current circumstances. Yearning suggests a deep emotional need that has gone unfulfilled. So does yearning equate to love?

What is yearning?

Yearning can be defined as:

  • A strong desire for something unattainable
  • A strong emotional need for something or someone
  • A feeling of nostalgia for the past
  • A longing for a happier time, place or situation

When we yearn for something, we feel a powerful inner urge towards it. There is an emptiness or dissatisfaction with the present, and our thoughts keep returning to the object of yearning. Yearning suggests our lives will remain unfulfilled until this need is satisfied.

Common things people yearn for include:

  • A lost love
  • Reconnecting with someone from the past
  • Better relationships
  • A simpler, happier time in life
  • More meaningful work
  • A sense of belonging

Yearning focuses on the absence of something we want rather than its presence. It evokes both sadness and hope – sadness that the need is not currently fulfilled, and hope that it may be satisfied in the future.

What does it mean to love someone?

Love is a complex emotion that means different things to different people. Some key components of love include:

  • Strong attachment – loving someone means you have a strong bond and emotional connection to them.
  • Intimacy -love involves very personal, intimate knowledge of the person.
  • Caring – genuinely looking out for the other’s needs and wanting the best for them.
  • Selflessness – being willing to put the other person’s needs above your own.
  • Understanding – making an effort to truly understand the other’s feelings, situation and motives.
  • Acceptance – loving someone despite their flaws.
  • Respect – highly valuing the person and holding them in high esteem.
  • Communication – openly expressing feelings and listening to each other.
  • Commitment – dedication to staying together despite challenges.

In summary, loving someone means having a mutual understanding and care for each other, wanting the best for them, and maintaining intimacy and closeness over time.

How are yearning and love connected?

While yearning and love both involve intense desire and longing for something, there are some key differences:

Yearning Love
Focuses on absence Focuses on presence
Involves unfulfilled needs Involves a bond with someone
Suggests something lacking in your life Enriches your life when present
Centered on self and own needs Centered on understanding another
Associated with sadness and nostalgia Associated with intimacy, joy

While yearning may sometimes lead to love, more often it reflects an inner emotional void. Yearning becomes problematic when it turns to obsession over something you idealize but cannot obtain. It can prevent you from appreciating what you have in the present.

Love is more outward focused – recognizing the value of another person and cultivating a mutual, caring bond. Love fulfills emotional needs through genuine connection.

However, yearning and love have some commonalities:

  • They both involve desire and longing for something missing
  • They are highly emotionally charged states
  • They can inspire profound life changes to obtain the object of desire
  • They involve seeing someone or something as the potential solution to an inner need

So in some cases, yearning can lead to love. For example:

  • Yearning for more intimacy could motivate you to find a partner
  • Feeling unfulfilled in a relationship may cause yearning for greater closeness and understanding – deepening the love.
  • Yearning for lost love could rekindle a past romance when the other person reciprocates

When yearning motivates positive relationship building, it can become part of a lasting, nurturing love. But the yearning itself reflects an emotional void, not the presence of love.

Can you truly love someone you don’t know?

Many would argue you cannot truly love someone you don’t know. Love implies an intimate understanding and care for the whole person – not just an idealized fantasy. Key arguments include:

  • You may yearn for the idea of being in love, not an actual person
  • It reflects a projected desire to fill an emotional void, not real love
  • You cannot care deeply for someone you don’t know
  • True love requires seeing, understanding and accepting their flaws once the infatuation fades
  • Superficial attractions are often mistaken for love
  • Lasting love develops slowly by building intimacy, trust and compatibility

However, some counterarguments suggest it is possible to love someone you don’t know – for example:

  • You can feel an instant, deep spiritual connection with someone
  • Evidence of “love at first sight” when two strangers experience immediate and lasting bonding
  • People marrying quickly after brief courtships, yet staying together lifelong
  • Feeling like you know someone well just by observing their character from afar

Overall, most relationship experts agree true love requires intimate personal knowledge of each other gained over time. But infatuation with a stranger or idealized fantasy of love can certainly feel like love, even though it lacks the qualities of genuine mutual understanding and care.

Signs yearning is misdirected or unhealthy

While some degree of yearning is normal, it can become problematic. Signs yearning may be misdirected or unhealthy include:

  • Obsessively longing for someone who has rejected you or is unattainable for some reason
  • Viewing a past time or lover as ideal without acknowledging the real challenges and flaws
  • Using fantasy or obsession about someone as an escape from addressing problems in your real life
  • Pursuing unavailable people, objects or lifestyles while neglecting existing relationships
  • Excessive nostalgia for the past preventing enjoyment of the present
  • Seeing others only in terms of how they might fulfill your needs and desires
  • Repeated dissatisfaction even after attaining the object of yearning
  • Compulsions and intensity around yearning that impede normal functioning and mental health

If yearning becomes extreme, fantasized or obsessive, it can signal psychological issues to explore. Unfulfilled yearning is not inherently wrong or unhealthy. But when it becomes excessive and prevents us from engaging in life, it often means other emotional work is needed.

How to gain insight into your yearnings

It can be valuable to reflect deeper on your yearnings to gain insight about your subconscious desires and needs. Some helpful questions to ask yourself include:

  • Why do I long for this particular thing or person from the past?
  • What feelings and memories does it evoke in me?
  • What needs or voids from childhood might this yearning represent?
  • If I obtained it, would it satisfy me or just lead to new yearnings?
  • Is my nostalgia accurate, or am I idealizing the past?
  • What parts of myself or my life am I neglecting due to this yearning?
  • Is this yearning supporting me or preventing my growth and contentment now?

Exploring these questions with trusted friends or a therapist can provide greater clarity about yourself and what you truly need for fulfillment. This can help determine if acting on a yearning would satisfy or just distract you from inner work needed.

Developing mindfulness about yearning

Practicing mindfulness about yearnings can also provide insights:

  • Notice yearnings: Bring moment-to-moment awareness when yearnings arise. Label them simply as “yearning”
  • Accept with neutrality: Avoid judging yearnings as good or bad. Allow them to be present without following or fighting them.
  • Observe with distance: View yearnings as passing mental events rather than reflections on you or absolute truth.
  • Investigate with kindness: What sensations, thoughts and needs underlie each yearning? Meet them with patience.
  • Refocus outwardly: Reflect on ways to direct energy toward enriching your present external reality.

This fosters a more conscious relationship with yearnings so they have less power over you.

Healthier responses to yearning

Some options for addressing yearnings in a healthier way include:

  • Journaling – write out your full feelings and reflections to process them
  • Discussing with others – talk through it to gain outside perspective
  • Channeling into art or creativity – express the emotions through music, poetry, crafting, etc
  • Finding uplifting distractions – engage in hobbies, nature walks, exercise or socializing to lift your mood
  • Looking for root causes – explore what core emotional needs might underlie the surface-level yearning
  • Making life enrichments – pursue small improvements to your daily life, relationships and environment
  • Letting go with acceptance – release attachment to the yearning through practices like meditation

While yearnings arise naturally, getting stuck in compulsive fantasizing about the past or future can inhibit your joy. By cultivating self-awareness, you can channel yearnings into present growth and fulfillment.

The bottom line

In summary, yearning and love share some qualities but differ in key ways. Yearning reflects an emotional void or unfinished longing for something you lack in your life presently. It focuses on absence. Love centers on mutual care, understanding and intimacy cultivated with a present person over time. While yearning may sometimes open the door to love, more often it signals inner needs to address. With self-insight and mindful responses, you can gain wisdom from your yearnings while living more fully in the richness of each moment.