A systemic theory of Love (and God). Ontology of Desire.

Suggested reading: A systemic theory of Love (and God).

Suggested reading: Ontology of Alienation.

Consciously or not, we are constantly making choices about past, present, and future relationships in our lives. Sometimes the choice is made with just a glance. Other times it takes more than one gesture. Sometimes the choice is about (apparently) randomly deciding to walk on a new path or not. Other times it is a deliberate choice to change or not. Constantly shaping my sky, that is the set of relationships in my life. Which kind of people am I attracting in my life? Which kind of people do I want in my life? This continuous transformation defines who I am and who I wanna be.

After publishing “A systemic theory of Love (and God)”, some readers asked for some practical applications and explicit consequences of such a theory. In this article, I will try to draft a possible framework that could be used as a compass to read and consciously shape our own sky.


Need, Greed, and Desire

Let’s start with a bold statement: “human beings are not equal”. The hierarchy of human beings is expressed by the deep transcending intent of their actions. Let’s take two examples where the human case is analyzed in his/her relation with the Other — the Other is not only a person but also as a symbolic place of projection. A human being who has as a main priority in his/her life to possess/control/dominate the Other, and a human being who has a main priority in his/her life to learn/listen/explore the Other. The first human case is closer to an ape programmed to merely survive, fight for dominance, and reproduce. The second human case is expressing the most divine abilities of human beings and he/she is projected to evolve as an individual and also contributing to a collective evolution of the human species. The first human case will look for power and dominance, the second for love and compassion. Nevertheless, these two extreme cases exemplify the concept of “farsightedness”.

Human beings could be hierarchically ranked in terms of the intensity of farsightedness. What does “farsightedness” mean? This term is inspired by advanced network game theory, it indicates the ability to perceive the space-time impact of own actions when taking any decision. While a “myopic” player (ape) would consider his/her own utility, the farsighted player (human) is able to consider the response of other players in the network, how their utility will change, and how the utility of the whole social network may be affected. The farsighted player needs to have a pure perception of what moves players around him/her — i.e. their deep intent behind their actions, the utility they are trying to achieve in terms of need, greed, and desires. Pure perception requires unselfish and unconditional attention and care for other humans — i.e. absence of claims, prejudices, and preconceptions. In literature, the concept is generalized as k-level farsightedness depending on the depth (k) of such ability. The higher is the depth k, the larger is the social network I can include in my decisions — not people with whom I am directly in touch, but also friends of friends of friends … up to level k. Acting as an ape or human comes always with its own cost — it is just a matter of time and space to pay back for it. The higher is the depth of farsightedness, the less greedy the person will be. The higher/unconditional is the love the person can feel, the higher is the value he/she wants to bring in his/her environment, the less greedy he/she will be.

The “needs” are consequences of living a human condition in a specific space-time dimension. The “need” becomes a “greed” when it is not any more functional for the survival of both the individual and/or the collective. The “desire” is the expression of the unique deep transcending intent behind any human action. If the need is the equipment we need to walk our way, the desire is the star we pick to choose our way. The transcending nature of a desire is a mystery worthy of honor. When the desire is totally identified into a need, it can be either “functional” or “dysfunctional”. It is functional when the ape is trying to survive without endangering the collective wellbeing and the environment where it is living — otherwise, it becomes greedy. When the desire is totally identified in a dream, the human being is moved by his/her inner divine nature. Although, it can be dysfunctional when endangering the human itself, the collective, and the environment — i.e. greed. As explained here, desire has a twofold nature: ‘desire as Other’s desire’ and ‘desire as a desire of Other’ — namely, social recognition and transcendence. For example, sexual intercourse is resulting from a sexual desire but is not exempt from being the expression of “greed” — based on the usual misconception of sex as a need. Feel free to act does not necessarily imply being free to act, and being free to act does not necessarily imply being aware of the action (and its consequences).

Desirability, Feeling, and Alchemy

The most common question I have been receiving since I published the Systemic Theory of Love is: how can I understand if he/she is the right person to whom I feel I want to give some space in my life? And how much “space” to give to such a person? As I tried to argue in that article, these could be malposed questions. The real fundamental questions are who am I and who I want to be, and more specifically how far can I see. If I can answer these questions, the rest comes naturally.

This is not always easy to understand because it requires a lot of time and effort in soul-searching. Few people like to be alone, and especially, few people like soul-searching. Hence, based on the Systemic Theory of Love, I tried to develop a framework that can be used for a quick check-up of a relationship.

The first category to consider is the level of desirability. The ability of the relationship to move and activate our own desires. This ability is grounded on tangible and/or intangible aspects. Some examples are (jointly or alternatively): the presence of common interests, shared values, common dreams, aligned life purposes, and/or also the attraction we feel on some personality traits. The common element is the inspiration we get to become the person we feel we want to be — not who we think we want to be. Desirability is an unconscious mechanism designed to emerge throughout the experience of the relationship itself.

The second category to consider is the level of feeling. The feeling we get with the presence of the Other. A good feeling is a mix of well-being and vulnerability. The vulnerability is directly related to desirability, which is what is pushing out ourselves from the comfort zone to test our limits in order to evolve in the direction we feel we wanted. Well-being is directly related to trust, mutual understanding, openness, and empathic connection with the Other —in addition to individual psychological factors.

Finally, the third category to consider is the level of alchemy. How much our senses are activated and amplified in the presence of the Other. This is the sensorial enjoyment of all the senses combined — not just the simple integration of them.

Growth, Commitment, Comfort, and Freedom

In this paragraph, I will suggest a new perspective of The Illusion of Tango. The intensity of reciprocal attraction and exchange of energy were the two determinants used to classify any Planet-Planet, Star-Planet, and Star-Star relationship. In Figure 1, I plotted the main two dimensions of human relationships. Nowadays, labeling human relationships is necessary to define boundaries and have a functional human bond. Nevertheless, it is cognitively easier to assign static labels, more than having a dynamic perception of the relationship itself.

If I start thinking of dyadic relationships in dynamic terms, then I may observe some patterns going on. In particular, in terms of the degree of commitment (how much do I feel committed to the boundaries of this story?), degree of freedom (how much do I feel free to express myself in this story?), degree of individual growth (how much is this story inspiring me to change and challenge who I thought I was?), and degree of comfort (how much do I feel comfortable to stay the person who I am now?). Static labeling implies non-functional sclerosis of the human relationship, while reality implies adaptive dynamics. The real challenge is not about finding the right label, but the right limit cycle or boundaries (in red) of the relationship. What does it mean to cross the boundary? It is again all about the deep transcending intent behind my actions — i.e. what do I feel I am looking for? This is the question that moves the sky upon us. Having defined the desires and the dream will immediately brighten only a few stars around me. The only mistake I can possibly make in this game is only about being superficial with my deep intent, the boundaries, and ignoring the feelings of humans with whom I interact.

Static labeling represents the diffused inability to live in the present moment. Especially when talking about relationships, there is always a fear of losing what we get in the past and fear of facing the uncertainties of the future. Static labeling helps to deal with such fears creating the illusion of control.

Better something short and intense (Star-Star), than something long but superficial/comfortable (Planet-Planet).

A (statically defined) closed love relationship is a sclerotic expression of a human relationship. A relationship locked in commitments-comfort dynamics ends up in reciprocal possession. The Other is perceived as an object to be owned, controlled, and protected. This is the pathological patriarchal imposition, where the power dynamics become increasingly insidious and more relevant in the couple. Power dynamics do not necessarily compromise stability. In fact, the emergence of compensating behaviors within and outside the couple is frequently observed. Although a compensating behavior is not compatible with the concept of farsightedness. In fact, in order to maintain the status quo, the agents renounce to grow by compromising their own evolution and well-being, consequently badly affecting their own environment — i.e. static non-functional maladaptive dynamical state.

A (statically defined) open relationship is also a sclerotic expression of a human relationship. First, it perpetuates the common idea that other humans (outside of the relationship itself) are no more than objects which can be used to satisfy sexual greed. This has huge direct and indirect implications for the development of ethical values in our society. Second, the tendency to ignore any kind of relevant commitment and responsibility pushes the subject into a static non-functional narcissistic dynamical state oscillating between the freedom of no-relationship and the comfort of an open relationship. In this sense, paradoxically an open relationship is as much related to possession as a closed one is. The feelings of the Other do not count anymore in the decision-making process — it is the minimum level of farsightedness.

Figure 1


What I think it is important to find out is the deepest intent of my action without ignoring the evolutionary functionality of human bonding —both from an individual and collective perspective. Am I aware of who I am? Am I looking for power or for love? Am I moved by fear/maladaptive dynamics? Or joy/adaptive dynamics? Am I looking for social recognition and/or transcendence? Am I aware of the impact of my action? How far can I see the impact of my action? Am I following my own dream? Am I working to achieve it? Am I living my own dream? Do I feel inspired by the Other? How do I feel next to this person? How do I feel when he/she is absent? Do I enjoy his/her company with all my senses? Only then, I can consciously make my choice shaping my own sky — and live as a Truly Free Human.

Freely inspired by dp Filosofia Applicata



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Teodoro Criscione

Ph.D. student in Network and Data Science (Central European University). Junior Researcher at Freiburg Institute For Basic Income Studies (Freiburg University).