Healthy philautia is an essential element of self-esteem. It embraces the positive aspects of self-love and facilitates our positive self-qualities (i.e., self -compassion, -love, -regard, -respect, -value, -worth, and other intrinsic wholesome attributes). Aristotle argued in the Nichomachean Ethics that healthy philautia was the precondition for all other forms of love.[i]
In psychological terms, healthy philautia adjuncts to other modification programs engineered to overcome or replace maladaptive self-beliefs and behaviors that have supplanted positive self-qualities due to a disruption in our natural human development. Healthy philautia serves as a more focused revitalization tool in CBT’s self-esteem reinforcement and or positive psychology’s optimal functioning. Healthy philautia’s primary psychological application is to regenerate the self-esteem that supports us and our intrinsic goodness.
What causes a deficit of self-esteem?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reveals how childhood/adolescent exploitation can disrupt their human development.[ii] Healthy evolution requires satisfying fundamental physiological and psychological needs. The child/adolescent experiencing detachment, exploitation, or neglect, may be disenabled from satisfying her or his physiological and safety needs and the need to belong and experience love, which can impact their acquisition of self-esteem. Self-esteem is the recognition of our value; value is the accumulation of positive self-qualities that generate character strength and virtue.
The deprivation of any fundamental need can detrimentally impact our wellbeing. Wellness models’ psychological positivity addresses this lacuna by emphasizing our character strengths that facilitate motivation and persistence/perseverance.
To Aristotle, healthy philautia is vigorous in its orientation to self and others in its potential goodness. By contrast, its darker variant portends disastrous consequences due to its narcissism, arrogance, and egotism. Healthy philautia encourages the development of our intrinsic positive self-qualities. Positive self-qualities determine our relation to self, to others, and the world. They provide the recognition that we are of value, consequential, and worthy of love. Healthy philautia is vital in every sphere of life and can be considered a basic human need.” [iii] To the Greeks, healthy philautia “is the root of the heart of all the other loves.” [iv] Gadamer writes of healthy philautia: “Thus it is; in self-love, one becomes aware of the true ground and the condition for all possible bonds with others and commitment to oneself.” [v] Healthy philautia is the love that is within oneself. It is not, explains Jericho, “the desire for self and the root of selfishness.” [vi]
Philautia is a binary category of classical Greek love, which embraces both its healthy and unhealthy aspects. Unhealthy philautia is akin to clinical narcissism―a mental condition in which people function with an “inflated sense of their own importance [and a] deep need for excessive attention and admiration,” behind which “lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.” [vii] Citizens of Athens could be accused of unhealthy philautia if they placed themselves above the greater good. Today, hubris has come to mean “an inflated sense of one’s status, abilities, or accomplishments, especially when accompanied by haughtiness or arrogance.” [viii]
The Greeks believed that the narcissism of unhealthy philautia could not exist without its complementary opposition of healthy philautia. Positive psychology 2.0 recognized this by emphasizing the need to focus on both our negative and positive qualities. Just like we would not recognize light without darkness, or heat without cold―to know goodness is to understand evil.
Healthy philautia is essential for a good life; it is easy to recognize how the continuous infusion of healthy philautia and its reacquisition of positive self-qualities supports self-respect, reliance, and appreciation of our potential. “One sees in self-love the defining marks of friendship, which one then extends to a man’s friendships with others.” [ix] Recognition of our inherent value generates the realization that we are “a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.” [x] A good person is spiritually, one that is loved. “To feel joy and fulfillment at being you is the experience of philautia.” [xi] It is through recognition of our positive self-qualities and their contribution to the general welfare that we rediscover our intrinsic capacity for love.
[i] Lomas, T. (2017). The flavours of love: A cross‐cultural lexical analysis. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 48(1): 134-152 (2017). doi:10.1111/jtsb.12158.
[ii] Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4): 370-396 (1943). doi.org/10.1037/h0054346.
[iii] Sharma, A. (2014). Self-Esteem Is the Sense of Personal Worth and Competence That Persona Associate with Their Self – Concepts. IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Science, 3(6), Ver.4: 16-20.
[iv] Jericho, L. (2015). Inner spring: Eros, Agape, and the Six Forms of Loving. Lilipoh, 20 (79): 38-39.
[v] Gadamer, H-G. (2009). Friendship and Solidarity. Research in Phenomenology, 39: 3-12. (2009). doi:10.1163/156916408X389604
[vi] Jericho, L. (2015). Inner spring: Eros, Agape, and the Six Forms of Loving. Lilipoh, 20 (79): 38-39.
[vii] Mayoclinic. (2017). Personality disorders. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463.
[viii] Burton, N. (2016). These Are the 7 Types of Love. (Online.) Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201606/these-are-the-7-types-love.
[ix] Deigh, J. (2001). The Moral Self. Pauline Chazan. Mind. London: Oxford University Press. (2001). doi:10.1093/mind/110.440.1069.
[xi] Jericho, L. (2015). Inner spring: Eros, Agape, and the Six Forms of Loving. Lilipoh, 20 (79): 38-39.