We tend to experience ourselves as individuals, separate from each other. Each at the centre of our universe.

But in some ways we are one. Our only real possessions are how we feel, which mostly comes from being with others.

We evolved to be social and to breed. We are hard-wired to bond. Feel-good hormones reward social animals like us with sensations of love and compassion when they relax together. Especially with babies and partners.

Our most satisfying feelings are of loving someone. Senses are heightened. Problems and conflicts lose their significance. Confidence rises.

Our body, mind, face and emotions mobilize when we are with someone and experience each other's responses. Our existence expands. Without others we shrink.

Falling in love adds exciting emotions tinged with fears of loss and hopes for the future.

Pets and children can be loved with less risk of rejection and with reciprocal expectations that are usually easier to manage.

Bonding to icons, film stars, gods, money and other symbolic objects arouse wonderful feelings of love but not as satisfying as real people.

Avoidance and conflict are opposites to love. They are also necessary for self preservation. And humans are to varying degrees hard wired to conflict.

Conflict is much more varied and complex than bonding. There is both in any relationship.

Love is not so easy in industrialized societies where we do things for money rather than for each other or in communities broken by war or exploitation where trust and intimacy are unreliable.

Emotional states like anger, stress and depression extinguish love and compassion. Forgiving and letting go release us from these states but first we have to experience the feelings so we know what is going on and then we need an opportunity to let go.

The ideas and exercises in these pages, centre around increasing awareness of thoughts and feelings. This reveals the unnecessary fears that keep us apart.

When we are aware of our feelings and prejudices we can see another person as they really are and not just our image of them made up of the hopes and fears we project onto them.

When we appreciate and empathize, we connect.