A Meditation on Love
“He who is loved cannot be broken.” This is a quote from R.D. Laing’s book The Divided Self. There was a time when I would have said that Love is just an overused word we throw around mindlessly. We might feel obligated to say it to those we care about, it has always been told to me, so why question why I say it. But often we don’t know why we say it. I have used the word Love in this careless way. Not intentionally, of course, and of no ill will but without a full understanding of what it means to be or feel loved or how deeply feeling “loved fully” can affect who we are. I think we have all heard before, “I love you for who you are, not what you do.” Or “you are more than your accomplishments; I love you despite your successes.” I mostly have considered Love as one of those things that were told to me (it does feel good to hear), so I am suppose say it to someone else. On the surface, it can feel authentic. I can confidently say that when I have said some form of, “I love you for who you are,” I have intended to display genuine affection to whom I am speaking. My struggle is that until recently, I have not paid much attention to my motivations behind saying, “you are loved.” I don’t know that I have ever understood what I meant outside of, it feeling like one of those things I am supposed to say. I will use a personal anecdote to expound on the idea that I think it is essential to understand our motivation or felt sense behind sharing Love with someone.
I was raised in a mostly broken home without caring, attentive parents. When I was 2 years old, my dad left. I grew up with a single mother who could not show Love and was absent most of the time. Emotionally and physically, she was more focused and self-involved with her desires in life than she was with her children. As a child in desperate need of Love, I was left to learn to adapt to this absence of Love. As children often do, I adapted and learned to receive Love by developing a hyper-focused attention towards my mom and her needs. As a result of not being seen for who I was, I was left with an inability to feel lovable for who I was and only for what I could provide for my mom. This developed a belief that I was only deserving of Love when I fulfilled my mother’s needs or produced some external achievement/success. Like many things from childhood, my relationship with Love is one of those learned behaviors that I took with me into adulthood and eventually into fatherhood. An example of what this way of feeling/receiving Love might look like as an adult could be, “I am only lovable when I can financially provide for my family.” “I am only as lovable as the life I can provide for my family.” My deserving of Love is equivalent only to the quality of life I can provide for my family.
Recovery from an emotionally neglected childhood has been and continues to be an endless journey of self-discovery. Which has led to me discovering self-worth, developing a deeper understanding of Love, and a sense of what it means to be seen. The absence I spoke of earlier has slowly filled with genuine, authentic self-love and Love for and from my family. However, “life is a journey” (excuse the cliche), and I am always learning more deeply what Love can be. (If this feels relatable to you, as in this might have been you, I would recommend seeking out a therapist to talk to.)
The idea that I/You are lovable for who we are was more deeply realized for me very recently. It was a humbling experience because I thought my motivations for saying “I love you” were genuine. Only to find out upon some introspection that I was unknowingly giving Love for achievements the same way that Love had been shown to me as a child. I have three young children, two of which are twins. The twins recently started their spring soccer season, and we attended our first game of the season not too long ago. One of them was engaged and ready to play, focused on the team, paying attention to his coach, and giving it his all. In recognizing this, my heart filled with joy. I felt what I described as Love for him while watching him run around on the field.
My other son, his twin, struggled to stay in the game. He fell, got pushed, lost focus, and inevitably ended up on the sidelines needing comfort from his mom and me. I quickly recognized an absence of what I might describe as Love for my struggling son. After a quick check-in with myself, I quickly realized what I was experiencing. I had projected onto my son the same idea of the Love shown to me as a child. The feeling that he was not deserving of Love because he was not successful in achieving a sense of joy in my heart the same way his brother just had. I felt the same painful absence of Love in my gut that I felt as a child when ignored by my mom. It wasin that moment that I was able to see my son for who he was. I worked diligently to attend to my feelings and allow myself space to grieve for my inner child. This grieving allowed me to make space for the love my son deserved in that moment. I saw him as a little boy who needed to feel lovable and not an object for my pleasure or to fulfill my needs.
One of the lesson's learned from this experience is that the things I experienced as a child can still permeate my being as an adult without my recognition. And that attending to our feelings can allow us space to heal. I want to add that if you have children, you have a responsibility to them to identify your scars so that you don’t unconsciously pass onto them what was so undeservingly done to you. Taking up this task is not an easy effort but well worth the struggle. The same goes for those who do not have children; you have a responsibility to learn to feel Love fully. You deserve to shed your scars from life and begin treating yourself as you are loveable for who you are.
I hope this has provided some insight into the belief that YOU deserve to feel loved for who YOU are as an individual.