“Nobody loves me, but my mother, and she could be jivin’ too.”
A Reflection on Love
B.B. King’s lament, “nobody loves me but my mother,” is sad enough, but then he postulates that she could also be lying, leaving him loved by no one. When you hear the artist sing out those words, the blues never sounded so blue. Who are we if we are not even certain of a mother’s love? I enjoy listening to B.B. King, but I will have to admit to cringing every time I hear this particular line. As a therapist, I work with too many people for whom the words are not simply lyrics, but rather a way of being in the world. For those who grew up in environments when loving parents were in any way absent, or untrustworthy, what does the voice inside of their head’s say? I imagine it sounds like, “if I wasn’t loved by my parents, no one will ever love me, and if I couldn’t trust my parents, I will never be able to trust anybody.”
How tragic! Think about it, going through your day-to-day life never allowing yourself to be fully connected to another person. Never allowing yourself to go beyond having a superficial relationship, always assuming that it can never be completely real…never fully trustworthy…never something you can really count on.
It’s quite a dilemma, isn’t it?
When others disappoint us, even from an early age, the truth is that we still have opportunities to find connection in the world, even if it’s from places we never expected to find it. For example, consider inmates in high security prisons. When inmates from these facilities are released, recidivism rates are typically quite high. If, however, inmates are paired with dogs for 12 to 18 months prior to their release, the rate of re-incarceration is nearly zero. What then did the connection with a canine provide the human? The answer is the same as what we had hoped we had gotten from parents…unconditional love.
Finding love requires us to be open to the possibility of love. We need to imagine ourselves as loveable. This can be tough work but it is clearly possible. One only needs to look at the example of the former inmates and what they learned about the unconditional nature of relationship to appreciate the potential of new experiences. Too many of us lament the loss of parents, siblings, spouses, and other family members without ever attempting to find those loving, affirming and sustaining relationships elsewhere. I have seen those connections occur in therapy groups, in adoptive homes, in faith communities, between close friends, and yes, with animals. Isn’t it time for all of us to consider who we have in our lives who would willingly, perhaps gleefully, enter our lives as loving mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and soul mates. It is never too late for that!
“Walter is a credible, personable therapist with an interactive style that works. He cares deeply about his patients and is committed to their growth and well being. I am grateful that I can count on Walter to care for the children and adults in our community.”
Theresa Cerulli, M.D.
Walter Sherburne, Psychotherapist