Last month we were talking about how the love from one, dedicated person is always prized over the abundant compassion and kindness between strangers or acquaintances or friends or basically any other type of relationship. Why is that? And why do we seek so much (or avoid like the plague) one primary relationship?
I’m glad you asked… Love from one person, usually a mother when you are an infant, is in fact pretty darn crucial. The technical term for this early relationship is called a “primary attachment” and it provides a map for future relationships, both parent/child AND romantic partners. If, like all of us, your mother was either absent or flawed and not able to perfectly attune to your needs and meet these with grace and selflessness, then not only will your model of relationships be less than perfect, but you could be left with a whole lot of negative “side effects.” Some of these are more serious than others. If your mother was abusive in any way, emotionally abusive being the most damaging and underrecognized of them all, then the consequences can be extremely painful. But important to remember that NO mother is perfect and therefore, neither are we, and neither are our complex love maps or the way we engage with others around us. That’s the good news: We’re all “messed up!” (And I say that with the utmost respect, compassion and light-heartedness.)
We are, in fact, all in the same boat of messy, beautiful, complicated humanity. The bad news is that our culture denies this fact and presents us with ideals such as…. “I don’t need anyone else;” “If my mother mistreated me, it must be because I’m unlovable;” “If I can’t find one lifetime romantic partner, I’m unlovable;” “If relationships are hard for me, it’s because of something inherently wrong with me;” “If I’m not perfect, I can’t admit that because others will look down on me;” and so on and so on.
All bull ---*. And if you’re willing to question some of these ideals, and some of your own painful patterns there’s more good news – you can unlearn early love maps and create new ones in the present that are more fulfilling for you! So love, especially those very, very young relationships, are in fact very, very powerful.
Now, all you mothers out there, don’t get the wrong idea. We are ALL, including every single mother, doing the very best we can. It’s just that we so often CAN’T do it alone, and so often AREN’T aware of or have done the work of healing our own early relationship wounds. Once again, these cultural myths and our internalized beliefs about ourselves, serve to keep us separated from each other, bleeding, and unintentionally hurting each other over and over again.
Ok, more good news! (After that depressing image…) You can heal! People are in fact incredibly resilient and our brains are “plastic,” meaning you can learn new ways of thinking, feeling and acting.
Recently, my grandmother who had Alzheimers passed away. She was not a perfect mother, and neither was my mom. But my own mother was by her side for days before she passed. My own mother was simply there, loving her, witnessing, and not being afraid to feel whatever emotions were arising. My mother put aside her own needs and gently allowed my grandmother to go. She let go. Peacefully and selflessly.
On my grandmother’s last night, my mom tossed and turned on the uncomfortable cot in the hospice room, woken by beeping noises, exhausted, uncomfortable. In the morning, she cleaned up the room, packed up the cot, washed her face and went back to simply sit next to Grandma. It was my mom’s birthday that day. She sat down, and watched Grandma take a breath. And then there wasn’t another breath. She allowed my grandmother to let go and be at peace. That’s love. That’s raw, vulnerable, messy, human love. And it is in fact, damn important.