A long, long time ago when doing Counselling 101, a valuable point was made regarding loving always. There are different ways of loving; all of us almost instinctively know that the love for parent, grand parent, lover, spouse, child, grand child, uncle/aunt, close friend, friend are different.
More than that certain kinds of love can be unhealthy if not down right dangerous! Healthy love, the noblest kind of love, is unconditional. We love someone “warts and all”, regardless of any imperfections. We love someone despite their failures, faults and prejudices. We even love him/her even if our love is not returned.
Conditional love comes almost naturally, we quickly learn to love someone because there is some kind of reward or satisfaction involved. There is a laudatory response from the person; he/she makes us feel good. We can even develop a certain quid pro quo with that person. “You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.”
Sometimes at a relatively early age we learn that conditional love is not noble and growth promoting. We become aware of a better way of living, the way of unconditional positive regard. We learn to love without expecting anything at all in return. We discover that it is even possible to learn to love those who do not love or like us.
There is a love that is even more negative than conditional love, it has been called smother love (as opposed to mother love). This love contains the elements of possessiveness, control, selfishness and over protectiveness. At times it will seek to withhold the truth about things on the pretext that the truth will harm the person.
Smother love will always try to “sugar coat” bad experiences. It will make exaggerated offers of help or protection. It will profess a willingness to die for the other person or even to kill for the other person. It manifests in martyr like behavior, in other words a giving up of personal needs in order to fulfill every desire of the other person.
On the surface, smother love can appear quite harmless to both parties but objective observation will reveal troubling outcomes like over dependency, a feeling of inferiority, an enjoyment of power and an unwillingness to do anything (especially anything new)without the presence of the “lover”.
Independence, responsibility, accountability, self-esteem, self-confidence are learned through been freed to experiment…to run free! The opposite to smother love is the reality based practice of non-possessive warmth. Learning to love someone without clinging to him/her, without trying to protect him/her from danger, without trying to possess him/her.
I love you enough to allow you to be without be, to be totally separate from me. I love you enough to want you to respect boundaries and to learn that in order to deal with life on your own, you will have to learn about structure, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, delayed gratification. I want you to discover your unique inner strengths and harness your special potential. Please do not learn to depend on me!