Who Helps You Define Love?

February is touted as the month of love
with Valentine’s Day almost smack dab in the middle of it!

But do you know what love really is?
Many songs try to tell us.
For example … in John Denver’s song “Perhaps Love”* we are told
Perhaps love is like an ocean, a fire, or thunder,
a window or an open door.

And in the Bette Midler song, “The Rose.”** we are told
Some say love it is a river, a razor, a hunger, a flower.

Many believe love is a feeling.
But feelings come and go.

The truth is …
Love is a spontaneous movement of the soul.
A spontaneous movement whose natural state is consistent flow.
But because of our childhood wounds – and heartbreaks –
that flow is interfered with, even defended against,
by us trying to bury and hold the pain and heartache at bay.
Both the young pain still alive within us and also any future pain that may hurt in itself and also trigger or evoke the pain from long ago.

But when we cut ourselves off from what lives within us, even if it is pain now buried beneath our conscious awareness, we also cut ourselves off from love. And in so doing . . .
we keep ourselves frightened not only of the heartbreak,
but of love itself;
we create situations in our lives in which we believe we are loving,
while we are actually unconsciously “proving” to ourselves again and again that love is dangerous and we should defend ourselves against it. This is called “re-enacting” the original wound;
and we create distortions of love that we believe are love itself,
only to be disappointed and disillusioned once again about love.

– – – – – –

Martha*** was five years old. It was Valentine’s Day morning. Her parents had taught her from the beginning that this was the day of love. Martha loved her mommy so much! She wanted to show mommy just how much she loved her by making sure mommy could see that Martha wanted to be just like her.

So while mommy was downstairs cooking breakfast and talking with daddy, Martha went into her mommy’s closet, climbed up on the shelves at the side of the closet, managed to get mommy’s red party dress down off the hanger, and put it on her little body. Then she managed to get to mommy’s vanity and put eye shadow on her eyelids and bright red lipstick on her tiny little lips. She even sprinkled her hair with a little bit of the glittery stuff mommy had in her vanity. Martha was so excited! So happy!

Who knows how she did it, but somehow she managed to get down the stairs – in her bare feet – she decided not to wear mommy’s heels this morning. She walked into the kitchen . . . so filled with love for her mommy! And when her mommy turned around from the stove and saw Martha in her dress and makeup, mommy’s face became all distorted. Her eyes bulged out! Her mouth turned into a monster’s mouth (at least to Martha), and she started shrieking at Martha . . . all sorts of words that Martha couldn’t even make sense of. She just knew mommy was really mad. Mommy came over to Martha, glared at her little girl up close, and ran up to her room . . . leaving breakfast on the stove, her husband at the breakfast table, and confused, hurt, terrified, broken-hearted little Martha in the middle of the kitchen.

In that moment, trying to bear the pain of the experience, and doing so by trying to cut herself off from the pain somehow, Martha decided “I’ll never love again.”

She didn’t realize it. She had no way of knowing that decision would drive her life. She would not be able to comprehend your telling her she would somehow, without realizing it, recreate that scene she had just lived through with her mother again and again in her life . . . perhaps with her mother, perhaps with girlfriends, perhaps with a lover or a longtime significant other, or maybe even with her own children. And she certainly didn’t have any way of understanding that she would hold onto that decision for dear life as a way to keep from feeling the unbearable pain that had just replaced her spontaneous flow of love for her mommy.****

– – – – – –

If you really want to celebrate this February as the month of love,
begin today to do your own exploration about love (real love) and about you and love.
Explore on your own or find a good therapist
to help you heal the wounds to love that you have experienced . . .
to help you heal them to the root of your being
so you can free the spontaneous soul movement of love within yourself
and learn to make clear, wise choices about how to channel that movement of love.


*music and lyrics, © 1975, John Denver

**music and lyrics, © 1979, Amanda McBroom

***Although the example here is of a little girl, there are at least as many men whose hearts have been broken in childhood and whose relationship with love is wounded.

****Imagine if even just one thing occurred differently in Martha’s story. Imagine if after Martha’s mommy ran upstairs, Martha’s daddy scooped her up in his arms, held her, and told her, “I’m so sorry, Martha. Mommy’s upset, but it’s not about you, it’s about her. I’m sorry if she scared you. I’ll talk with mommy and we’ll straighten it out. And Martha . . . you look beautiful!” Or imagine if mommy came back down a few minutes later and apologized to Martha herself. Martha’s pain and early decision wouldn’t be erased, but the repair with her parent would help a lot with the healing of both.

© Copyright 2010 by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • betty R.

    February 8th, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Well i just think love is one of those things that is very hard to define but can be expressed in a much easier way…whichever form it is in, whether your partner/your parents/siblings or friends, we should learn to respect and value it :)

  • Sebastian

    February 9th, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Gosh that story about Martha hit me like a ton of bricks. It makes me even more thankful for my own sweet daughter and so sad just thinking about what a reaction like this or my wife would do to her. She would be devastated and I know that there are plenty of kids who bear this kind of treatment and parental reaction every day. Makes me want to go get her out of school early, wrap her in my arms, and tell her over and over what a better person I am because God gave her to me and made her a part of my life.She would not understand where all of that was coming from, but she would remember it, and would hopefully keep her heart open to love and accept love instead of closing herself off to that in the way that Martha decided to.

  • Judith Barr

    February 14th, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Thank you to all of you who read and comment on my post…I hope my articles continue to inspire and enlighten you!

    It is wonderful that you could allow Martha’s story to touch you so deeply.
    A beautiful reflection of your heart.
    Your daughter is very fortunate.

    Blessings, Judith

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