There Is No Blame

I would like to say without ambiguity that I deeply regret any hurt that has arisen for parents in my attempt to open up debate about ways of responding to children – and their parents, teachers and other concerned adults – who have been considered to suffer from a “disorder” called ASD. It seems to me that the hurt has arisen from confusion between “blame” and acknowledgement of influence. I understand that this may seem just a matter of words but, in truth, there is a profound difference between the two; a difference I am seeking here to clarify.

Blame implies intention; it implies a knowing of the effect on the other person; it implies lack of care. My track record as a clinical psychologist over 30 years, as the Founder and Director of the Diploma in Parent Mentoring, and as an author, clearly shows that blame has no place in my response to difficulties in life experienced by any person, in any setting. But it is important to acknowledge the reality that our lives are lived in the context of relationships with one another and the nature of those relationships has a huge influence on the quality of our lives.

Read More

Unity in Tragedy

Recovery of the final body lost in the fishing-boat tragedy in Union Hall allowed loved ones to finally honour and mourn the sudden and sad passing of their loved one.  What was striking about the catastrophe was the very active love, support, compassion provided by individuals of the Union Hall community and, indeed, beyond, and by the divers who risked their own lives in search of the missing persons.

In a poem at the outbreak of World War 11 the poet W.H. Auden wrote: “We must love one another or die”.  How accurate Auden was and how much that lesson still needs to be learned in so many ways in so many warn- torn and political- torn countries.  However, there is a paradox to tragedy and war and that is in these catastrophic times people find it is their hearts to reach out with love, compassion, consolation, support, cooperation and be self-sacrificing for the sake of others.  I am not suggesting we need disasters and wars to awaken our true nature, which is love, but this phenomenon certainly begs the question: how is it that we struggle with loving others in times of plenty?  How was it that during the ‘boom’ economic times sight was lost of fairness, equality, individuality, justice and that a ‘me fein’ ethos predominated.  The Dalai Lama echoed this absence of emotional and social care when he argued that “Love and compassion have been omitted from too many spheres of social interaction for too long; their practice in public life is considered impractical, even naive.  This is tragic”. 

I believe that loss, death and difficult times provide some level of emotional safety for people to express our hunger to give and receive love.  These times also allow individuals to mourn their own experiences of loss of love and loved ones alongside those who are mourning in the here and now.  Somehow men come more to the fore in times of calamities, as if somehow their very real reticence around the expression of love can be suspended in the face of those people who so openly manifest their grief and distress, and even more poignantly when the bodies of their loved ones cannot be found.  We have seen that sad phenomenon repeated many times when a father or son or mother or daughter went missing without trace in Northern Ireland.  Even when a body is unearthed over 30 years later, it brings a certain peace to those bereaved.

Great gratitude and appreciation need to be extended to all those individuals in Union Hall and beyond who pulled out all the stops to find the missing bodies and allow family members, relatives and friends to put the souls of their loved ones to rest.  People talk about this as drawing a closure around the tragedy, but I believe there is no such experience as closure around the loss – tragic or expected – of a loved one.  There is certainly a meeting of the need to have the body of the loved one laid to rest but one never truly gets over the death of a loved one.  What we do learn is to live with it and maintain the love connection that to my mind is both timeless and infinite.

Marie Rilke, the German poet, says that “to love is to cast light”, while “to be loved means to be ablaze”.  Certainly, the love shown by individuals in Union Hall ‘cast a light’ not only on those who were suffering loss but on us all.   Equally – and not often appreciated – the very evident receiving of love by those who were so evidently bereft set us all ablaze.  There is a secret about human love that is frequently over-looked: receiving is much more frightening and scary than giving.  It has been touching to witness the love expressed and received so powerfully by all involved in the Union Hall tragedy.  The lesson for us all is not to wait for tragedy to be expressive of and receptive to love.

I am going to finish with a poem by Hafiz, which is quoted in a wonderful book by John Welwood, Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships:

Jump to your feet, wave your fists,

Threaten and warn the whole universe

That your heart can no longer live

Without real love!

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Author, National and International Speaker.  His book Relationship, Relationship, Relationship, Heart of a Mature Society is relevant to today’s column. 

Falling In and Out of Love

In the words of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke it appears that ‘for one human being to love another is the most difficult of all tasks’, and this is true for parents and children, friend and friend, lover and lover and husband and wife. For the purposes of Valentine’s Day I am going to focus on adult relationships. In the USA, 60 per cent of marriages breakdown and, poignantly and significantly, 80 per cent of second marriages end unhappily. Those statistics do not take into account the high percentage of intact unhappy marriages. It is a real conundrum that if, on the one hand, love is the greatest power on earth – the force that sustains human life – how, on the other hand, is it that many relationships are a near-certain prescription for unbelievable pain and emotional devastation?

Read More

Baby Speak

Infants are born with hopes and expectations. Their need to be loved, nurtured and safe are innate and they can intuitively sense when their essential needs for love and security are being met or not being met. While these set of expectations lie at an unconscious level, the baby hopes her cries will be heard, that she will be fed when hungry, allowed sleep when needed, that her gaze will be lovingly returned and smiles reciprocated.

Read More

Tough Unconditional Loving of Children

There is a notion I frequently encounter that to unconditionally love your children means letting them get away with murder! Actually, the opposite is the truth – to not unconditionally love children either means you let them get away with murder or you ‘murder’ (in the metaphorical sense of the word) them in order to keep them in line. To unconditionally love children automatically leads parents to model and guide their children step-by-step to taking responsibility for self and for all their actions. The difference between the parents who are unconditional and those who are conditional is the way they carry out their parenting responsibility to rear children to become separate and independent. 

Read More