The Art of Loving
If one wants to learn how to love others, one must learn by practicing how to love one’s self first
When I asked Tessa (not her real name) what she would like her goal in therapy to be, she said : “ I want to learn how to love others.”
A very noble and worthwhile goal I noted because happiness and growth are rooted in one’s capacity to love.
However, in practically the same breath she informed me that she was not the type of person who could commit to weekly sessions. Right there and then I knew that I had my work cut out.
Love requires knowledge and effort. Knowledge and effort require discipline and concentration. Discipline is required to learn to practice well any skill, trade or art. This condition is necessary for the art of loving as well.
So when I asked Tessa why she wasn’t willing to commit to weekly sessions, she said that she was afraid that meeting weekly would “routinise” her life and that she would get bored.
The practice of the art of loving -when not mastered while we are growing up because we were not fortunate to be raised by truly loving persons – takes courage and faith, I explained.
The courage and faith to commit yourself to another person without the guarantee that you will be loved back.
But committing herself to weekly sessions with me in such a close relationship without a guaranteed successful outcome was a risk Tessa was reluctant to take.
I hoped that if I were patient she would eventually come around and give herself fully to the process.
One does not begin learning an art directly, but indirectly. If, for example, one wants to learn the art of meditation, one begins by doing breathing exercises.
By the same token if one wants to learn how to love others, one must learn by practicing how to love one’s self first. Being listened to in such a concentrated way by the therapist, and totally accepted by and held in positive regard by him or her, validates in the patient the notion that they may be worthy of love.
According to Eric Fromm “if an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too; if he can love only others, he cannot love at all.