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Mental health is a topic vastly covered in literature, blogs and a variety of other forms of media. As a theme, it interests many people as it seems that society in general has increasingly been trying to come to grips with the causes and symptoms of the conditions that unfortunately debilitates so many of our loved ones. This blog shall focus on only one facet of a person’s wellbeing; the intricate relationship between mental health and the subjective feeling of being loved. 

My interest to write this blog came about when I came across a wonderful definition about love. In his book, The road less travelled¸ Dr Peck defines love as “… the process of extending oneself for the spiritual growth of another”. Although it may seem simplistic, I found it to reflect a degree of depth that is very meaningful. Here, we are saying that love is both willing and conscious, happening between two or more individuals, where a person who loves, willingly uses themselves to support the growth of another person. ‘Willing’ and ‘conscious’ are important adjectives as I’d like to challenge the romantic supposition that true love is always automatic, effortless and that it somehow happens easily. Romantic comedies, fairytales and plenty of stories narrate of a love at first sight that somehow manages to conquer all odds. Yet.c  anyone who has ever loved knows that mature love is anything but automatic; it requires commitment and plenty of energy. It is a gift, perhaps, that we give to another, often with our fondest intentions and with the greatest care.  

Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of loving in this way. It is not uncommon to find people who have not experienced love themselves, and who, in turn, feel that as adults, cannot extend themselves for the good of others. Love can be considered as a vulnerability that is alien or a nuisance that feels overwhelmingly risky for some to even try. This is a possibility that does not discriminate, it can happen to any person, including parents. It is perhaps a difficult revelation, although not untrue, that some parents simply lack the ability to love and extend themselves for the growth of their children. Unfortunately, some even extend themselves to harm their children. The effect is tragic. Because of such deficit, the emotional, spiritual and, sometimes, physical growth of a child is inhibited; burdened by the void of affection that is so crucial for nurturance. An unloved child may be compared to an unwatered seed; full of potential, but missing the catalyst that can help it flourish. The absence of love does not simply delay spiritual growth, but it may actually poison it. Absence of love is not simply something missing, but may be considered as something that is added; the added burden of anguish and pain that may lead a child to grow into an adult who constantly finds unhealthy attempts to adjust and work around the grief.

Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on claire@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.