I am borrowing the title of this blog from one of my favorite children’s books, Mama Do You Love Me? written by Barbara M. Joosse and Barbara Lavallee (since my daughter was the right age for the book they have also written Papa Do You Love Me? which I look forward to reading). Remember the last vision seed was “Love Your Children”. This week’s blog follows because it is about what happens to the many, many children who don’t get enough love.
Maybe you know some. Maybe you are one. Honestly, I believe most of us are love-starved children, now in adult bodies. Before I start to elaborate, I refer you again to Vision Seed Three: Guilty Squirrels. Whenever I have taught or discussed raising children, someone in the audience or circle has come to me feeling guilty because they raised their child in a way different from what I presented. Try not to feel guilty. It is a monumental waste of emotion.
We can’t change things we have done in the past, but we can improve what we do in the future. It is difficult to raise a child. It is impossible to do so perfectly. Most parents try their best but we are human and we make mistakes. If we are wise, we learn from them.
If you didn’t feel loved as a child, you have probably spent much of your adult life looking for a way to fill the hole you feel in your heart. Many of these ways have little to do with love and end up making us feel emptier than we did before. Consequently we have a society of love-starved people all looking for some way to find love. And there are far too few natural nurturers to give it. Those who can nurture often end up in the helping professions where they give all they can until they burn out and stop or end up feeling like the very people they were trying to help.
If you don’t know whether you suffer from love starvation, here are some questions that can help you to decide, and some comments that might help you deal with this malady.
1. Do you love and nurture yourself on a fairly regular basis? If so, you had some good nurturing as a child, or you have done a lot of work on yourself in therapeutic or spiritual ways.
2. Do you do things because you want to do them? Or do you do things because you think doing them will make other people like, love, respect and/or admire you? People who have a good sense of self love feel confident to follow their own vision, their own way of going through the world regardless of what other people think.
3. Are you too nice? I know it sounds strange, but overly nice people are often suppressing any negativity they feel in hopes of buying love through false positivity.
4. Are you a workaholic? Some people try to fill that hole in their hearts with over-working and trying to gain approval through professional and/or financial success.
5. Are you a hoarder? There are ways to hoard beyond the obvious ones that fuel reality television. You can hoard food, either in your body or in your pantry. You can hoard success, never spreading the credit to other members of your team/community. You can hoard your friends, feeling jealous if some of them do things without including you. You can hoard your children, not encouraging them to spread their wings and fly into the world. This is just a short list. Can you add any other hoarding behaviors? Hoarding is difficult to give up. Having enough things can give a false sense of filling the emptiness love starvation causes. A lot of us believe “The one who dies with the most toys wins.”
6. Are you addicted to food, sex, drugs, or alcohol? Again, this is just a partial list of addictive behaviors. It is pretty obvious that acting in any of these ways provides a substitute for something. Most addictions are either a way of crying out for love and help, or a way of self-medicating so you don’t feel the pain of love starvation.
7. Can you express love when you feel it? This doesn’t have to just be for people who are your soul mates or heart relations. Maybe you love the way someone does his or her job. Maybe you think a person’s gardens are beautiful. Maybe you admire the way someone is connecting with his or her infant. Maybe you think you’ve just had a remarkable meal. TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU SINCERELY LOVE ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE OR DO. You don’t have to use the word “love”. Just tell people what you like about them. Little bits of love go a long way in filling that heart hole. Try to find something every day for which you can give a little love gift.
Lack of love can literally make people ill. Love starvation can lead to behaviors that are definitely not in the best interest of a person’s health: stress, worry, over or under eating, or drinking or smoking or doing drugs, over-working, under-sleeping, never exercising, holding grudges, seeking revenge, never being happy, or seething with anger. The cost of love starvation is staggering when you think of how it affects one person’s ability to work, or to love, or to search for knowledge that could help them or improve the world. Now take that individual cost and multiply it by the number of people in your home, your city, your state, your country… the world!
In the 1960s a popular saying was “Make Love, Not War”. Sexual innuendos aside, there is a lot of truth to that slogan. If people love themselves they are much more likely to love their children, their neighbors, their community, their country, etc. Truly loving people are much less likely to want to fight over possessions, territory, wealth, philosophies or religions.
Ending love starvation all starts with the children. I implore those of you who have children, are thinking of having children or are working with children to put aside your own love starvation as much as you can and appropriately nurture the young people in your care. By doing so, you will help to raise a generation of love-filled people. Just one generation that knows mama, papa or any combination thereof really loves them would make an incredible change for the good in our world.