The late poet and philosopher John o’ Donoghue, in his book Anam Cara, talks a lot about peoples intrinsic need to belong.
John says that ‘people want to belong to a partner, a family, a group, a workplace’.But, in order to belong happily with others, it is crucial I believe that I first belong with myself; if my sense of self is dependant on others then my belonging to them will always be insecure.
John O’ Donoghue recognises the importance of this and describes the sense of belonging to self as offering a solid interiority. When it becomes possible to inhabit such interiority, nobody can demean, lessen or exile your presence in any way.
Many psychological theorists and practitioners have emphasised that unconditional love is the deepest longing of every human being . Unconditional love entails loving the other person for her unique and unrepeatable presence in the world. There is no room for ambiguity here – no room, for example, for expressions such as, ‘I would love you if…’or, ‘I love you when.’ I believe it is deeply important as a therapist to understand that there is no room for confusion of the person herself with her behaviour or with any particular attribute or skill- physical, intellectual, emotional, social, sexual, behavioural or creative.
I believe that the primary project of being human is about returning to a place of unconditional love – working our way through the shadow world of substitute responses that have necessarily been created because of our dependence in the early years of our lives on parents and other significant adults who, in turn were working through their own shadow worlds.
Whether formed at an unconscious or conscious level, defensive actions are created by the self from a place of knowing .The task of the professional helper is to enable a person to bring the unresolved conflicts to consciousness so that he can actively understand and take responsibility for healing the effects of whatever traumas have been experienced – and, in turn, the effects of those reactions to those traumas on himself and on others.
Everyone carries unresolved emotional baggage. It can happen that for one client a therapist has no difficulty in being unconditional, empathic, and authentic, whilst with another it is a struggle to relate in that way. When the latter is the case I believe the therapist has an opportunity to examine what in his unconscious is being triggered by the clients responses and is seeking to come into consciousness. I think it can help enormously if the therapist can be honest about his inner struggle so that there is equality between the two people. Such honesty is a return to unconditional relating and may result in strengthening the relationship.