A statistic: a recent survey came up with the finding that just over 60% of all songs ever written are about love. I imagine the same is true, or more so, of poetry and of course most novels contain a love story of some kind. And yet psychology mostly, although not entirely, goes quiet about love. In my 32 years in the profession I can’t remember attending a single workshop or course with the word ‘love’ in the title. In mainstream psychology there are very few books on the psychology of love, never mind the healing power that loving support can provide.
Carl Rogers, generally considered the founder of counselling, believed strongly that in the counselling setting a respectful, non possessive and non judgmental love had that power to heal. He once wrote: “It respects the other person as a separate individual and does not possess him (or her). It is a kind of liking that has strength, and which is not demanding”. He saw it as “temporarily living in the other’s life, moving about in it delicately without making judgments”. He believed this was the pathway to empathy and to the true understanding of another person. As he famously wrote: “If a person is understood he or she belongs”.
It is perhaps psychology’s greatest disservice that it says so little about it. And yet we can easily remember those doctors, psychologists or therapists who were able to allow this in themselves and not just see ‘being professional’ as being semi detached from the person in front of them. I have found it striking that as a standard question I am likely to ask clients what medication they are on. Very often they can’t recall the name of it but, if they had a good relationship with their doctor, they will always remember the doctor. The relationship comes first for them, the feeling of being listened to, valued and, most of all, understood.