Lessons in Love
Written as part of the #DailyWritingChallenge #Love
Love. How do you write about love? It’s so different for everybody, it means so many different things and it exists in so many different forms.
The first thing that springs to mind whenever I hear or think about the word love is my children. There is no other love for me that is quite like the love I have for my two (ahem!) darling little angels. This love took me by surprise. I never really thought about being a parent until I was one. I never really knew what it entailed until I brought my first child home from the hospital, sat wrapped in a blanket with her in my arms and the penny dropped … there really are 24hours in a day and, as a parent, you are responsible for something – someone – in every single one of them (gulp!).
In all seriousness though, becoming a parent was one of the biggest eye-openers for me in terms of love. It was like the opening scene in the movie, Love Actually – the one where viewers are treated to a ‘fly on the wall’ moment and you just casually soak up all the random little acts of love that occur every day, all over the world, when people come together. Having children changed me, as it does so many others, and I came to start noticing love – in so many of its forms – all around me.
It was the love of watching my children grow and develop that reminded me of my younger self’s love of learning, and which led me to back to study and in the end to teaching. Before this, the very thought of working with children was laughable, not to others as many had suggested it, but certainly to me. It’s funny how things turn out – love really does change everything (sorry – couldn’t help it!).
My undergraduate degree at Sheffield Hallam incorporated Education Studies, Psychology and Counselling – and I loved it! Three key memories, or lessons, stand out above all the influential experiences I was gifted by my time on this course:
i – a lecturer called John Rees. I don’t think I really appreciated this man fully at the time, and I think I only had one or two units taught by him, but he pops up in my memories time and time again. He loved the things he talked about – as most lecturers do. He was passionate and excited but not forceful with his thinking. He encouraged debate and open thinking, and he loved it when students got excited too … as a mature(ish!) student surrounded by younger peers I noted that this was probably not as often as he would have liked. I can vividly recall one particular seminar during a unit on The Aims of Education, exploring critical thinking about educational philosophy, where we were discussing the process of learning. John was scribbling some sort of equation on the board that summarised our conclusions in three easy steps. I can’t remember the equation, or much of the discussion if I’m honest but I remember the penny-drop moment where something clicked into place and I realised it wasn’t the product of learning that I loved but the process; the sticky, messy, never-quite-sure process of change and transformation – the kind where there’s no turning back. Most importantly, that I loved seeing this process in others too!
ii – positive psychology. As part of the course, we covered both developmental and cognitive psychology, which I found fascinating and would love to return to at some point in the future. However, the final part of the course introduced positive psychology, something I had not come across before. Positive psychology, for me, brought together both the psychology and counselling elements of my degree. We explored Dweck’s ‘growth mindset’ and Bandura’s ‘self-efficacy’, alongside Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ and Goleman’s ‘emotional intelligence’, and we considered how these might play out in the classroom as well as for ourselves. Instead of attacking problems from a pathological viewpoint, positive psychology seeks to find strength from which it can learn, and it was this more appreciative solution-focused approach that really resonated with me. If we know how to be that which we desire, then we can take action towards that goal – we have the opportunity to become it. Martin Seligman, considered the founder of positive psychology, identifies love as a key virtue contributing to authentic happiness. I, like just about all others, want to be authentically happy and I want others to be so too. Love, it seems, is needed to help us get there; it might not be the only thing required but it’s pretty damn important.
iii – unconditional positive regard. The counselling modules on the course offered me some of the most intense opportunities for personal reflection and growth that I think I will ever experience. Whether this is because of the time of life I came to higher education, or because of other influences, I’m not sure but I regularly refer back to the lessons learnt here and I have no doubt that they are the root of my heavily reflexive approach today. Humanism and Rogers’ ‘Freedom to Learn’ were big game changers for me. The concept of unconditional positive regard – or love – was one I hadn’t really had opportunity to fully appreciate before and one which offered another penny drop moment which has stayed with me in its entirety. The total acceptance of another, not in spite of but regardless of their flaws and misdemeanours, is potentially one of the most powerful forms of love we can offer. As a parent, I knew that I should love my children unconditionally but when I came to see this and to really appreciate its relevance to adults as well as to children, how I saw others (as well as myself) changed forever.
Through these formative memories, I draw three key lessons:
Lesson i – LOVE what you do and the things that you share, they are what affects people the most and what they will remember about you for a long time to come. In order to do this we need to recognise and articulate the things that we love, that we are passionate about, and we need to share them with others.
Lesson ii – LOVE isn’t all that we need but it is a big part of it. Love helps to pave the way to authentic happiness, for ourselves and for others. Invite love in, seek love out and dish it out generously to others.
Lesson iii – LOVE, in its most powerful form, comes without prescription and without judgement. This kind of love should not only be reserved for our children or for the ‘innocent’ youth, it needs to be extended to adults too. Be kind to others as well as yourself.
These are not the only lessons in love that I have been gifted, there are many more – known and unknown, I’m sure. Thank you for reading. With love!