By Dr Mike Neville
“And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of all is love.”
“Love love love - all you need is love”
THE Bible has been around longer than The Beatles and the concept of love perhaps even longer, but somehow there is agreement on the importance of love.
I believe that love is the food of mental health, the essential nutrient that helps us grow into decent responsible adults.
I grew up in the Sixties, when we talked of flower power and free love. I am now older and more cynical, but I still remember the student marches in Ireland, against apartheid and the Vietnam War, but that we were too afraid to discuss “The Troubles” as bombs went off around us, killing and maiming innocent people. Perhaps love was in short supply back then too.
The Bahamas is presently in crisis on the love front; a veritable conflict of confusion, where love is often seen as multiple sexual partners or controlling jealousy and even the wondrous concept of ‘Love of God’ seems to be transformed to an expensive hat or excessive tithing.
What on earth could have gone wrong?
Dr John Bowlby’s work on Attachment Theory focused on child development and had concluded that “to grow up mentally healthy, the infant and the young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment”. Dr Bowlby also believed that financial, community and family supports were needed to help the mother-child relationship grow.
It is disgraceful that, even today, his hope that society would support parents in need is still largely ignored. It is also of importance to note that he concluded that maternal separation or some sort of inability to love the child would cause permanent emotional damage.
Professor Michael Rutter did more research on Attachment Theory and whilst he realised that the attachment did not have to be with the child’s mother, the lack of this nurturing and loving bond could result in lifelong personality disorder and difficulties in relationships.
The Bahamas, like many other countries in this region, has very high levels of maternal deprivation caused by addictions, poverty, separations due to immigration problems and the high incidence of child abuse. This affects both the developing child and the adult who was abused and is unable to adequately love their own child. This early deprivation is certainly part of the reason that this region has some of the highest per capita murder rates in the world.
The core of many religions is the “Golden Rule” - treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself. I see this core belief sorely tested in the world at this time with care and nurture frequently pushed aside by greed and personal gain. All that matters is that we get what we want and to hell with everyone else.
This constricts and drains the life out of love; the food of mental health is being sent to the landfill to burn and pollute the land.
Relationship experts often say that instead of waiting for love to come along you must first learn to love yourself; a difficult task without the early nurture of unconditional love. Even the total love of God is, at times, hard to fully comprehend: it is God’s love that creates goodness in us. God who sacrificed his son for us makes the Easter season all the more poignant for so many of us who have lost loved ones.
I am not sure that I will ever fully understand the selflessness of the sacrifice but I do know that it is love that has kept us nurtured on our journey. There are so many folks from all walks of life that have reached out and helped us in so many different ways. It is this fundamental decency and goodness that gives hope for the future; surely there must be ways we can magnify this caring, compassion and love to transform our society. We have seen and felt this from so many friends and just people we have met on the way and this has helped us so much.
Pope Francis recently said “Love is more powerful, Love gives life, Love makes hope blossom in the wilderness”.
NEXT WEEK: Hate and its effect in modern society
• Dr Mike Neville is a forensic psychiatrist who has practiced for more than 40 years in the Bahamas, working at Sandilands, the prison and in private practice. Comments and responses to firstname.lastname@example.org