May 27

Emotional Fingerprints

May 27, 2015

Personal Growth

Sharon sat in front of me, with the stated purpose of getting help with her marriage.

“Are you aware of how unhappy you are?” I asked.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said.

It was clear that Sharon didn’t want to talk about her own unhappiness, so we talked first about her children. At one point, though, I asked, “How did your parents treat you?”

She said that her parents had always been loving and supportive, but it was obvious to me that this woman had never experienced a moment of unconditional love in her life. She wouldn’t have known Real Love if it had run over her with a truck. From a number of angles I tried to help her see her childhood more clearly, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

“How can you know that my parents didn’t love me?” Sharon asked. “You weren’t there.”

When people haven’t been loved—when they’re empty and afraid—they demonstrate that condition in a variety of ways that is pretty clear. They have a certain look, they use certain words, they express themselves in certain phrases. We don’t have to know the details of their history to identify how they were raised.

For many years ago I listened regularly to a classical music radio program, Adventures in Good Music, hosted by Karl Haas. One week he declared that someone had recently found a lost piece of sheet music, composed many years before by a famous classical composer. He played the piece on the piano and challenged listeners to guess the identity of the composer.

Within the first few measures, I knew that Frederic Chopin had written the piece. How did I know? Because I had played many of his compositions and learned that he had a particular style, a way of expressing himself, that was unlike that of any other composer. I recognized his musical fingerprint, so to speak.

People who have been loved have a recognizable fingerprint, as do those who have not been loved. We don’t need to know the life history of someone to know whether they were sufficiently loved unconditionally or not. We can see their emotional fingerprint in everything they do and say—words, tone, posture, facial expression, and a wide variety of behaviors. Once we recognize the lack of love, we can offer whatever form of unconditional love we have—listening, compassion, service, and more.

PCSD

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