Marsha walked into the room looking like she’d been dragged behind an F150 truck for a couple of miles. Questions revealed that she had felt alone and miserable for many years, with several failed relationships. Her adult son had been living in her basement for a decade. She bemoaned the endless series of people who had treated her badly. Despite all that, she said her childhood was happy, and her parents loved her, so she was puzzled why—when she was such a loving person—her life has turned into such a mess.
“It is simply not possible,” I said, “that you were unconditionally loved—not with any consistency—nor that you’re loving now.”
“But how could you know that? You couldn’t know whether I was loved as a child. You weren’t there.”
“I don’t need to have been there. I’m looking at you. I have all the evidence right here that I’ll ever need.”
Marsha looked puzzled, so I continued. “Have you ever been out in a pasture—the kind used for grazing?”
“Maybe when I was a kid.”
“I have, many times, so in your mind go with me into a pasture. As we walk along, you step in a great, steaming pile of cow poop. Is it any mystery where it came from? Do you really wonder if there has been a cow recently standing in that spot?”
“No, I guess not.”
“No, there’s no mystery. It’s a certainty that there was a cow there, even if you don’t see the cow close by now. You’re standing in what only a cow could have produced. And that’s how I know what your childhood was like. I wasn’t there when you were a child, but I’m looking directly at what those years produced. You’re miserable and completely unprepared to be in a healthy relationship. That is sufficient proof that you were not unconditionally loved enough as a child.”
Our parents did the best they could. They tried to love us, they wanted to, but the great majority of us do not feel loved or happy, which proves that we were not unconditionally loved with enough consistency for us to produce happiness within us.
Some people vigorously defend their childhoods, and if they are sufficiently attached to the notion that they were loved, it’s simply not worth pushing them. They just need to feel Real Love, regardless of their understanding. We don’t need to over-analyze the past, because the path to happiness is the same for us all.