motherdaughterI have the privilege to witness amazing transformations in people I work with every day and sometimes, as it happened today, I am reminded of how simple, yet magical, the catalysts for these transformations can be.

Today I had coffee with one of my coaching clients, who came along with her three and a half year old daughter. I was in awe at the amazing connection between the two of them as I saw my client’s whole expression transform when she spoke to or merely looked at the little one. As my client is going through a big change in her life, her daughter unwittingly provides perhaps the most valuable support her mother could ever wish for. What does she do exactly? She herself summed it up beautifully when, at one point, her mother asked:

“What are you feeling?”

“I feel my heart filled with love” the little one replied

“For whom?” the mother asked

“For you, mommy”. 

“I love you too, honey. I love you so much” the mother concluded, tears in her eyes.

I had tears in my eyes too and I too felt my heart filled with love. This is a mother who wholeheartedly gives love to her child, and joyously receives love back.

But what happens when this exchange is not that healthy? What happens when love isn’t shared or returned? What happens when people – parents, lovers, friends – make terrible mistakes against those whom they love? Or when they simply don’t know how to show love, because nobody has ever taught them?

Later in the day I had a talk with someone very close to me about the sadness and pain of losing love, being denied love, being rejected, hurt, humiliated by someone you love. We talked about what options the “victim” has in these situations. What options does a rejected child have when her parents are unable to give her the emotional nourishment she needs? What options does another have when he is abused? What kind of relationship will these future adults have with love and their loved ones?

We both knew people who had been shaped by the lack of love in their early lives. One might expect that all these people will turn out to be unloving adults themselves, and some do. Some simply get so hardened, bitter, saddened, angered by the love they never received, that they never find the resources to be loving. Others, amazingly, discover some hidden resource, some mysterious treasure of love buried deep inside of them and compensate for whatever they were never offered when young by choosing to love themselves and others in adulthood.

What makes the difference between these two kinds of people? Why are some angry all their lives, perpetually blaming others for their misfortune, perpetually consumed by resentments and hatred and others healed, serene, happy and always generous with their love? Why are some eternal victims of their parent’s mistakes, forever stuck in the past and unhappy despite any goodness, kindness and beauty in their present lives, always looking for enemies and reasons to complain, criticise, attack and fight, while others are survivors who themselves become better, happier, more compassionate and forgiving people precisely because they suffered when they were young?

What makes the difference?

I believe the difference is choice. I also believe choice springs from awareness. The more aware you are of yourself, of the messages your unconscious mind is continuously giving you, the more willing you are to learn and let yourself be taught by others and life itself, the more likely you are to realise that love is a choice. 

Love is a choice! Being kind and gentle is a choice! Forgiveness is a choice! 

As this very important person in my life said: My greatest revelation was that, despite external circumstances, despite anything anyone has ever done wrong against me, I CAN CHOOSE to be good.

That is my greatest revelation too. I can choose to be good, kind, forgiving. I also have the potential to be mean, cruel and angry. And so can you, each of you. But in order to make that choice consciously, you might need to ask yourselves what is the hidden message behind your emotions? What does your anger teach you? How about your sadness? What about people around you who make you mad – what lesson do they have to teach you? What do you feel when you see yourself in the mirror every morning? Do you feel guilt, shame, anger, disappointment? Or do you feel love, tenderness and forgiveness? Do you really like yourself and, if no, what could you do to make friends with that person in the mirror?

And finally: Are you choosing love? If not, which part of you is preventing you?