How To Be More Loving – Free Ebook

Perhaps the finest way to develop a loving
attitude towards other people is to recall,

in the face of their difficulty, that we are,
in the end, all children.

The claim is an odd one. Adults are clearly
not children. They have powers of reasoning

that quite outstrip those of younger people,
they have options and a sound grasp of right

and wrong, they are capable of causing serious
damage; they should know better.

Children, on the other hand, are well-known
for their powers to melt our hearts. Partly

this has to do with their physical appearance:
with their unusually large eyes, their full

cheeks, their unthreatening statures, their
tiny fat fleshy fingers. But ultimately, the

child attracts our tenderness because, when
they act in ‘bad’ or tricky ways, it tends

to be easy to work out why they have done
so: they hit their little sister because they

were feeling left out; they started to steal
things from the other children because their

parents were going through a divorce; they
ran away from the party without saying goodbye

because they were panicked by a sense of unworthiness.

Overall, when it comes to the psychology of
children, we discover a surprising and hugely

gentle truth: that ‘badness’ and difficulty
are, invariably, the result of some form of

pain, discomfort, hurt or wound. The child
does not start by being dreadful, they become

so in response to injury, fear or sorrow.

With adults on the other hand, confronted
by nasty or terrible behaviour, our thoughts

do not – for understandable reasons – generally
turn to imagining why it might have occurred.

We’re satisfied with nimble and compressed
reasons: because they’re an arsehole, because

they’re crazy. This will do for now.

And yet it is always open to us to wonder
why someone acted as they did – and here we

are liable to stumble on an always provocative
and properly revolutionary idea: the reason

why little children and big people do wrong
is – despite the differences in age and size

  • exactly the same. One category may be no
    bigger than a chair, the other can be gigantic

and able to carry guns, post lengthy screeds
online or start and bankrupt companies, but

in the end, the psychology of blunder, meanness
and anger is always the same: evil is a consequence

of injury. The big person did not start off
evil, their difficult sides were not hard

wired from the start, they grew towards malice
on account of some form of wound waiting to

be discovered.

It is work of extraordinary patience and humanity

  • it is the work of love – to go in search

of what these wounds might be. To search is
morally frightening because we too easily

imagine that it might require us to wind up
thinking well of behaviour we know is abhorrent:

it doesn’t at all, we can remain appalled
while simultaneously tracing a path back to

the true catalytic factors. The work can also
be practically frightening because we imagine

that it might require us to leave someone
at liberty to cause us or others yet more

pain: but again, we can keep the wrong doer
safely behind very high bars, even as we sensitively

explore the origins of their violations.

Once the full stories of our trespassers become
known, our perspective may swiftly rework

itself. The bully who pursued us online had
once worked as a porter, then been fired some

years back and fallen into depression and
was facing the bankruptcy courts. The angry

populist politician was remorselessly belittled
by a powerful father. The sexually impulsive

person used their addiction to calm themselves
down from some unmasterable anxieties related

to early emotional neglect. Our judgement
on behaviour never has to change; our sense

of why it occurred can be transformed.

The discipline of psychotherapy has been central
in helping us to chart the sometimes unobvious

or contrary connections between a symptom
and its genesis. Boastfulness may have its

roots in fear; anger can mask terror; hatred
can be a defence against love. The haughty

air of the grown up can take hold as a way
of compensating for invisibility. A satirical

manner can be a shield against an exiled longing
for sweetness.

THe prison system in most countries tends
to place people below the age of eighteen

in separate young offenders’ institutions,
which treat inmates with a degree of kindness

and hope – in order to delve into the psychology
of transgression with a view to understanding

and overcoming its causes. But after this
age, for the most part, prisoners are locked

up in bare cells and the key is – metaphorically

  • thrown away. They should, after all, have

known better.

And yet we are all, as it were, young offenders,
however old we might actually be; in other

words, we all need our crimes to be treated
with a degree of sympathy and empathetic investigation.

It is an exquisite feat of mind to be able
to imagine them as always still, at some level,

infants in a cradle.

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