Mark Epstein on Unconditional Love

‘I think this idea of unconditional love is a little dangerous, because the way most people try to provide it – whether mothers or therapists – is by being fake. Who can really love everyone all the time? So if you’re trying to offer unconditional love and it’s not real, then the other person experiences you as a fake, and it’s no longer a safe environment. When it’s real, it’s very beneficial….We can be loving enough. And it’s actually in the disappointments or failure of that less-than-perfect environment that a person evolves: if the mother or the therapist is good enough but not ideal, the person can develop his or her own capacity for tolerance.’

Mark Epstein, M.D.
Excerpt from a Tricycle: The Buddhist Review interview called Be Here Angry Now.

Gratitude to Brent Potter for this post on Facebook. We agree. Love is a fundamentally important offering by the therapist, and so is realness. Any sacrifice of realness in the cause of a presentation of ‘love’ is self-defeating.

What we look for in a therapist at this service is someone who has ‘being real’, as a core intention/value/way of being, and who can offer loving presence from that place – ‘loving enough’, in Epstein’s terms, which is not about some illusory, constant provision of ‘UPR’, rather the ebbs and flows of real relationship.

Our experience is that it takes a huge amount of commitment and personal work by a therapist (or any of us) to become someone who can offer this – and that there are many therapists who neither offer it nor make sense of therapy in these terms.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

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