THE BLOG
09/08/2010 07:50 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Do You Stink at Receiving Love?

Where's Leo Buscaglia when you need him? There might be a few of you left out there, born before this age of high-tech, hyper-connectivity mania, who remember his words and Spirit. For those who don't, his message is timeless. Especially on days like these when the best some can come up with (in the name of God, no less) is to demand the burning of a holy book they have no interest in reading because the Qur'an is foreign. (Really, as a people, we can do better. In my book, Creative Intelligence is multi-lingual, and does not choose favorites amongst It's Sons and Daughters. But then, that's a story for another time.)

If you are still with me, and willing to receive some gems, take a gander at Dr. Leo standing and delivering, as only he could. (For openers, just Google him under "The Politics of Love.") His survey on love generated 600 responses to his two questions 'What is it about your relationships that keep them growing, alive, fresh? And, what destroys your relationships?' (What say you? Regardless whether you read the following or not, we'd love to hear your own answers, as well as your friends, in the comment section at the bottom.)

Heaven knows, we need all the help we can get. As I rejoin you today, for the first time since surgery on July 28th, I've never been more struck by the relevance of 'the good doctor's words,' and the need for us to take them to heart. Let's review. One month ago, more or less, we were in the midst of another conversation called "When Was the Last Time You Sent a Love Letter?" Turns out, many of you have proven yourselves to be Rock Stars in the sending department!

So much so that it was your stories about sending love letters that reminded me that you, and Leo, are certainly the best Faculty around when it comes to Love School. Your messages resonated with Buscaglia's, who said:

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring..."

Imagine what it might be like to receive such gestures, aka 'love letters' if you were the Chilean miners, or their family members, or the survivor's of the recent devastion in Pakistan? Imagine what it would be like to be the recipient of such love from complete strangers from around the world. What might this create? Go further. What might happen if you got even better at discerning what to 'take in that's the good stuff,' and what to throw out, that's suspiciously toxic?

Turns out that there are literal love letters to be sent, but there are also love letters wanting to be received, be they though the snail-mail, power of touch, a warm and generous greeting, a patient listener, or an acknowledging reflection that you are seen, heard, appreciated through a beautifully caring unexpected gesture.

What Gets in Our Way, and What's a Remedy? Maybe the other part of the problem is that we forget who we are. In his series "Born for Love," Leo tells the story of going into a setting for seniors, where he asks an elderly woman, with her hair tinted blue: "Do you know who I am?" To which she replies: "If you don't know, I suggest you ask the head nurse!"

1. When we forget who we are, we forget our value, and worthiness to receive as well as to give. We forget to ask for help. When we forget who we are, we forget to 'feed the wild dogs in the basement,' as Jeff Goldbaum's character puts it to the male protagonist in the new Jennifer Aniston movie entitled "The Switch." He tells his buddy, "Look, I've been trying to tell you. You've got to feed the 'wild dogs' in your basement. If you don't, they'll get out!" The wild dogs, my friend, are the work of the inner monkey, too often insisting that to ask for what we need is not O.K. If you think you have transcended all yours, trust me, they are still in the cellar! If you doubt me, have surgery. It's the fastest way I know to get over your need to pretend you are invinsible. On a collective level, the unfed 'Wild Dogs Shadow' is projected onto the unfamiliar to keep the unknown (in us) at bay, unintegrated, on the loose, lighting fires, protesting other's rights for freedom.

2. Remedy: Acknowledge we have the right to 'ask for the head nurse,' either literally, or metaphorically. Acknowledge that recoverying from our own 'wild dogs' attack takes time. Accept it is O.K. to be human. Accept that we are in process of learning to do better, and it starts by learning to see what's really before us with fresh eyes. (More to come on how to do this next week.) Accept that we don't have to be for everyone. Accept that we do NOT have the responsibility to be the dog chow for other people's wild dogs. That's not your job.

An example: a beautiful woman, inside and out, by the name of Pamela Joy Bartlett died last week. At her Memorial Service, the following story was told. It seems that Pam and her colleague were reading hundreds of rave review evaluation forms after they'd presented their material. At last, near the bottom of the pile, something else was waiting, with a really bad stench to it. Apparently, it was scathing, one of those hatchet jobs that would leave most of us running to the closest corner, tails tucked between our legs, to lick our wounded paws in peace. Not Pam! Instead, she took one read of the thing, crumpled the thing up, tossed it across the room, and uttered the following to her colleague with glee: "Well, that certainly was not our experience, was it?"

One of the most beautiful qualities of Pam was that she knew how to discern the helpful from the toxic. Sometimes it really is more than O.K., (and even required) to refuse the bite of other people's unfettered wild dogs. She knew that receiving love has nothing to do with taking on what's contaminated. She knew that receiving love begins with seeing yourself as worthy enough to give your own heart a healthy touch, "...a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring..." She and Leo, are, no doubt, cultivating quite a dance routine these days, in the Great Beyond's latest rendition of 'Dancing With the Stars.' We can marvel at their knowing that receiving love has nothing to do with taking in what's none of our business. There are few skill sets more important to develop if you are serious about growing Love.

Know that I've missed you beyond measure, and would love to hear from you. Thanks for passing it along. 'What is it about your relationships that keep them growing, alive, fresh? And, what destroys your relationships?' What say you?

For updates, contact me at carabarker.net. Re-tweet or pass along to friends who may enjoy this post. For info on future blogs, click on Become A Fan at the top. Follow Dr. Cara Barker on www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker New developments are happening by the end of September on carabarker.net, including a new series called "Practicing Love," a development of one of Cara's Love Projects.