In the movie “Paterson”, a man named Paterson drives a bus in Paterson, New Jersey, and writes poetry in a secret journal during his spare time. His writing is the most important part of his life, other than his love for his wife.
His wife encourages him to copy the journal so he can send it to be published. He agrees after she tells him to do this many, many times. On the day he was planning to copy the journal, his wife leaves for the flea market, leaving Paterson to take care of her dog.
And, of course, on this day, her dog decided to chew the journal into tiny bits—including a love poem Paterson had been writing for his wife for a long time. When his wife comes home to find the journal in pieces, she expresses her anger toward the dog and her empathy toward the man she loves.
As I watched, I was struck by how Paterson’s wife never once said, “I told you to copy that journal earlier!” She was simply loving and supportive. Her behavior seemed motivated by love, not by guilt or a need to fix the situation.
When was the last time you gave someone close to you unconditional support? Support, without our own baggage getting in the way, has the potential to heal. Too often, our own feelings and hangups get in the way of being loving when the situation calls for it. We try to give suggestions. Teach a lesson. Give advice. Make a point. Or make ourselves feel better by changing the subject, making light of the situation, telling someone it’s “all going to be okay” or talking about past experiences when we were able to overcome something similar.
Most of the time, none of these actions are helpful and often leave the other person feeling worse, invisible, uncared for, and alone. Simply holding one’s story, that is, just being present for the other person with an understanding nod or supportive touch is enough to show unconditional love.
Is this realistic or is this something we only see in the movies? Try an experiment for yourself. The next time someone comes to you with a problem or asking advice, be present and supportive in a quieter way than you normally would.
I will think of a situation with _____________ where I will be unconditionally supportive.