Does religion matter when you love someone

Charity in practice

Head physician Martin Grabe knows what breaks people - and how they can make themselves and each other happy. On a worldly and on a spiritual level. Grabe heads the department of psychotherapy and psychosomatics in the diaconal clinic Hohe Mark in Oberursel. In the psychiatry of the Christian clinic, diseases are often treated that are connected with disorders of the relationship to oneself and to the environment. The employees represent the Christian image of man that everyone is wanted and loved by God.

The psychiatrist and psychotherapist spoke to Erika von Bassewitz about self-love, neighborly love and love for God. He explains how these three are related to each other. And on the side he also gives tips for a good relationship - with other people and with God.

Our current campaign is also about self-love, neighborly love and love for God. Why is self-love important?

Martin Grabe: From a psychological point of view, healthy self-love is an important prerequisite for being healthy at all. Without being in agreement and satisfied with yourself on the whole, you cannot live happily in this world and have no positive charisma for others.

Can I learn this charisma?

Grave: This is not possible with us humans. We cannot make ourselves feel worthy. We depend on others, also on having others confirm our worth over and over again. That is really a peculiarity of the people. We are basically social beings.

And to use the findings from infant research: Everyone has three basic needs. The need for reflection is the first. This means that a baby experiences that the mother is happy when she sees it. People notice from the reactions of others that there must be something nice or even great about them.

The second is the need for idealization. This means that a person needs someone, preferably more than one, whom they really like. A role model to which he can orient himself and which he admires.

The third basic need is the basic need for equality, which is also called the alter ego need. This means being able to really belong somewhere: to a group or to a family. And to experience that you belong: I am a full member here, they want me to be there. I have certain duties here and that's right when I'm here.

And these three basic needs, the need for reflection, idealization and equality, are crucial for a child's development. But these basic needs are never lost, adults need them too. The only difference to toddlers is that adults can bridge longer dry periods. But then the tank has to be refilled, otherwise adults will also break. Otherwise the self of adults will also disintegrate.

Grave: I am no longer sure of myself if there is not someone who is happy when I come into a room, or if there are no longer any role models to be enthusiastic about. Or when I don't experience belonging.

That's why bullying is so bad. If someone spends the most awake moments at work and is constantly ostracized out of bad will, it wears adults down pretty quickly too. Although only this one need for equality is not satisfied. But nobody can withstand that for a long time. We are social beings. Everyone needs relationship persons.

And when these three basic needs are met, does self-love arise?

Grave: Exactly. Then a coherent self emerges, and the interesting thing is that we don't even notice our selves when they are good. He who loves himself does not think about whether he loves himself. He has a healthy sense of self, and that's how he goes about the world. Example: A teacher who likes herself and is calm will follow an orderly lesson. Whereas a teacher who doesn't even know how much she is technically capable will fail. The paper balls will soon fly. People who are at peace with themselves have a charisma that allows many things to happen. But you don't even think about it.

So can I tell from another person whether he or she lacks self-love? And what?

Grave: Self-love is not directly visible. Luckily! But you can still feel whether a person is at rest, whether he is irritable about little things, whether I feel a certain satisfaction with life, whether he appears calm or rushed. Whether he is at rest or whether there is something out of balance, whether he is at odds with himself, whether he is dissatisfied. These are all indicators of whether the person has a coherent self, as self-psychologists say.

And if I notice that - how should I react to it?

Grave: Well, now you know the three basic needs! You could signal that at least everything is fine between the two of you and that you are on his side. Or what sometimes works wonders is praise. Praise is another expression of reflection. This is important. And not always that easy either. But my experience is: Almost all people want to be praised and are happy when they are praised.

If I notice that a person is a little insecure and out of balance, I can take a moment, go inside and ask myself: What is good about this person? And tell him this. That almost always has a very positive effect and also gives him a bit of security.

The classic Bible phrase: love your neighbor like yourself - that doesn't work if I actually can't love myself at all. So do we have to fully adjust to charity?

Grave: The two are very closely related. Wherever people love each other, they automatically increase their self-love. And wherever people love themselves, they are also able to love others.

During my research I read that you should stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself how beautiful and great you are. But as I understand it, does self-love come from interaction with others?

Grave: Self-love comes from interaction with others. Still, I don't mind if something like this is done selectively. When it comes to countering negative voices from childhood, it is good to praise yourself or to stick a note on the mirror. If people are used to having poor self-confidence, for example because they received little attention in their parents' home and were told that they were superfluous, be it as a fifth child on the farm or as a forgotten middle child - then it is important to to consciously counter irrational negative beliefs against yourself. And that can happen with a piece of paper on the mirror or with positive sentences about yourself.

And should I praise others and give them compliments in order to create self-love in me?

Grave: Yes, but not more than I can. It also has to be real, it can only be real. Otherwise it will be very weird. And the others also feel that it is a means to an end. It shouldn't be hollow compliments or standard compliments. If I have made it clear beforehand who I am dealing with, then a praise, a compliment, or an appreciative comment really comes through.

I think this is a point that is often neglected and that would be so important: to learn to go inside for a moment and to become aware of what we value in others. This is especially important in partnerships and is so criminally neglected, sometimes for years.

Because there is so much to do and everything is done perfectly, everyone is well dressed, the house is clean and the front yard is well maintained. But that falls by the wayside. We meet too few basic needs. And that is time well invested.

We have now seen that charity and self-love are closely related. But what about god? Can that also play a role?

Grave: Ideally I would say it's a triangle. Ideally, this includes not only the relationship level in the interpersonal area, but also that in the spiritual area. And people who believe would probably also confirm that exactly what we have just talked about can also be obtained from this level. That there are moments in faith when people feel: there is God's love. It is there. God is present. I don't need to do anything anymore. All is well.

Do you have examples of such moments?

Grave: That is something that is happening. Just as I cannot establish a really good I-you relationship in the interpersonal area, it happens. It may be that my partner and I sit on the same park bench that we had a great conversation two weeks ago, and nothing happens. The only thing I can say with certainty: If I don't create a space where something can happen on the relationship level, then definitely nothing will happen. I can say that for sure. The opposite is not the case. Because beneficial relationship moments occur. I can't do them, I can only give them the space that they can happen. I can't make up my mind: Now I want to really experience God's love.

How can I give space to such experiences?

Grave: It is important to take your time in the first place. Then prayer is an important path, a silent, inviting prayer. One way that is often described is also to praise God. Many people have described how, in difficult situations - from debts to partner conflicts - they began to praise God for what sounds paradoxical and a bit crazy at first. To praise God is to acknowledge that his possibilities are greater than mine, and even greater than my problem.

I have heard so many stories from people who, just in situations like this, have just started to praise God and acknowledge that he will do something sensible with this problem. That it is already woven into its large master plan and that something good will come out of it. That would be a way to get into a relationship with God.

Reading the Bible can also be a way to come to God. We get suggestions and feel that there is a truth in it that I have not really grasped in my life at the moment and that I am not really realizing. Where I can gain a bit of freedom, for example by relativizing worries about the future. And also get access to faith in a new way, let faith permeate my everyday life.

And the gospel is basically the central point of these self-psychological needs: The knowledge about them, the knowledge in faith that everything has already been done for me. That God became human for me, my debt, also my future and that of all people, in order to establish a relationship with us. And that everything has already been clarified and everything is in order. And I have free access to Heavenly Father. And that I'm sure of God's love.

Can the Christian faith also help me to love others or myself?

Grave: It is precisely because of the strength of this knowledge that I believe that everything is in order and that I can then also become a person who can more easily give up, who can more easily focus on the needs of others. The time gains to be empathic with others. I do believe that a living spiritual relationship is very, very helpful there. But it is of course also true that for many people their beliefs quickly degenerate into theoretical dogmas and that little goes down in their hearts. And then I also deal with others in a demanding and tough manner, and even more so with myself, and on the whole am a not that pleasant boss. And then I need silence to get back to what is really important and how important it is that the others around me are doing well.

If you see our beer coasters for the campaign and our sayings - would you sign what it says on it?

Grave: I think it all fits very well. Here is this verse from Psalm 139: You are made in an amazing and wonderful way. That is another important aspect. I have just described the spiritual level in terms of the level of redemption, the other very important aspect is the creation aspect, that a lot of good has also been created. And that we - we too, both here, each for himself - can simply see each other as a miracle of creation. That is the second important aspect that many people find difficult to see.

That you yourself are a creature of God ...