It happens toward the beginning of the Hitchcock movie, Vertigo. In a race across roof tops, the character played by Jimmy Stewart ends up in the spot about which many of us have nightmares. Hanging from the edge of a tall structure we wonder if he will be saved. A policeman stands above him. There is that crucial moment. Since Jimmy is the star, it's the policeman who ends up falling to his death in the course of saving Stewart.
The great Hitchcock understood what I have written about here before. We are born with only two fears: our startle reflex at loud noises, and our fear of falling. Every other fear we have is learned.
Because Hitchcock knew about our inate fear, he peppered many of his films with such images: Cary Grant clinging to a Mount Rushmore rockledge in North by Northwest; Jimmy Stewart hanging from the balcony at the end of Rear Window; Martin Balsam falling backward down the stairs in Psycho.
There is another fear that arises soon after our birth. We grow up yearning for Love and suffer when we don't get it. Newborn babies wither in the absence of love and loving touch. Yet, as adults, we seek it too.
What do we need to do to earn Love? What causes Love to leave our side?
Each of us has experienced abandonment at one time or another in our lives. It can be an awful and degrading feeling.
The good news is that since God is Love, Love is always present. The hard news is that so many of us decide to cut off Love's power when we encounter people we decide we don't like.
Caregivers can transmit Love to us when we are hanging on the edge of our "cliff." Sometimes, with reasons such as the sudden rudeness or depressive behavior of a patient or in deep fatigue, some caregivers will choose to withhold Love. Their patient, reaching for Love's hand and not receiving it, may fall into a deep chasm, waiting there for Love's return.
Of course, there are times when Love means letting go: the mother and father who need to let their child head off to college; the nurse who needs to let the terminal patient pass away. How are we to know what kind of Love is needed and when?
The reason why it is so important for health leaders to love their staff is that staff who are cared for are more likely to become vehicles of Love. The same is true for caregivers as they encounter each other. Love breeds Love.
Love knows when to hold on and when to let go. And it is Love that we seek when we are hanging onto the edge of sanity, or feel ourselves falling into isolation, dismay and melancholy.
What do you think?