Today’s song is ‘The Greatest Love of All’. This song was written by Michael Masser, who composed the music, and Linda Creed, who wrote the lyrics. It was originally recorded in 1977 by George Benson, who made the song a substantial hit, peaking at Number 2 on the ‘US Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs’ chart that year, the first R&B chart top-ten hit for ‘Arista Records’. The song was written and recorded to be the main theme of the 1977 film ‘The Greatest’, a biopic of the boxer Muhammad Ali. Eight years after Benson's original recording, the song became even more well known for a version by Whitney Houston, whose 1985 cover (with the slightly amended title ‘Greatest Love of All’) eventually topped the charts, peaking at Number 1 in the United States, Australia, Canada and on the ‘US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs’ in early 1986.
The song was written about the world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali, Michael Masser wanted us to know that there was a man who wanted to change his name and religion. That's all! Ali hadn't believed in the war in Vietnam and had refused to fight in it. He won that battle through the legal system. Still, he lost everything else, including his title which was forfeited. But Ali retained the most important thing of all; 'his dignity'.
I have always considered the words of this song to dovetail into so many of my own inner beliefs, along with a few of society’s failures. The lyrics espouse the belief that ‘children are our future’ and that it is the duty of adults to see in them the beauty of themselves and to instil in them a sense of pride. The song tells us, ‘Everyone is looking for a hero’ and indicates that being one’s own person is a way of becoming one’s own hero. Without a doubt, however, the most powerful lines in the song and its central message can be found in the lines, ‘I found the greatest love of all inside of me’ along with, ‘For you to love yourself is the greatest love of all’.
I suppose that one of life’s hardest lessons to learn and take on board is being aware that ‘Until one can love oneself (faults and all) one is unable to truly love another!’ My own experiences reveal this statement to hold so much truth,
Prior to getting knocked down with a wagon when I was 11 years and incurring life-threatening injuries that kept me in the hospital as an in-patient for nine months and then prevented me walking for almost three years, my dream was to play football for Ireland; the country of my birth. Indeed, everything indicated that this 11-year-old who was skilled enough to play in the senior football team at St. Patrick’s school with pupils four years older, would one day achieve a sporting break-through and witness his dream come true. “After all, “I thought, “why shouldn’t I one day play soccer for Ireland? My father did when he was 21 years old, so why shouldn’t I?”
That was a time in my life when my confidence and belief in myself to do anything I set my mind to was at its height. After the medics told me that because of my spine (which I’d badly damaged when my body had got twisted around the main drive shaft of the wagon), I’d never walk again, I was emotionally gutted. Within the matter of a day, the bottom had fallen out of my world. The emotions that I predominantly felt at that precise moment were ‘fear’ and ‘anger.’ I was fearful that I would never walk again and angry that my glittering football career was over before it had ever really got started! Then, over the immediate months that followed, ‘I stopped loving myself’, and before long, I’d also stopped loving others (or rather had stopped showing and expressing my love for others).
The years between my childhood accident and emigrating to Canada at the age of 21 years witnessed most of my leisure hours being taken up with numerous sporting activities and exercises that were designed to restore a sense of balance and improve my mobility. During this period, I had learned to master my fears, manage my anger and begin to love myself again. Once I started to invest love in myself again, I also unknowingly started to automatically express love in others also, along with expressing love in whatever I did.
During my thirties as a Probation Officer with the West Yorkshire Probation Service, I found new and constructively creative ways of working with aggressive clients who were unable to manage their anger states and prevent themselves acting aggressively and violently in certain situations. For over twenty years I researched the behaviour and response patterns of my clients and discovered some very important factors.
By the age of thirty-five, my work with violent clients led to me being able to set up the very first systematised ‘Anger Management’ working methods in the world. Within two years, I’d founded ‘Anger Management’ and my systemised methods of working with aggressive people started to mushroom across the English-speaking world.
The magic formula that I had stumbled on in the dark as opposed to coming across in clear daylight was the three most important emotions that lie behind a person’s most entrenched problems; fear, anger and the absence of enough self-love! My research into my own working practices and results also led me to recognise 'the order' that these three major problems ought to be addressed. I had discovered that while behavioural change could be temporarily achieved if I worked with these three components in the wrong order, positive behavioural change of a long-term nature could not be maintained. It was like going on a specific dietary regime, losing a significant amount of weight but not being able to keep off the weight loss as you gradually revert to your old eating habits.
Ironically, I was to later discover that my life’s work in changing behaviour patterns and founding the process of 'Anger Management' had its roots in my own childhood accident and the three prominent emotions I had when I was told by the medics that I’d never walk again.
My later work with hundreds of groups taught me that the first of these three emotions to be worked with was learning clients to love themselves again before they were able to express love towards others. This work involved lots of talking helping people discover the good things about themselves they had buried away. There were also many self-enhancement exercises revealing their personal strengths they hide from public view, to help them feel better about themselves and establish a good enough level of self-love.
When the person has started to love themselves again, they are able to love others and are less likely to feel such alone in their lives. They also find renewed strength to face, confront and tackle their other two problem areas. Their second problem emotion to work on is their high level of fear; particularly their irrational fears. This is best done by relaxation training exercises, a working method called, ‘Systematic Desensitisation’(designed to reduce unhealthy fear levels), followed by lots of behavioural rehearsal exercises. After the fear component of their problem behaviour has been successfully addressed; only then is it appropriate to work on their anger management problems. While working on their anger issues, it will be their self-love and their love of others that will enable them to change for the better and maintain their change of behaviour long term.
As the song says, ’I found the greatest love of all inside me.’
I dedicate my song today to Elaine Drake from Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire. I know from the regular entries of Elaine’s Facebook page that she loves children and that she knows her greatest strength lies in her love of self and her love of others. Thank you for being my Facebook friend, Elaine. Bill x
Love and peace Bill xxx