The Subject of Love…!

By Tommy Winfrey

San Quentin State Prison


The subject of love has been coming up for me lately, and yesterday in a SQUIRES meeting it came up again. SQUIRES is a program I am involved in where I mentor youth in San Quentin State Prison.  Most of the young men that I talk to in SQUIRES come from unstable homes where the feeling of love is hard to find.  A parent is usually absent and this is enough to create a gap in their lives.  I was sharing my experience of growing up in a household where I had no doubt my mother loved me, and yet in return, my love for her felt unfulfilled. But a friend who was there and knows me pretty well asked, if I knew my mother loved me, why do I say I never felt loved?

At the time of this question I really didn’t know the answer, but I said, “Probably because I could see my mother’s actions and realize that she would do anything for me. However, she has never really been affectionate so maybe that was the reason I never felt loved.” I also said, “I knew rationally I was loved, but emotions are not always rational.” This conversation has left me thinking, why have I always felt I was missing love in my life?

I have come up with some answers to this question. First, I believe in the past I have taken my mother’s love for granted.  Thinking she must be obligated to love me because she gave birth to me. The young men at SQUIRES have taught me this is not always the case in life, and that I owe my mother an apology for this. I am truly sorry Mom, I will never take your love for granted again. Secondly, I believe my father’s alcoholism created an uncertainty in my life growing up. As a result I began to question my feelings and others as well. Thirdly, and this may be the biggest reason, I never loved myself so I never believed others could love me as well.

I have never been lacking in my ability to care about others, and this might be an over compensation for not loving myself. Of course I have had problems in expressing my love, but if I love you, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you. This means I have placed myself in peril too often in the past for the benefit of others. Something I would have never done if I had loved myself. Additionally, I have always been my toughest critic in life, and that little voice inside me just doesn’t know when to shut off. For a long time , I would do drugs to silence this voice, but I now realize that drugs only make things worse.

So, I have come to the conclusion that I need to love myself. I believe I have already begun this process, but I could get better at it. In the past, I believed that someone was going to come along and love me so much I would be magically healed. Now I believe the person I was waiting for was me. I still care for others deeply, but I believe it is more healthy, because my love is more justified. I am not loving the wrong people. I am loving fewer people, but the right ones. They say love can be fickle, but I believe love is all powerful.


All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM

  • Isabel

    Good one. I totally relate to the part of taking your mum’s love for granted, as if she was obligated to do it. I’ve felt like this all my life! even now…

  • Wow, this is so much like my situation, thank you for sharing, much to think and feel about 🙂

  • Amber

    For so long I have felt the same for and about my mother.  I can SEE that she loves me, I just don’t feel it.  I guess it starts with me.  Thank you so much for this Tommy, as the tears are forming I feel the healing start already….
    Looking Forward,

  • Karen Best

    This was a great expression of your feelings.  The part that I really related to is when you said you never loved yourself, therefore you feel other’s cannot love you.  I also feel very strongly that I do not know how to love myself.  Everytime I do something I perceive as stupid, I hate on myself.  I don’t understand myself and I don’t know how to love myself.  But I sure want to.  I hope to hear some more comments on what it really takes to love yourself. 

    • Tamdanh1

      I think self love is when you  do something that bring JOY to your heart.You do not say YES when you mean NO and you say NO when you mean YES! You don’t bend backward to please other people…..Self love is not  selfish because you will be very selfish if you don’t love yourself. LOVE

  • Jerry

    Tommy, your writing continues to inspire and  generate more insight and conversation. Keep it up. 

  • bradleybernie

    Great post!!!In order, to be able to receive love, we must first give it! You can’t give something you don’t have. The first person we must learn to love is ourselves and then we will have more than enough to give away!

  • Dyeet_brown

    This was so powerful! Thank you for sharing!

  • Daniel

    You are on the verge of the breakthrough. Love is the sun, at the center of your own life, but you have been blind to this reality. Our tendency is to enjoy the pleasures of life, while enduring suffering and emptiness, all the while yearning for some new privilege, possession, drug or lover who will at last fulfill our need for completion, fulfillment and love. 

    I believe each and every person’s journey through life is to know spiritual love, which is to be the love we are. No one can make you understand love, you alone must be willing to take the inward journey and embrace it. Love is elusive to those who only halfheartedly seek it, to such people the experience of love and joy is rare and fleeting. The good news is fleeting states can become norms but you have to apply yourself with a certain fierceness. The path is an acceptance of responsibility, and it begins by tending to the one thing you can actually control, yourself. 

    True love is inseparable from joy. So, when I work with people I usually ask them if they they can describe the feelings they experience with joy. If they have trouble accessing the feeling of joy, I ask them to shut their eyes and relax and call forth in their imagination someone who loves them as they are, someone who doesn’t want anything from them, someone who just wants them to be happy. Then I wait for their response.

    For me the experience if joy is like a river is flowing in me, the diamond heart sparkles and the energy of a million thrills are felt within. Love is a vibration that when stirred awakens as a warmth that is wholly felt, as real as any tree or a rock. 

    If you know this feeling of love/joy, and you are interested in expanding your perception of love and joy until it wall to wall carpeting, I can work with you as a coach. When I meet with people in person this project takes about 8  weeks. After that one is in a place from where one can practice forgiveness and then move into gratitude. People generally report feeling being happier awake to life and more balanced than they ever have been or could have imagined that they could be.

    If you are up for the challenge, do we connect through snail mail?

  • simplelady61


    Thanks for sharing.  Be open to the love of others as a means of helping you to love yourself.  I have an amazing friend, that is now my fiance’.  It was his love for me that showed me I am worthy of love, that helped me learn to truly love and accept myself for who I am.  Lean on the Greatest source of unconditional Love there is and you will then truly see yourself for the amazing person you are.

    Hugs and Prayers,


  • I sometimes feel the same. I try hard to love me, I like me but Im still not experiencing my joy. I realise I am quite insecure but I bury those feelings so I and others won’t see it. So I spend al ot of time hiding my issues instead of dealing with them.

  • Joyannah

    Hi Tommy,
    Instead of giving you advice and feedback, I’m going to suggest that you do this process as a daily meditation to expand your experience of self love and self acceptance. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Let your memories come up, searching for one good memory of a time when you felt completely safe and comfortable. When you find it, breath into those feelings and let them expand.  If you can’t find one, invent one. Put a “mantra” to it like, “I am worthy” or “I am beloved” or whatever word resonates most deeply with you. Focus your mental power on this feeling of comfort and safety. Imagine each breath you inhale expands the feeling. Repeat your magic word mantra. Practice this twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes. Try it as an experiment. Pay attention to whatever is changing within you over time. May you be safe and well and beloved! Love and Hugs, Joy