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  • Writer's pictureJackie Doss

“The Quiet Power of Affirming Presence: Healing Emotional Deprivation in Adults”

“Listen with the ears of your heart.” – St. Benedict

This talk on the "Quite Power of Affirming Presence" at the ACTheals Conference, by Suzanne Baars, PhD, was enlightening to me as a non-professional, so I’m sure it was even more meaningful to those who work in the field of psychology or social work. She described a syndrome called “Emotional Deprivation in Adults,” which occurs in people who were deprived of love and affirmation as children. Their emotional growth is stunted, making it difficult for them to relate to others in a healthy way as adults.

Her advice for counselors, a different approach than the norm, is actually something we can all do in our everyday lives, and especially in prayer ministry. She says she was awakened to it when one of her patients asked her why she did what she did, and she answered that she wants to help people. Her patient said “I need love, not help.”

What an “affirming presence” is NOT:

  • a motivational phrase

  • a pat on the back

  • encouraging words

  • telling them something good about themselves

  • doing something for them

What an “affirming presence” is:

  • A way of being that strengthens another person to be themselves

  • A deliberate shift to another mode to be open and perceptive

  • Being open and receptive to the person, who is a sacred mystery

  • Allowing oneself to be moved by, attracted to, find delight in a person, without wanting them to change

  • Reveal that you have been moved by them – in your countenance, tone, and choice of words

Thomas Aquinas said that man is created for happiness Affirmation does not make people ego-centric, but helps them grow emotionally.

As Mother Theresa said, “The fullness of our heart is expressed in our eyes, in our touch, in what we write, in what we say, in the way we walk, the way we receive, the way we need. That is the fullness of our heart expressing love in many different ways.”

Find out more about living an affirming life at Dr. Baars’ website:

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