Unconditional love… We all long for it. We constantly test responses from others. Do we risk being completely ourselves, or in some way modify our "delivery"? Subtle expressions from another — the look in their eyes, the emotion on their faces, the tone of their voice — affect how we present ourselves to them. Do we dare reveal the truth? Should we temper our anger, pretend we are not hurt, or act as if we are happy about a situation? What we fail to realize is that If we modify our truth to be more acceptable for another, that is to gain their love, how will we be misinterpreted and what conclusion will the other person draw as their next decision is made in regard to us?
As is researched and explained in Emotionally Focused Therapy ™, our drive for connectedness, acceptance, love, and engagement with those who mean something to us is a lifetime quest. Our earliest years are critical in the formation of our internal dialogue and the capacity to express "our truth". Our emotional clarity depends upon the responses we received from those around us and how we either 1. succumbed to rejection, coped with neglect, fought against abuse OR 2. flourished being nurtured, encouraged, supported, and guided in an atmosphere of safety and security.
The Nurtured Heart Approach ™ provides effective strategies to transform the way we communicate and the way we express our affection for others, even under the most difficult circumstances. It can be the very thing that enables individuals to survive the most horrific of circumstances. When a person shifts their perception and moves in a direction which builds hope and positivity, they are empowered to take necessary steps toward health and wholeness. When someone is the recipient of our genuine compassion, when their existence is validated and their presence is cherished, the impact of this positive, unconditional regard heals, strengthens, and encourages… and is the catalyst for fulfilling potential — theirs and ours! The results are safe and secure relationships which provide the acceptance we desire to be ourselves… our BEST selves.
Many people say that they want unconditional love in relationship. But I wonder if that is really true. Most people I speak to think that unconditional love is about "getting what they want" without question. If we all did that, chaos would emerge in unimaginable ways. From my point of view, true unconditional love is about clarity of self and the ability to identify and actualize needs. When a person is accepting of themselves and what they need, the ability to engage in healthy relationships expands. There is no need for outside validation. Unconditional love begins with the individual and moves out into the collective. Here are some tips on experiencing and expressing true unconditional love. Try asking yourself these questions:
1. Am I accepting of myself? This requires individual work to clear out unsupportive patterns. It calls for each person to move into deep self-exploration and create a life that is expansive and productive without needing anyone else to approve or validate our choices.
2. Do I do for myself what I want others to do for me? This is really about radical self-care. Do you love, cherish and respect yourself the way that you are in this moment? Can you honor your character flaws as well as your inherent brilliance? No one can give you what you will not give yourself.
3. Can I respect the choices of others the way I want to be respected? There is a circulation in true love that allows others the dignity of their process. We cannot receive unconditional love if we are not willing to give it.
4. Can any person ever live up to my expectations of partnership? Many of us live in a world of unrealistic expectations. We want a relationship that is filled with the fantasies that we have made up in our minds. We have to be willing to co-create powerful relationships moment by moment.
5. Am I willing to love myself enough to say no to unhealthy relationships? If unconditional love begins with us, we must be willing to reject behaviors and treatments that do not nurture us. To truly love someone is to tell the truth and invite them into healthy dialogue and agreements.
Unconditionally loving yourself starts with knowing what's basic to your nature. Unconditionally loving another starts with knowing what's basic to his/her nature. You trust that your essential self deserves to be known, protected and developed. And so does your lover's essential self.
Unlike passion, unconditional loving takes work. Seeing your own and your lover's essence is a first step. Unconditional love isn't a license for bad behavior. You don't get to say, "if you love me unconditionally, you have to accept everything I do." You don't excuse your lover's bad behavior either. Forget about selfies and presentation. Open your heart. Open your eyes. See if you can connect to the qualities, longings, and abilities that make you who you are, and that your lover is. Maybe you have an essential sweetness. People are drawn to you but you've never learned to be discriminating or assertive. Unconditional love would help you protect and develop your sweetness so that you weren't simply like honey drawing all bees.
Maybe your lover is by nature a loner. Loving him unconditionally means valuing that and not trying to make him friendlier at parties.
Clear seeing and whole hearted acceptance are basic to unconditional love.
A mother unconditionally loving a child sees her clearly, and tries to foster her development rather than fostering the mother's image of herself. Unconditional lovers develop that kind of clear sightedness, and interest in the other's development. Both end up feeling stronger, safer, and more connected to what is basic and true.