Happy New Year! I realize it’s been a while since my last entry but as per usual, I’ve been processing major life experiences and have needed time to digest certain things before getting back to the page. I wanted to write today on the topic of unconditional love because this is something that has been hammering my inner world intensely for months now and it just feels like it’s time to share my thoughts. May you enjoy my latest Musing and the contemplation it has to offer as we kick off a fresh new year! ✨
So spiritually evolved!
We all say we want it
Many of us believe we practice it
It’s a concept that’s pimped to us from all sides…
But what does it really mean and what does it really entail?
Let me begin by saying that by no means am I the World’s Greatest Authority on unconditional love. I’m not. I’m not an expert by a long-shot, just a gal who got her butt kicked to learn certain lessons that haven’t always been easy. As with all of my posts, I haven’t done any prep work nor have I scoured a variety of sources in order to come up with something palatable and aligned with the status quo. This is not a research paper, I am not here to teach or to prove anything, nor am I here to make any claims. Quite frankly, I’m simply here to share the truths of my own experience, to share ideas based on the many ways I’ve waded knee-deep in my own proverbial shit over the course of my lifetime thus far.
So, back to unconditional love.
Love in itself is such a broad term and can be categorized and experienced in so many different ways but no matter one’s age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic background or faith, as humans WE ALL SEEK TO LOVE AND TO BE LOVED. These days however, especially in the New Age community, it seems we are often encouraged to become Uber-Spiritual Beings of Light who practice a version of love from an alternate dimension, a deeply-coveted other-worldly thing called... Unconditional Love. What with the idea of something so divine and breathtakingly beautiful how could anyone on Earth not want to jump on that bandwagon with fervor?
Though the concept of unconditional love may be likened to floating on a cloud of perpetual bliss, and though in theory it would appear to have its benefits… in practice, just like life itself, it seems that it is more of a journey than a destination. I realize I can only speak for myself, but in my experience, when you get down to it and start to truly understand what LOVING WITHOUT CONDITIONS entails, when you commit to living it for real and to stop giving it lip service... it presents a gruelling process that demands complete excavation and total self-honesty.
The truth - or shall I say MY TRUTH - is that unconditional love doesn’t happen overnight. As awesome as it would be, it’s not like flipping a switch. In my experience, it takes work. Hard freaking work. To be unflinching in examining all the conditions you put on love beyond the lies you tell yourself, beyond the delusion, beyond the spiritual bypassing, beyond the lip service takes total diligence and bucket loads of humility. You can run to any healing modality you like, but no matter the fancy facility and no matter the fancy facilitator, authentic change still requires YOU to do the work. Despite whomever you turn to for help, there is part of the path you must walk alone and it can be a bitter pill to swallow when you choose to go deep and to get really honest. It can be a very rude awakening to acknowledge just how conditional your love has always been, and to see all the hidden rules you’ve applied to the giving and receiving of love your whole life.
When we manage to get past the false light programs and kick absurd spiritual tenets to the curb, we understand that unconditional love is not so much about frolicking in a happy holier-than-thou field of gold as it is about navigating the shadowlands and learning to become comfortable with discomfort. Unconditional love demands that we allow another to be exactly as they are in that moment without trying to change them or to use manipulation to have our desires and needs met. Ultimately, it is about not needing others to change for us to feel happy or safe within ourselves. It is about not making others responsible for our experience. By the same token, it is not about passive aggression, nor about condescension, nor about smugness or superiority.
In my own explorations I’ve noticed that when someone challenges my hidden rules, if I follow the thread it often takes me down one of two roads. I usually either observe defensive behaviour, wanting the other to soothe my needy inner child’s pity-party OR I observe offensive behaviour, wanting the other to respect my critical inner tyrant’s outrage. Surely there are other "personalities" lurking but those are the two I have observed the closest in myself. When we’re not triggered it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’ve got it made but sure enough, a button will be pushed when we least expect it and then BAM those personalities’ hidden rules are suddenly up in our face like nobody’s business. When those buttons are pushed we have choices:
- keep being a slave to our little monsters within, keep imposing our conditions, keep making others responsible for our experience
- pretend all is well, that we’re above it, delude ourselves into believing we’ve mastered it yet secretly seethe inside, judge, and condemn
- take an honest look at what’s coming up, allow those feelings to be acknowledged and FELT IN THE BODY, and do the work it takes to stop pushing the agenda of those little monsters on others
Loving someone unconditionally doesn't necessarily mean condoning or agreeing with their choices or behaviour, but it is a practice meant to expose and to challenge OUR rules - the rules we impose and use to manipulate others and it certainly won’t ALWAYS FEEL GOOD. Unconditional love is NOT about accepting abuse, nor about door-matting oneself, nor should it hinder us from making constructive and necessary life changes that support our well-being - but if we're used to seeking validation and putting all kinds of expectations on others, that will be exposed bigtime... and when we don’t simply check out or bypass our own behaviour in the face of what triggers our conditions, we are required to shift gears in such a way that it can be utterly jarring and intense. This is what I meant above when I talked about navigating the shadowlands and learning to become comfortable with discomfort. The practice of unconditional love exposes our own shadow, demands that we work with it, and asks us to hold space for the shadow of others, WHETHER OR NOT THEY CHOOSE TO WORK WITH THEIRS.
Just as we can explore the practice of GIVING love without conditions, we can also explore RECEIVING love without conditions. It’s all well and good to acknowledge the hidden rules we have in order to give our love but we often don’t realize all the hidden rules we have in order to receive love from others. It was a massive wake up call for me when I suddenly realized that in so many instances throughout my life I've accused others of being unloving or uncaring and could not receive the ACTUAL LOVE THEY HAD TO GIVE because I was so busy with my rules about what love is or isn’t, according to my own filters, conditioning, and beliefs. Without even being aware of it, I was placing conditions on how others should express their love to me so that I would know it was love and would feel safe - if their expression didn’t meet my rules then of course it meant that I was unloved and unloveable, which in turn would generate huge conditions on my giving. Judging the actions of others, how they express their love to us, just because it's not in the same way we tend to express it, can not only be blocking us from receiving their love but may also fuel much resistance in terms of the way we give ours.
“For me to love you, you must do this and behave like this”
“For me to love you, you must never do that and never behave like that”
When we receive love with conditions, we are saying:
“If you truly love me, then you would do this for me and you would behave like this.”
“If you truly love me, then you would never do that to me and you would never behave like that.”
- What are your hidden rules?
- Do you notice a needy inner child or critical tyrant within?
- Do you notice any other "personalities" who pop up when triggered and make demands on others?
- What must others do and how must others behave for you to love them?
- What mustn’t others do and how mustn’t others behave for you to receive their love?
- Must love be expressed to you in a certain way for you to accept it/receive it?
- How do you make others responsible for your happiness or lack thereof?
- Do you notice a pattern linked to your tendencies in terms of the conditions you place on the giving and receiving of love?
- Do you notice a cycle between giving and receiving with conditions?