Monday, October 8, 2007

The “Conditions” of “Unconditional Love”

Let me state at the outset there really are no conditions, yet we consider time, place, person, merit and a variety of other things as important in deciding to love someone. Even to say “regardless” of such and such is a condition.

I have been examining the concept of unconditional love a great deal in the last several months. My immediate family is a complete dysfunctional disaster! Member by member it has broken apart. Under the supposed auspices of “tough love” or “unconditional love” (with conditions) children have been thrown out into the world, parents have been disparaged and maligned. A total lack of effort to understand another or consider a situation from the other person’s viewpoint, has led to fragmentation.

As I look at my “family” now I realize it really does not exist in any real form. It is not simply that geographically we are spread all over the country. It is more the gulfs of discontent and hurt feelings that separate us. I have pretty much determined that I no longer have any family. I do not expect a change from my daughter and it is highly unlikely that my son will feel any further connection with me. I realize that these negative attitudes can be self-fulfilling and am working on transforming them into something positive. I constantly try to “listen” to the suggestions by my therapist about only taking actions or saying things that best model appropriate parental behavior. In other words, what best exemplifies the way a parent can support his/her children without at the same time giving up any sense of drawing a line over which they cannot pass in their emotional abuse. To what degree can I exhibit positive behavior and still feel safe in relationship with them?

On numerous occasions—on a daily basis—I have attempted to find the words to tell my children how much I love them, but after only a few sentences I find myself relying on the “conditions” for loving them. I have not resolved this and that is part of why I cannot yet write the letter expressing my love for them. I am still acutely afraid of the rejection and the ridicule that most likely would be sent my way, whether actually or only in their own minds.

What are some of the conditions that I find myself expressing? I suspect I am not alone in recognizing some of these. The biggie for many of us is determining who is at fault. “I could forgive you if only you would admit what you did was wrong.” Or perhaps it goes like this, “If you would quit blaming your upbringing for your not feeling loved, you would see that you are loveable.” Maybe for you it is, “If you were just a little more patient you might understand me better. Or, “If you would just try to communicate without judging me.”

These are just a few of the conditions that may be limiting our ability to express love unconditionally. Loving someone is just THAT! Love IS. It is that feeling of connection that transcends reasons. The minute we love someone BECAUSE, we have placed a condition upon that love. If the cause for loving them changes, then what about the love based upon that cause? You can see immediately, I hope, how complex the issue of loving unconditionally can be. However, the complexity is not in the concept, but in the interpretations and conditions we place upon the expression of the concept.

In my heart I am clear about loving my children, for example, without any conditions. In my heart that is relatively easy. As I look at my experiences with my son and daughter I realize that much of the water that has gone under the bridge in our relationships has been murky, sometimes flowing freely and other times stuck in the endless eddies that just keep going around in circles. For one reason or another we seem to get stuck in some memory or frustration or unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Breaking free of these backwater eddies is not usually accomplished by pretending we are not stuck. Often it takes a flash flood of some kind to break us loose from those limiting conditions. Even then, if we do not take advantage of the new freedom by changing our outlook, seeking to improve our state of mind and being, we can easily fall back into the eddies of limitation before we know it.

I continue my effort to understand and fully express unconditional love in all of my relationships with others, but in particular with my children. I will continue my efforts to put into words the essence of my unconditional love so I can tangibly share it with them when the time is right. I will remind myself daily that there are no conditions for unconditional love.

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