Who do you love?
I love my daughters with all my heart.
I love my partner with all my heart. Isn’t it lucky that the heart is elastic?
Most mornings, I wake up and look at my partner, and I think he’s gorgeous. But some mornings, I wake up, look at him, and think, ‘really?’
Fortunately, I know that my feeling has nothing to do with him and everything to do with my thoughts at the moment.
I could be in the shadow of a bad dream. Busy thoughts about my day might have popped in and out before I even noticed them. But at that moment, am I loving him unconditionally?
Or do thoughts about why he’s still sleeping when I’m awake or how he forgot to take the bins out yesterday loom up?
Whoever you love, I’m sure you feel that you love them unconditionally. But do you?
Unconditional love is the kind of love that has no strings attached, no ulterior motives, and no ‘buts.’ It’s just pure, unadulterated love.
It’s love that isn’t based on any conditions or requirements. It’s acceptance, understanding, and support, regardless of the actions or behaviours of the person who is loved. It is also often described as selfless love, as it’s not based on personal gain or benefit.
Yes, you might say, I love my partner, children, and friends or dog like that.
And I’m sure you sometimes do.
Do you remember when you first fell in love with your partner?
When we fall in love, we present our best selves. Not as a ploy or manipulation but because we let go of our judgements and opinions and feel good.
And we think that we feel good because of the other person without realising we feel good because we’ve fallen in love with this best self we’re glimpsing.
And then real life creeps back in, and so do our judgements and opinions. And our conditioned thinking.
What is conditioned thinking?
This thinking can show up in a variety of ways. You could subconsciously cling to the old idea of how you think life should be, how a family should act or look like, the job you should have, the partner and a whole range of other ways of living.
There are a thousand ways that conditioned thinking appears real. And that’s fine. You don’t need to do anything about your thinking; that’s like fighting air dragons with a plastic sword.
All you need to do is to recognise that you’ve dropped into conditioned thinking again and laugh at yourself.
Your conditioned thinking might show how you think your partner should behave. You might think they should treat you in a certain way. Or that they should earn a certain amount of money.
You might think your children should show up how you want them to. That they should do well at school and go to university.
And your friends should be there for you when you need them.
So how is this unconditional love? I’m not suggesting that you don’t love them if they don’t fall into the roles you assign to them. But loving someone less, even for a moment, when they aren’t showing up the way you want them to is putting conditions on how you feel.
Do you ever think, even for a second, that you’d love them more if only they acted differently?
And how about loving yourself? Do you love yourself unconditionally?
I hope so.
But I wonder if you ever find that pesky inner narrator saying things about you that you wouldn’t want someone else to say?
Do you ever beat yourself up for not doing better? For not exercising more? Or feeling upset because you had an extra square of chocolate?
Is that unconditional love?
Maybe you think that you have to act a certain way to be liked or loved, and if this is in your mind, you can see that these are conditions you’ve put on yourself.
Or maybe you’re acting out the conditions put in place by your caregivers as you grew up. And you can’t see your own conditioned thinking.
And if you operate from conditioned thinking, you’ll have conditioned thinking about the people in your life without even realising it.
So how can you love yourself unconditionally?
Remember, conditioned thinking is subconscious; it sneaks in without you realising it because it feels like truth. It’s just something that you’ve always believed in.
How about old thinking that a specific job is for ‘those people and not for you? Maybe you want to be a coach, but there’s some old thinking around self-belief or being good enough.
Watch for things you say that aren’t congruent with you because they aren’t your words. Why do you think that? Do you really think that? If not, it’s time to wave that thinking goodbye.
Loving yourself isn’t telling your reflection that you are gorgeous, although if that works for you, fill your boots.
Loving yourself unconditionally means accepting that some days you’re flying and other days you can barely crawl along and not making the bad days mean anything about you or your life.
It means tidying up your diet but accepting that, right now, everything jiggles when you clean your teeth, and that’s ok.
It means noticing when you’re hard or negative about your actions and how you look and letting the thought go.
Loving other people unconditionally
And when you can be more accepting of yourself, you can use the same thinking with the people around you.
You know that you experience every thought you have, and if you have harsh and critical thoughts about the people you care about, that’s how you see them and believe that this is how they are.
So when you have an upset or angry feeling towards someone you care about, take a breath and ask yourself where you think the feeling is coming from.
Even though it’s compelling to believe that the feeling is coming from the way someone else behaves or what they’ve done or didn’t do, you’ll have to admit that the feeling is coming from the thoughts you have about them at this moment.
And then you have a choice to continue down the angry pathway or let it go. And, surprisingly, they’ll look different in five minutes or an hour or however long it takes before you let go of the angry thoughts and have loving thoughts about them again.
If you judge how people show up and behave, you may not think that you’d love them more if they behaved in a way that you think is acceptable, but you aren’t seeing that at this moment; you love them less than you could.
When you love unconditionally, you love wholeheartedly. With your whole heart.
And who doesn’t want to be loved like that?