If there is one thing that just about all human beings have in common, it's the desire for unconditional love. The essence of true and pure love is the unconditional aspect of it. This type of love is sought after but not always received. When it's not received, people can feel sadness, hurt, anxiety, anger, or one of the many other feelings that come with rejection.
The topic of my blog post today is defining unconditional love, discussing how to know when it's real, and providing you with some tools on how to give it.
Unconditional love is hard to miss when it's given in its undiluted form. It means that care and consideration is given to the happiness of someone else without concern for what you might get in return. Imagine a life where this was the basic mode of operation for yourself with the people close to you. A mutual exchange of extending yourself, vulnerabilities and all, into unfamiliar emotional terrain with the understanding that regardless of the outcome and of what we may need for ourselves in that moment, we want to ensure the happiness of the other person.
This is not to say that you need to let people cross your boundaries and put you in very uncomfortable positions. Quite the contrary. It's important to unconditionally love yourself first so that you are aware of what is within your range of giving before you take care of other people's love needs. Being aware of the other person's boundaries is also essential so that your love doesn't become intrusive or unwanted. By being attuned to them while maintaining calm, open conversation, you can clearly assess where that balance is. Otherwise, resentment will quickly build and that is an abrupt catalyst for the deterioration of unconditional love.
So what are some tools to giving unconditional love? Thinking about the person to whom you provide unconditional love to as a human being, just like yourself, that doesn't want to be judged or criticized is one of the first steps in evolving the relationship. By listening to understand them as opposed to listening to respond, correct, or change them, you will provide a space where they can feel safe to be their true self. Accepting your loved one without judging or trying to change them can reveal a whole new world of happiness for them and for the experience of the relationship for both of you. You can only imagine how people 'are' different when they are happy and feel accepted.
Making eye contact is a skill that has begun to go by the wayside since the advent of handheld technological devices. Really attending to whomever you're around with your full attention is an art form that is worth cultivating. Listening with not only your ears, but also with your eyes is one way of conceptualizing this. One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication is determined by nonverbal cues. Knowing this, you can genuinely and insightfully listen while learning to understand what is really going on for your loved one.
Showing that you care through carefully thought through comments and questions is another tool that takes time to master. Sometimes people need consolation, sometimes they need you to share in their excitement. Whatever the case may be, putting aside your own mood, needs, and expectations for the moment can allow you to connect on a much deeper level with the person you love.
The importance of having these tools is that when you can open yourself up and give a type of love that doesn't have any strings attached, the receivers of your love will respond and behave differently towards you. There is usually a transitionary period when this type of love is introduced where the person receiving it needs to 'test the waters' to be sure that the love is authentic, consistent, and indefinite. Once this transitionary period wanes, trust is built and the reciprocation of unconditional love will likely follow.
I have briefly identified some of the ideas and tools related to unconditional love, but there are many more. Get creative and see if you can come up with some ways to practice this and see what feelings it brings up for you.
Consider choosing someone in your life with whom you would like to try this out with and see how it goes. Talk about the idea of unconditional love and let them know where you stand from here on out. Again, remember that there is a transitionary period, but once you are on the other side of your hard but fruitful work, you will likely find that loving unconditionally will become your automatic mode of operation with that person...and you may be pleasantly surprised that you will start to receive it back.
If it works, consider extending the circle of people you unconditionally love to all the people you are close to in your life, and then who knows, maybe include all people you ever come into contact with. Small interaction changes can have huge ripple effects on how people in the world interact. It starts with unconditionally loving a newborn to accepting your peers, and most importantly yourself, as who they are, flaws and all throughout their lifespan.