Mono asked in a separate thread what I mean when I say "unconditional love." I am continuously learning more about this liberating truth for myself, so forgive me if my thoughts here don't make much sense.
I keep thinking of it as BIG LOVE. It's this great ocean of love that doesn't have any limitations. I honestly believe this is the love that The Universe (God? Goddess?) has for us. A love without conditions, a love that can't be earned and can never be lost. A buddy of mine in AA wears a t-shirt that says "There is Nothing You Can Do to Stop God from Loving You." I don't really use the word "God" with a capital G, but whatever. I was working the program of recovery with a guy about 4 years ago who used to say "Love IS and it's the ONLY thing going on." Now these are all very alien ideas for me! To imagine a ground of love out of which reality arises, without which there would be no consciousness and no reality at all, this is relatively new for me. In fact, back when that guy would say "Love IS and it's the ONLY thing going on," I would smile and say "yes of course" and think to myself, "wow, what a crackpot. Seems to be a busload of hate in my world."
I grew up with a punishing God. I have a cheeky little bumper sticker on my car that says "Have you threatened your children with eternal damnation today?" I still have my little religious resentments and my house-cleaning to do in that area. But this BIG LOVE has little to do with my childhood or even more recent "God concept." (I also have a bumper sticker that says "Expect Miracles!")
I mentioned in another thread how my mom used to say "I don't love the bad Peter. I love good Peter!" It sounds so...I don't know. Nakedly dysfunctional? Or does it sound reasonable? Because for a long time I bought hook, line and sinker that I had a good self constituted by a set of behaviors that were lovable and I had a bad self constituted by a set of behaviors that were not lovable. If you've read _A Little Book on the Human Shadow_ by Robert Bly you know what I'm talking about. Even if you haven't you know what I mean. We put away huge parts of ourselves to get the love we need, the love without which we are convinced we will die. (Alice Miller's books are huge on this idea). My skewed idea of monogamy comes out of the belief that monogamy is lovable and non-monogamy isn't. For example.
I definitely grew up caught in a lot of shame binds. It has often been a lot easier for me to say "I am a mistake" than "I made a mistake." The desperate fear and panic this causes is soul crushing. I learned from my surroundings and culture that I am *essentially flawed and defective* and that I have to strive to correct these *essential flaws and defects*. I am in a defective state and I need *self-improvement*. I am a bad person and I need to become a good person.
I had vaguely sensed the reality of BIG LOVE, however, on and off my whole life, but have had a series of profoundly realigning spiritual experiences lately that have brought this unconditional love into my life on a daily basis. The new basis for the approach is *I am essentially perfect. There is nothing defective about me*. Cheri Huber's book _There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate_ is huge with this. I try a very simple self-hate barometer several times a day. I say, out loud, just like the "gosh darn it, people like me!" character on Saturday Night Live, "There is nothing wrong with me. I am essentially perfect exactly as I am." If it's hard for me to say or if it sounds like bullshit, I know the self-hate meter is pretty high.
Now obviously one lives one's life fairly differently depending on these axiomatic starting points. My experience of a life based on the axiom that I'm just fine the way I am has been incredible. Slowly, believe it or not, other people are also just fine the way they are. Not always. But a lot more often than before. So on a simple, practical level that's partly unconditional love. Looking at you, whoever you are and taking you in whole and saying a great big YES. You are absolutely fine. This has enormous ramifications. If you are absolutely fine, you can't do anything wrong. If you can't do anything wrong, it suddenly becomes entirely *my responsibility* how I feel about about your behavior.
One practical avenue into it for me is to make a list of all the behaviors I think of as deal breakers. What would I never be able to forgive a friend or lover for doing? What would hurt me deeply enough that I would send him or her away or remove myself? Is it sexual? Emotional betrayal? Physical abuse? Material destruction of money or property? Slandering my reputation? What are those things I have been so afraid of for so long. Because the opposite of love isn't hate, it's fear. And so as I begin to outgrow fear I begin to be able to access more and more of this BIG LOVE, this ocean of unconditional love out of which all of our human relationship love arises. The ground of all of our love for other people comes from this deep unlimited reality of love.
Why do I begrudge people who I love pleasure? Why do I envy their bliss? Why am I jealous of their love for others? Why do I try to take power over them and bend them to my will? Why do I blame them for shit that is entirely my responsibility? Why do I try to limit the growth, joy, pleasure, adventure, experience and spaciousness of the very people I pretend to love the most? Why am I even sometimes secretly pleased when they suffer? And why do I exert all of these forms of my self-will in the name of love and then act like the wounded victim, the one who has been wronged and ripped off, when it all goes to shit?
For me the answers are still emerging, but for certain one answer is fear. When I do not confidently reside with faith in the BIG LOVE ocean of unconditional self-acceptance and divine love, I'm acting out of fear. There is no middle ground for me these days. I want *other people* to provide this BIG LOVE and total acceptance for me, on my terms, in my time, in the ways I recognize and in the doled out amounts I judge to be suitable. I am afraid I will be abandoned, unloved, annihilated if these "little gods and goddesses" I have created (my friends and lovers) reject me. I have made other people my Higher Powers and then of course promptly resented them for it.
As I move more into completely embracing unconditional love and self-acceptance, these fears lift away and are greatly reduced or even temporarily eliminated. No one can take the true love in which we reside away from us. We are already completely, unconditionally loved and we can never lose this. It is the true gift that we did not earn and that can never be lost. We do not need to get this love from other people. We have subsisted on it as our daily bread our whole lives and it has never left us. We have never been alone. We will never be alone.
Now, I realize this is maybe pretty crazy sounding. But it is the new basis for loving relationships in my daily life. Each person is a fragment of love. What part of the wave is not 100% ocean? Each interaction is a shard of love. The ground of our breath and heartbeat is love. There isn't a person on earth powerful enough to take this away or harm it. Every person on earth is powerful enough to give it, however. And we only get to taste it by giving it away, IMO.
Does that clarify what I mean? Does it sound like utter hooey? Because I really feel crazy like Rumi with this stuff these days. And I fully acknowledge I might just have blown a gasket somewhere. :-)
"Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other'
doesn't make sense any more."
Parents aren't perfect. Frequently, they have no clue what they are doing long term. They are exhausted, malnourished, frustrated and angry when they are dealing with children. They lash out, or say the wrong thing, or repeat what they heard.
Some parents are abusive, some children are so sensitive that everything seems like abuse. Depending on the day, the circumstances, a parent wants their love to be unconditional. However, if a child is throwing a tantrum in front of the parent's boss, it is hard to be loving.
Parents can be very poor communicators. I'm helping a friend with her grandchildren. She tells them to be "good." But frankly, no one has taught this 7 & 8 year old what "good" is. They talk back, roughhouse, tear up furniture, are inappropriately loud, etc. To be heard, they have to shout; to be noticed, they have to misbehave. So they are yelled at, put in time out, and allowed to run amok.
Parents want what is best for their children. They want to raise happy, healthy adults. From a child's perspective much of this is crap. Parents are abusive when they force children to brush their teeth, or take a bath, or come in from playing, or lay down to take a nap. We hate those things as children. But the structure is good for us.
The Good Peter/Bad Peter comment. Dysfunctional? I can imagine scenarios that are either dysfunctional or "normal." Did she mean it maliciously? Or was she using the (then) current child rearing notions... of separating the behavior from the child? (as in, "I love you, but I don't like your temper tantrum." ) I don't think philosophically it is two separate entities, but a two sides of the same coin, or yin/yang.
All people have good and bad. Ideally, we encourage the good and discourage the bad. Just remember that everyone has different definitions of good and bad.
At a very basic level, it is a way for a mother to remind herself that she loves this child.... even though they sometimes misbehave. In conversations with my daughter, she's explained what she thought I meant with some issues.
And some info mothers program into their child, knowing it is wrong, and will be changed when they are an adult. Years ago, several mothers were talking and Joanne said she was teaching her girls to never trust boys, and NEVER have sex before marriage. Then it was pointed out that she got married because she was pregnant 16 years before. That was the message in her family. Don't. But when you get knocked up, you get married. When she started questioning her mother, she started trusting boys.
Sorry for rambling. This topic is more fun when sitting around the Starbucks, hearing each person's parent's blunder, and sharing the growth as adults from that childhood learning.
To attach the behaviours to the child and then say you only love the good part sets Adult Peter up for disaster. I have experienced (and still do) Adult Natasha beating herself over the head because Bad Natasha is just as much a part of her as Good Natasha and only the integration and acceptance of those facets can make Happy Natasha.
I'm in therapy for myself, Indigo, and most importantly, my future children.
The purpose of the "good Peter/bad Peter" part of my post was not in the least to blame dear old mom for my troubles, haha. She loved me with her level best and is completely off the hook, free and clear of any blame. The point was to look for the root of shame bound behavior. Whether or not what she said was normal or dysfunctional is irrelevant. It is not a *functional way to live successfully for me*. She may have said a billion things to me but for some reason it was this "good Peter/bad Peter" dichotomy that stuck, like a dart in my forehead. That's *my* responsibility, not hers.
No amount of rationalization removes the simple fact of my own responsibility for my own story that I myself bought hook line and sinker and need to re-tell for myself based on my experience. This is not in the least about blame for bad parenting. Obviously, if everyone is fine, that includes my mother. haha. It is about taking a look at what I believed to be true and regularly acted out and reconfiguring that truth based on spiritual experience.
You are not rambling Clairegoad. :)
I thought what you typed, was fantastically accurate, and well written.
To me, Unconditional Love "just IS". It is a love that just is, you don't have to try, you don't have to doubt, you just feel it, no matter what happens or how else you feel about a person. This is the kind of love a parent would still feel for their child who has done terrible things, the kind of love you might still feel for a friend who you cannot associate with anymore because it would not be healthy for you, the love for a parent who was abusive.
Those examples seem negative but they are probably the best example of how unconditional it is. It is the "love the person not the act" kind of love. It does not care about the "but's", "because's", or "in spite of's", it "just is".
Thanks for posting this Immaterial. Great read and I love the comments :)
I like the comments too and I like Vandalin's very simple set of examples. I used to know women who loved their sons to their dying breath, with every molecule in their bodies, in spite of their son being a rapist, unregenerate heroin addict criminal, etc. This is one of the amazing forms of unconditional love that gets displayed in the world. In the movie Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean loves the Sean Penn character unconditionally, even after he has described to her the utterly abominable things he has done.
One: A love Story by Richard Bach
There are several paragraphs/ maybe a chapter in One:A love Story by Richard Bach that deals with this.
Bach is describing his love for his wife, Leslie, and describes parallel lives where her experiences are very different, (i.e. a drug addict or a prostitute) and questions if he would love her the same, if she was cynical, if she was jaded, if she didn't love him. Interesting discussion of unconditional love.
That's another book I need to re-read. I'm delaying reading the last few pages of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress... it went too fast this time.
(This is how I remember the passage...I don't have the book for reference)
Unconditional love to me is not something that can be described easily.
( Even though I truly enjoy other people`s descriptions.)
Its something you only know when, through trial, error, and pain, you come to a realization, that your love doesn`t die when harships happen.
It doesn`t mean you put up with that persons crap or abuse if it comes down to something like that. In that case maybe you only love them from afar.
Unconditional love does seem to be person specific. You can`t tell yourself, or force yourself to feel it, or command it to show up when you 'want' it.
It`s either there, or it`s not.
The great thing about being poly, is we don`t have to force ourselves to stop loving someone, if we can`t be with them. You learn to love from afar, and carry on investing in new loves elsewhere.
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