Love - Conditional Or Unconditional
by Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD
The concept of, "Love," is to some degree amorphous. Love is volitional and not a feeling. Love is in the act of doing versus the act of feeling. Love is as love does.
Love is expressed as conditional or unconditional. Like it implies, conditional love requires the person to do things to 'earn' love from anyone, including family members. The majority of people received conditional love as children. Therefore, they needed to hide their hurt, disappointment, anger, fears, tears and/or vulnerabilities because those human qualities were not accepted by parents or society. Thus, a child learns to put on a performance by denying those unapproved aspects of him/herself. In order to get a facsimile of love, because conditional love gives some connection for emotional substance, children learn first and foremost how to perform. Thus, the majority of people carry the experience of conditional love into adulthood, marriage and parenting and the cycle continues.
To end this pattern you need to learn to give unconditional love. Without having received unconditional love, how does one learn what and how unconditional love is manifested?
A desire to acknowledge other people for who they are is your ability to accept yourself as well, for giving yourself unconditional love makes it possible to extend compassion to those around you.
Being able to extend full unconditional love to others is only possible when you love yourself unconditionally. When you do not have the same love for yourself, you are simply projecting your needs and desires to love onto others in your life and your love then becomes filled with restrictions and conditions.
Practicing Loving-kindness meditation, however, is a way in which you can cultivate compassion, love, and tolerance for your own imperfections first, which makes it easier to then broaden your range of self-love to encompass others. By learning how to give yourself love first, your love for others will be pure, honest, and unconditional.
In loving-kindness meditation, you spend five minutes focusing on yourself by wishing yourself love, peace, and happiness. Picturing your body becoming filled with love each time you inhale will increase your feelings of self-acceptance and well-being. As your love for yourself expands, you can then repeat the same process with the people in your life. Through this form of meditation you will notice that your ability to understand and love others grows expositional with the love of yourself.