Have you ever wondered what unconditional love actually means, or what it would take to give yourself or someone else this kind of love?
We believe everything in your world is a reflection of YOU. And that's the good news!
Why? Because if everything starts with you, then you don't have to FIX, CHANGE, or concern yourself with what's out there; all you need to do is understand and focus unconditional love on yourself.
This newfound self-love will lead you to a life filled with more self-confidence, peace, and authentic happiness-guaranteed.
Let's begin by understanding what unconditional love means. According to Wikipedia, it's: "Showing love towards someone regardless of their actions or beliefs."
What Is Unconditional Love?
To answer the question "What would it take to give ourselves unconditional love," we'll start by looking at what prevents us from offering unconditional love to others in the first place.
We believe what prevents us is how we've been conditioned to respond to people's actions and beliefs.
From a very young age, we've learned that the most effective way to change someone's behavior is to criticize, blame, judge, humiliate, threaten, or punish them. Or to use any number of other tactics that will cause them to fear acting the same way in the future.
On the flip side, we learn to use rewards to reinforce the behaviors we do like. This punishment and reward system is basically a "behavior control" technique. It's the same system used to train circus animals.
But what do most people learn from being subjected to these "behavior control" techniques? We quickly learn how to avoid being on the receiving end of the "punishment."
When we're caught doing something "wrong," most of us learn how to be very, very careful so we don't get caught again! And it's not surprising that, at a very young age, we begin to use this behavior control system on ourselves whenever we don't live up to our own expectations.
We've put together a video on YouTube that describes how this process happens to us, and how it plays out later in life. You can see it on our website here: Be Happy Now
The video focuses on how this process affects our relationships with other people. But the process works pretty much the same way in our relationship with ourselves.
When you watch the video it won't be hard to see how the habitual ways we learn to react to situations can hinder our ability to love ourselves unconditionally.
The Two Questions
But first it's helpful to understand how completely misguided these "behavior control" techniques are in achieving their true underlying goals. Answering the following questions helps us to understand this.
The first question is: What do we want people to do?
If you only consider this first question, then a system of punishment and rewards may seem like a very effective system because it does produce the desired results-at least some of the time.
The problem is that when people are only motivated by fear of punishment or promise of reward you'll likely get the highest prison population in the developed world, and large numbers of company executives defrauding their shareholders.
Why? Because people have only learned to focus on getting the rewards and avoiding the punishments.
Most of us never ask the second, and much more important question: What do we want people's motives to be for doing what we want them to do? (Or, in other words-Why do we want them to want to do it?)
So stop for a moment and think about the basic things we want other people (and ourselves) to do. Almost everyone would like people to be truthful, honest, respectful, kind, considerate, etc. If you think about it, how we want others to act is simply a reflection of what we most highly value.
How Do You Create Unconditional Love?
The way to create unconditional love for yourself is to turn your attention away from the system of punishment and rewards you learned to use to control your own behavior. Instead, turn your attention to what you value most.
Feelings of discomfort are bound to occur in situations where what you value is missing in what you've said or done. However, you can learn to use these feelings to focus all of your attention on how to create what you value in that situation, rather than punishing yourself for having done something "wrong."
You can download our free Values Exercise Worksheet from our site to help with this process. You can use this exercise any time you want to get clear about what you value in any situation you want to improve.
Focusing your attention on what you value is the essence of what suggest at the end of our video. What you focus your attention on will grow. This fact makes it essential for you to learn how to dig below any disappointment in yourself or your behavior, and discover for yourself what you value that is missing in the situation.
How Do You Practice Unconditional Love for Yourself?
What is love? Is it a commitment to support someone in reaching their highest potential, achieving what is important to them in their life, being as happy as they possibly can, ensuring that all of their needs are met, etc.?
If you agree, then unconditional love can only exist when you're able to keep your attention focused on what you truly value and finding ways to create that. You can't do this if you have your attention focused on using a punishment and reward system to control behavior.
How do you practice this? Let's say that you fail to arrive for a meeting with someone when you said you would. What kind of thoughts might go on in your head? "I'm so stupid"; "I should've left earlier"; "It's not my fault, there was too much traffic"; "Now they're going to be angry and it will ruin the meeting"; or "They probably won't trust me in the future."
How would you feel if you had these kinds of thoughts going on? Does it feel like unconditional love to you?
Now imagine just stopping, taking a breath, and experiencing the discomfort of these thoughts, but without any desire to mentally punish yourself for being late.
Consider that these thoughts probably reflect your value for respect, punctuality, consideration, cooperation, and trust. Then realize that your discomfort is being stimulated because these values are missing for you when you show up late.
The next step is simply to start identifying strategies that will help ensure you act more in harmony with your values in the future.
What could you do to make sure that you left earlier? What could you do to determine whether or not you would run into traffic along the way? If they were angry, how could you help resolve this so you could have a successful meeting?
If there was a loss of trust, could you have a conversation with the other person to see if there is anything you could do right now to help restore your relationship with them?
How does it feel when you have your attention focused on what you value and what you can do about it? Does this feel more like unconditional love?
We realize that it takes many more understanding skills than we can offer in a brief article like this to overcome years of conditioned thinking that may be preventing you from experiencing unconditional love for yourself.
To learn more about these and other personal growth and self-help techniques, sign up for our free, thought-provoking and motivational Weekly Action Tips eMail series.
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Remember, the shortest path to a happy life is found through conscious choice.
Published by Beth Banning and Neill Gibson, founders of Focused Attention. Our mission is to provide very effective self help and personal development tools, and the skills to use them well. Our passion is to help you build a strong foundation for deeply satisfying relationships in all areas of your life.
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