The Truth about Unconditional Love

The truth of unconditional lovePeople say that love is a choice.

That it’s something you do.

Does this frustrate you as much as it does me? Are you exhausted from doing and choosing over and over and over?

Are there people that you just can’t love, no matter how hard you try?

Are there people who you would love only if they would change that one infuriating thing?

If they get their act together? If they stop being so ____________?

Are there people who you struggle to love? Are there people you have heaped love upon, only to be invisible to them?

If the truth about love is that it’s something you do and it’s a choice, shouldn’t it work better than this?

Does love have to be this grueling?

Where It Started to Go Wrong

Let’s travel back in time. . .to your early childhood.

But first, let me say that love is a two-way street, and each person bears some responsibility. However, you only have any say over your own stuff, so we’re going to focus on you.

Are you thinking, “Oh, no! It’s all up to me?”

Don’t worry. I have some good news about how you can affect the people around you, so keep reading.

The Way It Should Have Been

Saint Paul summed up the path to unconditional love 2000 years ago. Even if you’re not a Biblical scholar, you’ve probably heard it.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Quanta Change founder Mimi Herrmann once got a burst of inspiration about the real meaning of these words when she heard them at a wedding.

This progression is how we were supposed to develop early in life—faith, then hope, then love.

And, if we had, unconditional love would just be who we are, effortlessly.

A Crucial Part of Our Early Development

Do you need a little more explanation? I did, too.

Mimi spent years studying how the brain develops early in life. She focused on the fact that we absorb the way people around us feel about being themselves.

She realized that those absorbed feelings become the way we feel about being ourselves. And then, they generate every moment of the rest of our lives.

When she heard the Bible verse, she saw the direct correlation between Paul’s concepts and the brain’s stages of development. . .or, at least, how our feelings are supposed to develop.

In an ideal world, these stages unfold this way:

Stage 1: Faith

Faith comes from our time in the womb and during infancy.

We are given absolutely everything we need on every level—physical and emotional.

From this nurturing cocoon, we absorb faith:

“The way it is to be me is to have everything I need.”

Stage 2: Hope

Through our toddler years and beyond, we start to move into the world and act on our own.

The faith gained through Stage 1 sets up hope:

“Since the way life is for me is to have everything I need, I will always have everything I need.”

Stage 3: Love

The hope generated by Stage 2 brings about complete self-acceptance:

“Because I have everything I need, I am OK exactly as I am.”

Every interaction of our lives is generated from how we feel about being ourselves.

When we greet another person, that feeling of self-acceptance radiates from us. They feel unconditional acceptance, which is the same as unconditional love:

“You are OK exactly as you are (because I don’t need anything from you to make me OK).

Did You Catch That?

Unconditional love is not supposed to be something that you do.

Unconditional love is supposed to be who you are.

But, if you are like me and everyone I’ve ever met, this is not your experience of life.

Am I right?

How Did It Go So Wrong?

A wrench got thrown in the works.

Early in life, your brain was a sponge, and it’s job was to absorb how people around you felt about being themselves. Your brain turned all that absorbed feeling into how you feel about being yourself.

You had no choice in the feelings that you stored. Your rational brain hadn’t even begun to form yet, so you couldn’t make any decisions about the feelings that would be bad for you to take in. Just like a sponge, you absorbed everything.

From negative moments back then, you absorbed the feeling that there is something wrong with you being just the way that you are.

That horrible feeling is called Learned Distress, and it is the monkey wrench.

Let’s insert Learned Distress into the three stages and see what happens.

Stage 1: Lack of Faith

Because of their own Learned Distress, the people around you didn’t feel perfectly capable of giving you every little thing you needed on every level—physical and emotional—when you were in the womb and as an infant.

From this less than nurturing cocoon, you developed a lack of faith:

“The way it is to be me is to lack what I need (some or all of the time) to survive and feel well.”

Stage 2: Lack of Hope

As you moved into the world, the lack of faith set up a lack of hope:

“Since the way life is for me is to lack what I need, I probably won’t always have what I need to survive, feel good, or succeed in life.”

Feel familiar?

Surviving with the lack of hope takes some different forms.

You might feel this hopelessness only when you are very tired, stressed, or sick, and then you snap yourself out of it.

Or, you might feel like you’re drowning in it.

Stage 3: Lack of Love

The lack of hope brings about a lack of self-acceptance:

“There is something wrong with me, and I don’t have everything I need within me to survive, feel good, or succeed in life.”

That Learned Distress drives relationships with other people. They feel your survival mechanism as some kind of condition on your acceptance of them:

“I need you to be a certain way in order for me to be OK.”

Conditional acceptance takes some common forms:

  • I need you to fit within my ideal way of being in the world and viewing it.
  • I need you to have yourself under control.
  • I need you to like me or support me in some way.
  • I need you to do things my way.
  • I need you to not be so perfect, capable, or successful.
  • I need you to not point out my Learned Distress or trigger it in any way.

So, Are You Doomed?

If you’re like me when I first heard this, you’re thinking, “Oh, no! I didn’t have the perfect childhood, and I’m pretty sure I missed out on a lot of that ‘faith’ stage. Help!”

Good news—you aren’t doomed!

Learned Distress isn’t the only feeling that you stored back then.

In fact, your very core is made up of the feeling that you are all good being just the way that you are.

Hard to believe? That’s because your Learned Distress is greedy. Over time, it overwhelms your natural well-being. So, it becomes the predominant generating force in your life, and it’s what you feel in many of your moments.

You’ve felt the Learned Distress taking over, right? Over time, things have either gotten worse, or it has gotten harder and harder to make good things happen.

So, you feel more and more that you need people to be a certain way in order to help you survive.

But, no matter how inaccessible it feels to you. . .

No matter how much you believe that it’s not even there. . .

Your core well-being is still there, waiting for you to uncover it.

What Effortless Self-Acceptance Does for You and Those Around You

I’ll let my clients tell you. They say:

“For the first time, I actually like myself. I love myself! My family and co-workers can’t stop talking about how much better it feels to be around me.”

“I usually get really irritated at one friend. He talks non-stop about his own successes and it triggers my Learned Distress. But, we went on a trip, and we had a very balanced conversation the whole time. Not once did I feel the usual triggers or go to my dark place. It was a shock to just feel good around him.”

“Out of the blue, 70% of my clients have said in the past 2 weeks things like they missed me when I was on vacation, that I’m helping them so much, and that I’m the best therapist they’ve had in 20 years of therapy. Clients have complimented me before, but I’m connecting and helping them on a whole new level without doing anything differently.”

That last bit is important—without doing anything differently.” That is the difference between overcoming your Learned Distress by doing or choosing, and uncovering your well-being, so that unconditional acceptance is just who you are.

I remember when this shift started to happen for me. Babies and kids had never disliked me, but suddenly I was a magnet for them, and parents said things like, “My baby is really shy. She never likes strangers, but she loves you!” And, people of all ages started to say something I had never heard before: “I don’t know why, but I just felt better the moment we began to talk.”

What Unconditional Love Is Not

Feel a little overwhelmed?

If you open yourself up this much, will your life be overrun by needy people?

Will you abandon your principles and blindly accept anyone’s bad behavior?

Nope.

Unconditional acceptance of someone is not unconditional acceptance of their actions.

In fact, the more your core well-being generates your interactions, the more you are able to speak up clearly, kindly, and effectively for the real good of all.

Sometimes, that includes telling people that their behavior towards you is unacceptable. Sometimes, it even includes ending a relationship.

But, the more you come from a place of unconditional acceptance, the less you will blame or judge them, and the more you will be able to focus on the real good you can do.

You still may feel angry or sad, but the feeling that someone must be a certain way for you to be OK will keep decreasing.

How to Unlock Your Source of Unconditional Love

Removing layers of Learned Distress allows your core well-being to expand and become the generating force behind more and more of your situations.

Sounds simple, right?

But, it gets tricky. Learned Distress is tenacious.

You absorbed it before your rational brain formed. So, your brain doesn’t even realize these feelings are sabotaging you!

Like a young child clinging to an abusive parent, your brain clings to your Learned Distress for dear life.

Your rational brain puts up a wall of resistance to change, in order to protect this “precious” survival mechanism. So, in order to unblock your well-being, you have to get your rational brain out of the way.

Sleep makes that possible, because it’s the only time your rational brain is entirely shut down.

The three integral elements of Quanta Change give you the way to access your brain while you sleep and tell it exactly the Learned Distress you want it to unlearn.

As layers peel off permanently, your core well-being expands to take its rightful place as the automatic, generating force in your life.

Are You Ready for Love to Be Easier?

Are you ready to feel really good being yourself around other people?

Are you ready to let people be themselves, without all those conditions? Without all that work?

Are you ready to move beyond survival in your relationships and interactions? To a place of more ease and joy?

Are you ready for a deeper connection with the people you love most?

No matter how wonderfully you have loved by choosing and doing, loving from your core well-being is always better, deeper, and stronger. Clients always say, “I had no idea anything this good could come from within me!”

Have you ever opened a present that was a complete surprise and better than anything you could have imagined? That is what uncovering your well-being feels like, over and over again.

You deserve to discover this gift within you.

The people you love deserve it, too.

Posted in Blog, Quanta Change in Real Life.

2 Comments

  1. Good one, Sara. Unfortunately, most people (in our culture, at least) think of love as merely a feeling. and while there are feelings that we may label as “love” (ones for which the Greeks, wisely, had at least four different words — so that you’d know whether divine (unconditional) love, erotic love, friendship love, or brotherly love was being referenced), love at its core is choosing to want the “highest and the best” for another human being (and acting in accordance with that choice). So, while there are some individuals I may not like, much less have warm, fuzzy feelings for, if I truly can see past that to want the “highest and the best” for them (and try to make sure that my actions/words promote that — or, at least, don’t stand in the way), then love is an active principle in my life (and, hopefully, in theirs, too, since we’re all connected). 🙂

    • Carol, thanks for sharing your thoughts. In a way, you bring up something I talk with my clients about all the time. While it would be lovely to have a process that would zap away all of our Learned Distress at once (although I suspect it would be too shocking a change for anyone to handle), Quanta Change peels it away one layer at a time. The reason I say this is that while we are shifting to this place of being able to accept people for who they are effortlessly, instead of having to choose, there are still people who trigger us to have to work at accepting them. I do put “choosing to love/accept” in the category of control mechanism, which in an ideal world wouldn’t have to exist, but it is still a FAR better option than the alternative. 🙂 But, what I have found for myself and what clients have told me is that the more Learned Distress is unlearned, the more that the need to choose goes away.

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