How “Unconditional”?

Here’s a little conundrum that’s been swirling about in my thinking recently:

I’ve been talking with people for a while now about their ideals for being loved. Usually this is in the context of romantic love, but it actually extends beyond that. And what I often hear is that the ideal situation is to be loved for who we are, “unconditionally.” I haven’t been able to really nail down what “unconditionally” would look like, but it seems to relate to not feeling judged, having enough room to screw up and still be loved, having room to grow into an unknown future.

I can certainly understand this and know that some part of me is also holding on to this ideal myself. There’s a kind of feeling that emerges when I imagine being emotionally held in this way which makes me feel safe and relaxed.

I’ve also been talking with people about their ideal person for love (again, usually in a romantic context), and often hear a lot of desired qualities, imagined behaviors, lists of quantifiable measurements which sometimes borderline on requirements. To hear them talk, even when these qualities are expressed as a “preference” and “fine if it’s not there, it would just be really nice” it’s clear that some part of the brain is evaluating and making comparisons – in other words: judging.

And once again I can relate to this, knowing that my over-active brain spends most of its day doing evaluative activities and doesn’t tend to go on pause when I’m thinking about people. Whether the conclusions are positive or negative, there’s still some kind of assessing/contrasting that’s going on in there. I know that’s a big part of the brain’s job (“do I prefer this food or that?” “is this situation dangerous or safe?”) and I certainly want it to keep doing that, while at the same time I’m starting to consider the limits to its utility. At least in the realm of emotions and relating with people.

So if the majority of people I’ve spoken with have hearts that want to be loved without judgement and also have brains that can’t stop judging, what do we do?

I’m going to be contemplating this one for a while. I think part of the key is just knowing that this is going on. Is it possible to recognize that we do start assessing from the minute that we wake up and yet somehow learn to disentangle that from comparisons to some kind of imagined reality or list? What if the assessment just stayed in the here and now? Maybe we can learn to sense if our feelings at this moment are good or bad without projecting into an “if this were more/less” scenario and making a comparison from there.

Yes, I recognize that this is a lot of what is meant by efforts to “be in the present.” I hear a lot about people doing that work internally, through meditation and other activities which feel so solitary to me. I write because I’m starting to think more about how this plays out in interactions with other people, in relationships. I hear contradictions, places where it becomes difficult, places where we get buffeted by our desires to be with other people and to make them happy.

Also, I admit, I write because I felt the need to remind myself of something I already know. My emotions felt tangled and my brain needed to parse it out.


One response to “How “Unconditional”?

  1. I looked for this post for ~an hour+. Of course part of that was totally off track. My thoughts, immediately jumped to the relations between parents=>children and children=>parents. There is a lot to say, for sure…

    But here are some thoughts I like:

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