Hello. And welcome back to the podcast. I am Amanda. I'm Laura. And I’m Kendra. And today we are going to talk about unconditional love.
Laura: Okay. So this is a great topic that some of us may feel like we know and understand. But we just want to kind of dive into it a little bit more, and see how unconditional love can help us- to love more freely and feel more happy and content in our own lives. Sometimes we think that unconditional love is something that requires a lot of sacrifice, and you have to be a saint to be able to provide unconditional love to other people. But the reality is, it’s important for us to develop unconditional love for ourselves as well as for all the people in our lives. It is a gift we can give ourselves as well as to the other people that we affiliate with, because it makes everything in our relationships so much easier.
It makes it so that we are more able to forgive, to be understanding, to be patient. It helps us to assume the best, assume other people are doing the best that they can. It helps us to have expectations of people that are realistic. And when they fall short of the expectations that we have, we can choose to have grace for them and not choose feelings of anger or disappointment and frustration.
And the idea that we can choose feelings, I know will sound foreign to many of our listeners. It's something that I didn't grow up knowing. I grew up feeling like I was just my feelings, and my feelings came from other people and came from the things happening around me. But the reality is, and we've talked about this before in earlier podcasts, is that the feelings that we have don't come from the things happening. Something may happen, and then we have a thought about it. We make it mean something. So we may make somebody’s comment mean that they hate us, when really they were just talking about some idle fact. Or they're telling you that you have lettuce in your teeth. They actually really care about you and want you to feel confident and not look silly with lettuce in your teeth.
But if we make that mean that they think we're idiots, we're going to have a different feeling. So that's where we choose the feelings that we have. And if we come to every situation from a place of unconditional love, we're more likely to choose feelings that are positive.
Kendra: And one other thing I was going to say there too, was this was mind blowing for me because I always felt like there were… Well, actually it allowed me to identify some triggers that provoked a certain emotion or thought or feeling, I guess, which triggered an emotion. And then I reacted. And when I finally realized that that was actually a choice, it was amazing how curious I became as to why I always have that trigger. Why always reacted that way to that situation. And when I finally figured out, actually I can choose to change it and actually benefit myself and others, my relationships in that certain situation actually was not painful. It actually improved.
Laura: Yeah. It's amazing how empowering it is to know this. And when you first hear it, it feels, sounds unbelievable. But when you start recognizing, okay, what are the actual facts in any given situation? And you know, those triggers that you were just talking about, Kendra, what is that triggered what thought? Why am I making this mean that? And so many times we can take it all the way back to our childhood and things that happened there that wired our nervous systems to react in these ways. And the thoughts that are just still persistently there and causing issues for us now.
But the truth is unconditional love feels so good and so amazing. And we can choose it any time. So one example of this I have is that I used to be very judgmental of my emergency department patients who made poor life choices, in my opinion made poor life choices. But I started imagining them all as little babies. Because they were all little babies at one point. All of them, no matter how messed up they are now. They were all, always, some cute little bundle of joy. And they- you go up to the newborn nursery and they all have- all those babies are valuable and lovable. And if we can think about the people that we come in contact with as cute little kids, which they are still inside, a lot of times, then it helps generate those feelings of unconditional love.
Amanda: So moving on, we found an article from lifehack.org called “Seven Ways to Practice Unconditional Love that will Change Your Life.” And they give some practical tips for how to start utilizing this in your own life.
First of all, I just want to say, when I first came across this idea too, I was like, “yeah, but some people really are awful,” and to me it felt like I was letting them off the hook or something. But here's the deal.
I want you to think of someone that you just loathe- like absolutely loathe- and compare that to somebody that you… Actually, I think it's almost even easier, like with a pet, you know, just that pure- you have no expectations. They don't have to do anything. They just get to be the pet, and they're not perfect. They eat shoes; they do whatever. But for some reason we seem to have an easier time feeling that sort of pure joy sometimes with little kids or with pets than we do with our own spouse or family members or whatever. But that feeling that you're experiencing, when you're judging and loathing somebody, that person's not feeling it, only you are.
So you're only punishing yourself, carrying these judgemental, loathsome attitudes. Then by choosing, you could have that feeling of the puppy, when you see the puppy, as often as you want, by making a conscious decision that they get to be who they are. And they aren't responsible- usually we want people to behave differently so that we get to feel good. Right?
If your husband brings home flowers, unrequested, (you know, part of your expectations that you'd probably never even told him about), you get to feel that feeling by thoughts that you choose to think. And you can do that as often as you want.
Now I'm going to tell you, I am human. And I mean, I come from a judgmental place as well. And so, if it doesn't feel pure to you yet, to switch straight from loathsome to unconditional love, it's okay to try to get to neutral first.
Laura: Yes. It's actually probably way more realistic.
Amanda: Yes. Don't lie to yourself. I mean, part of this is unconditional love for yourself too. Like you are how you are, and you don't have to be different, just radically different one day, and you're not doing it wrong. This is hard for everyone, but choosing to go to neutral first… Why would you never strive to eventually have that feeling of seeing the little baby or the puppy? That's what you're withholding from yourself by just choosing to go to neutral.
Laura: And to be clear, I don't feel, like when I go in these patients' rooms, I don't feel like I'm going in a cute little baby's room, but it does limit the life-suck that comes out. You know what I mean? You know what I mean. Where you go in, and you're like, oh man.
Amanda: Yeah. And here's the thing. Adult humans are adult humans. I mean, and even young humans are humans. They get to act however they are going to act. You cannot control them, but you can still choose unconditional love.
And this is going to be an interesting idea for people pleasers who “give love freely.” But I want you to think about this, when you are giving more than you want to. And you're doing the thing because you don't want them to think that you're mean or whatever, you think that you're giving love, but you're not. You're feeling resentment, and you're not presenting the authentic. No one gets a chance to actually love the real you, when it's all a ruse. You see what I mean? Give people a chance to know the real you and love the real you. And the most important part of it is that you've got to be there first for yourself. Okay. This all comes from a relationship with yourself, and again, forgiveness for yourself and how you were in the past and repairing your own relationship.
When you have your own back, then you're able to more easily- when you have unconditional love for yourself, then you truly can have unconditional love for others because until you've experienced it yourself, you don't even know what that means yet.
Laura: Yep. That's huge. That is huge. Just learning to love yourself.
Kendra: And I think a lot of it too- when we think about unconditional love, what's difficult to step back and think, or… Let me use an example. So, when you get married, and your spouse and you say vows, and it's like for richer or poorer- all the things- like we're going to be there. You're my ride or die. All the things sounds nice.
And you speak that into the air, atmosphere. And, you know, you hope for the best, but what does that mean? That means I'm going to unconditionally love this person. And honestly, we don't even really know what that means. So we enter into a marriage with another person, who may or may not have experienced unconditional love themselves. So they are also entering into the equation, with you, with maybe a predisposed notion of, even just what “love” is. And you are also going in with your ideas of what “love” is. But to truly experience unconditional, or to truly give unconditional love, you have to experience it for yourself.
And growing up, you might've thought, “Hey, my parents did an okay job. Like, they love me. They praised me when I did this. They rewarded me when I got good grades. They were happy when I won the track meet,” and all of those things seem good. But on the flip side of that, if you disappointed them- say when you didn't get all straight A's, or maybe you got, you know, you came home past your curfew. You also experienced not feeling love for them because they were either disappointed, angry, or frustrated with you. So yes, you might not have experienced terrible things. But that was, that was the picture of unconditional love that you felt from your parents growing up, that now you have taken into a relationship, in your marriage, that you are now going to give. When honestly, that is conditional love. It’s conditional love. Right?
Amanda: The other thing too, I was going to say, is with unconditional love, you can still love a spouse and leave. Do you see what I mean? Like you can still love the person and decide, out of love for yourself, that the best situation is to leave. This does not mean… Unconditional love for yourself also doesn't mean you put up with what you don't need to put up with, but you can still love them in your heart.
Laura: Right. And so that, like, to me, that brings up the question, “Well, what, what is love, anyway?” And the way I explain love to my kids is- it is the sincere and earnest desire for the wellbeing of someone else- that things will go well for that person.
So, yeah, you can definitely put up a boundary and say, I can't be around you. I love you, but I can't be around you anymore. You can make requests and put up boundaries but still love people.
Kendra: And that's also kind of also that blaming thing. Once you kind of realize that, oh, maybe when growing up I had experienced conditional love. That's also not an excuse to blame your parents for who you are today, but it's more of an opportunity to change that, to make a realization that, okay, that was conditional love. And now I'm starting to understand what this unconditional love is. And so in order to give it to my spouse, I first need to allow myself to experience unconditional love, which means I have grace for myself when I don't get all the things on my to-do list done for the day. Or I give myself a little leeway when I wanted to work out 10 minutes every day this week, and I made it three days instead of five or whatever. Or, if on the board and involved in all these committees, and then all of a sudden, I don't re-up for that the next year because it just took too much out of me.
Those kinds of things are those amazing experiences that you can understand, that you can realize yourself and loving yourself, and then start to realize, “oh, that's what this is.” And then you're able to more freely give the unconditional love to your spouse and then your children and then your mother and father-in-law or whatever. You know, these people in your life that you're like, I don't know if I ever can. But stage one is loving yourself and starting with yourself and really, truly embracing what unconditional love is.
And there's a lot of forgiveness. There's a lot of grace, and it actually is truly very freeing. There's a freedom that lies in that. And then all of a sudden, those things that once used to trigger you, or those responses that you used to just have- learned behaviors or learned beliefs- you know, no longer trigger you, or no longer become those beliefs. It's really freeing.
Laura: Yeah, I totally agree. And I love being able to look at myself and see all my own faults, idiosyncrasies, shortcomings, and still be my own cheerleader. And say, “you know, I love what you're doing. I love what you've accomplished. And I love that you're making progress.” And when I come to a place where I can do that for myself, it’s so much easier to do it for my kids or even those patients that used to drive me crazy, or I used to feel so judgemental towards. I can look at them and say, “you know, something happened to bring you to this point and I just really hope that you can get past it.”
Kendra: So we're looking forward to you and your journey, in not only realizing the unconditional love, but putting it into practice. Once you experience the wonderful thing we call unconditional love, then being able to reciprocate that and see an improvement in your relationships, not only in, at home and personally, but in your workplace and all of those that you interact with.
So until next time: you are whole, you are a gift to medicine and what you do matters.