This is love that is not given freely; love that is only given based on certain requirements being fulfilled and met.
It is during our childhood that we have our first experience of love and our meaning or model of love is also created as a child.
And to be more specific here, the love I am talking about can come across as; acceptance, attention and mirroring.
This is love that is always there no matter what is said or done, it is love that is not retracted as a result of the child not doing what its parents/caregivers wants or of doing something that they disagree with.
The Importance Of love
Experiencing unconditional love as a child has got to be one of the most important factors in creating a functional human being. This is a human being that not only accepts themselves, but also accepts others.
When this is not the case, the individual will question if they are enough, and if what they are doing is pleasing enough to others. It can be normal for this person to never quite know where they stand, or whether they are truly accepted.
The word emotional abuse or emotional manipulation comes to mind here. Unconditional love should be a normal part of the child and parent/caregiver’s relationship.
However the reality is that this is not always the case and it can create problems throughout an individual’s life.
Taking Care of Ourselves
Another consequence of this is that it becomes very difficult to take care of one’s own needs and what is important. And this is because if one was only deemed worthy based on pleasing another and doing what they wanted, it will be a real challenge to realise or understand their own self worth.
And this is because although many years have passed since those times of having to please ones parents/caregivers they still exist in the mind.
Feelings of guilt and shame can surface during and after one comes to focus on themselves. The powerful feeling that is rejection can also arise at these moments.
So if one feels they are not enough they can easily end up bending over backwards or they can go to the other extreme and not want to do anything.
The first example is that of the person that is always willing to help another, their own needs are irrelevant. Although deep down they can feel incredibly angry and frustrated, on the surface they are only happy to help another over themselves.
With the second example, it shows the individual who has gone to the other extreme and they are only interested in themselves, what their gain is and how it can help their life.
This is something that will shape our relationships in a massive way, with friends and in our intimate relationships.
What can play out here is the need to always agree with what our friends might say, never questioning or going against their way. There might also be the need to constantly buy gifts or to offer numerous favours.
The area of conditional love is something that might seem more prevalent in intimate relationships and this has to be because we generally look for more from this type of relationship. With more needs having the potential to be met.
If ones history on conditional love has not been looked at it will attract two people who have the same history, however it will be two people that generally display it in different ways.
Victim and Perpetrator
There are two dynamics at work here, they might not always play out in this way, but they tend to.
The victim will be looking for love, looking for what they didn’t achieve as a child. However there will always be a sense that their partner is distant and that their love has to be earned. It might feel like a constant battle, with the stakes always rising. Behaviourally, they will usually appear needy and dependent, and this allows the other partner to have control over the relationship.
With the perpetrator, they will still be looking for love, but they will come across very differently. When it comes to their behaviour they will usually seem more aloof and without the neediness of the first victim. It could also be perceived that they don’t need love. It would not be unusual for them to hold their partner at distance, using the same form of behaviour that was used on them. What this allows is for the individual to have some form of control on the situation and to the degree that they are hurt again.
The Same Experience
In the above two examples we can see that one person is perceived to have the power and the other is seen to have very little choice on what happens. However, neither of these has any functional benefit or consequences that will result in love being received.
The first is constantly overcompensating to achieve love, always looking to do as much as they can, with it never being enough. And the second has their guard constantly up, not wanting to open themselves up to the pain of their past.
Why Do They Exist?
Upon reflection we can see that neither of these behaviours lead to love or happiness. And yet they can seem so natural and normal. These are behaviours that appear to just happen, without any conscious choice or awareness.
And this is because of how the ego mind works. Everything it perceives as safe is a consequence of what is familiar. And what creates these associations are our earliest experiences.
One Generation To Another
I would say that if we were to go to the childhood of the parents/caregivers who couldn’t love their children we would find that they experienced the same occurrence.
Passed down from one generation to another, creating another generation that finds themselves in the same situation. Perhaps the behaviour was slightly different or the environment was different, but nevertheless the same devastating consequences ensue.
Unconditionally Loving Ourselves
So if an individual was brought up by people who couldn’t accept themselves, it is of little surprise that they experience the same challenges themselves.
These are perceptions that didn’t reflect the world, they reflected ones childhood environment. Which is an environment that seemed to represent the world and all that there was.
Some areas might take longer than others to let go and move on from, however there is always a way to move on from our past. With the right commitment, guidance and patience - it can be achieved.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.