In a relationship characterized by unconditional love and acceptance, defenses are replaced by openness and a welcoming environment that encourages sharing and release. A mutual, loving haven without boundaries and rules of acceptance is a powerful place, a spiritual place. – John-Roger
This article by John-Roger was first published in Holistic Chicago Magazine Vol. 3 Issue 2 Nov / Dec 1997.
People often seek happiness outside themselves, believing that a special someone will turn their life around and give it value. Lonely and dissatisfied, low in self-esteem due to lack of affection and attention, they embark on a exhausting, futile journey, seeking something or someone to make them feel whole, to make them feel better. Finding a companion is one thing. Giving yourself up to him or her to get the affection you crave is costly. The price you pay is anxiety, stress and loss of spiritual, emotional and even physical energy. When you live for another person, you enslave yourself, and them, emotionally. It’s as if you are saying, “I’ll do anything for you, I’ll be anything for you, and you’d better love me for it.” That’s not loving, that’s blackmail. Stress and resentment are only two of the guaranteed results for both you and the person who is the focus of your surrender. You can give away love with no expectations, and it will come back a thousand fold, but you can’t give away your self-worth and expect to get it back.
Granted, many people do give it away with expectations attached. They give it to a spouse, a friend, a religious figure, a political leader, a parent, their children, a book or even scripture. It’s called, “I’ll do what you demand of me, and in return, you pay me with approval and my self-worth.” The most devastating hurt and mental fatigue that you will ever feel is when you disregard yourself in this way. Giving yourself up to another in return for approval and acceptance is giving up your personal worth. Your special someone can never give you enough approval to make you feel worthwhile. As long as you believe your approval and affirmation must come from others, you are unlikely to have it. True self worthiness and satisfaction can only be discovered within, where your true self lives, where you are not deceived. The longer you put off the investigation and discovery of the true self within, the longer you will continue to look for happiness out there somewhere, in someone or something. It could be in food, entertainment, work, a succession of lovers, or an individual to whom you give the unenviable task of making your life happy or whatever it takes to distract yourself from dealing with the true source of your stress and unhappiness. The opposite of stress is inner peace. When you find and surrender to your peace within, stress becomes a memory.
Look Into Your Own Mirror
Loving yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses is the key to having fulfilling relationships. When you look into your own eyes with love-colored glasses, you will look into the eyes of others to see them as they truly are, not the instruments of your wishes, dreams and desires, but as sustaining companions on the pathway to a happy life. Practice being in your own experience of a relationship rather than your mother’s, your father’s, your child’s, a husband’s or a wife’s — just your own. Get out of the tiring routine of looking to others for fulfillment. If you are not committed to the value of your own experience, you will buy into others’ judgments and try to transform yourself to their perceived opinion of you. Buying into another’s experience is sacrificing your own. Buying into another’s opinion can completely block your personal growth and enlightenment, and that is a great loss. Buy another’s experience of you and you may be buying guilt, shame, anger and all those other emotions that can lead to pain, disharmony, disease, and divorce. When you buy into another’s experience, sooner or later, today or on a “time payment plan”, the price you pay is anxiety, stress and loss of self-esteem.
Free to Be Yourself
Do you feel relieved and truly rested only when you are away from the person or persons with whom you have close relationships? If so, you may have become a robot made to fantasy specifications. You may be projecting what you believe to be perfect behavior, and what an enervating existence that can be. Do you avoid sharing thoughts, feelings and actions that may be viewed as unacceptable or suspect? Or, do you give yourself the freedom to be an ordinary, fallible person with a blemish or two? You cannot control other people’s feelings, attitudes, and emotions relating to you. You can only exert control over yourself. Someone may choose to be your enemy or your judge. How you react is your choice. Dressing to please, cooking to please, making enough money to please, affirming and supporting others in order to get their smiles and approval may get you the form of affection you crave. The content is likely to be missing. Deep down, you know that seeking affection by following the rules of someone else’s life is risky business. The affection is theirs to give and theirs to take away. In a truly stress-free, rewarding relationship, you and another agree that each has the right to be accepted and supported as whomever and whatever you are now, right now. You feel unafraid to delve deep inside and uncover layers of defenses, built up over years, which protect you from being hurt. Your defenses protect you not only from hurt but from intimacy, and create distance between you and other people. Building and maintaining these defenses drain your emotions and tire your spirit.
In a relationship characterized by unconditional love and acceptance, defenses are replaced by openness and a welcoming environment that encourages sharing and release. A mutual, loving haven without boundaries and rules of acceptance is a powerful place, a spiritual place. Strength and a sense of freedom beyond your wildest dreams is the natural outcome, and risk is no longer frightening. All is permissible. Transcendence of fear, pain and guilt is possible. Discovering your inner peace is the surest, straightest path to finding that haven with another person. Freedom from stress and anxiety, and the chance to have a loving, unconditional relationship, lies in self-approval. From the dwelling of worth and peace within you, from that self-loving place, you can say, “I need more joy, more love, more acceptance, more affection.” You will get it from others when you love and accept yourself. When a person (spouse, relative, friend or business associate) is ready to accept you as unconditionally as you have accepted yourself, then you have a relationship to invest in, a relationship with unlimited rewards.
No Matter What
Spiritual love, unconditional love says, “I love you, no matter what.” This kind of love creates a harmonious balance that encompasses the mental, emotional and physical expressions of love. Where spiritual love is present, there is tremendous security. Neither person walks in fear of disappointing the other or being judged or criticized. There is loving acceptance of each other’s strengths and frailties. When you achieve spiritual love with another, you will feel more alive than you ever have, and at the same time, more relaxed and joyous. The love I am talking about is expensive, so expensive, in fact, that there is no price tag. There is not enough money or goods on the planet to buy it. Unconditional love is truly free.