Many of us go through life believing we are loving. Sometimes, we may even think that we are unconditionally loving. Ironically, the views we have of loving tend to be the result of our lifelong conditioning.
For many of us, our definition of loving is, “I will do anything you want me to do, in order to make you happy. In return you will love me the way I think I should be loved. There will be an unspoken rule that you will love me and honor me the way I think I should be loved and honored, and that I will , in exchange, change myself, or at least my behavior, or at the very least, my apparent behavior, to fit your definition of what loving is to you.”
For others of us, our definition of loving is, “You will do anything I want you to do, in order that you make me happy. You will love me in the ways I think I should be loved. If you don’t do this, you are failing to love me. And I will love you based on the ways that I define love. If you don’t accept the ways that I show love, you don’t understand love.”
In short, almost all of us think and act based on highly-conditioned models of loving, and some of us even consider ourselves to be unconditionally loving. The only times that we’re not unconditionally loving, in our own minds, is when others fail to meet our conditions. Is it any wonder that so many of us find what we think of as love to be so difficult and painful?
We all tend to have different definitions of what we think all our different roles should be, depending upon who it is we’re relating to, at the moment. We think we need to fit into all the roles we think are right for a given person or situation, and the roles we think others have defined for us. The way we relate to our children is often not the same as the way we relate to a friend, for instance. Similarly, the way we relate to our parents is usually different from the way we relate to a friend, which is, in turn, usually different from the way we relate with our boss or partner or neighbor. And in all these different relationships, we tend to think that we need to act a certain way, which is often in conflict with how we think the other person or people are expecting us to act. Yet, if someone asks us if we feel we are basically an authentic person, almost all of us would probably answer “yes”.
All this role-changing, second-guessing and trying to meet expectations while having expectations met, can lead to a lot of confusion, as well as a deep-seated, ongoing sense of internal conflict and anxiety. Not only are many of us changing our behavior in various situations, in order to fit into all these different roles our memories and imaginations have assigned; we also try to change to behave, or at least to appear to behave, in the ways we think the other person or people wants us to behave., or what we imagine is appropriate, based of society or religion We don’t necessarily try to behave according to how they think we should be, but rather, according to how we think they think we should be.
So, even though many of us try to be someone we think others want us to be, because they don’t really want us that way, we are actually being someone they don’t want us to be, while not being who we think we want to be, or who we think we actually are. Possibly most significantly, all of these virtual costume-changes leave us not only not being who we actually are, but leave us feeling very unsure concerning who we actually are, after all. And so, we are not really making anyone happy, while simultaneously avoiding reality entirely, while often generating a lot of confusion and frustration for all involved.
So, by the time we figure out what we think might be the right way to behave with a given person, in order to fulfill their expectations, and maybe even our own conditioned expectations at the same time, if we’re lucky, the other person may have already changed their mind on what they think we should be.
And so now, we often go scrambling once again to try to fit the new mold that is being created for us by another person’s ever-changing expectations, or rather, our ideas concerning their ever-changing expectations. When we realize that everyone else’s conditioning is every bit as inconsistent and ever-vacillating as our own, is it any wonder so little actual loving takes place?
And, please remember: we too often expect people to behave a certain way, so that we can love them unconditionally. We’re happy to love them unconditionally, as long as they meet our conditions. Since we are changing our behavior constantly for them, in order to try to match the expectations they have regarding us, that they think will make them happy.
And our minds tell us we do this because we love them so unconditionally. We often think something along the lines of:
“I mean c’mon, I’m ready to change who I am for you! How much more unconditionally loving can one get?”
And all we expect from them is their unconditional loving back, from them.
Now if for any reason they don’t treat us in the way we have defined as loving, “Well”, our thoughts grumble , “That is not acceptable! How can anyone love us unconditionally if they are not loving us the way we love them and the way we expect them to love us?”
This probably has something to do with the common phrase “It’s complicated!”
Of course it is. This is a script written for ongoing suffering of all kinds. But most of us don’t know any better. That is unconditional loving to us, according to our conditioning.
The book “Real Love” by Greg Baer helps us see things a bit differently. Greg shows us how we unconsciously use “Getting and Protecting Behaviors” of various types, to try to gain love and keep what we think of as love. Behaviors like lying, acting like victims, clinging, attacking, running, manipulating, all in order to get what he calls “imitation love”. We manipulate people and circumstances try to get love. Many of us have grown up believing that these kinds of behaviors are the only ways we can experience loving. We think we will be unloved and all alone if we are not pleasing others and making sure others love us, according to what we’re sure love is all about. Which is often quite different from what they think love is all about.
We live as though we are slaves of the mind stories and labels that we think define what love is, and we used these stories to evaluate if what we’re experiencing with others is indeed love, or not. If we even recognize these conditioned stories at all, we are often too scared to let go of these stories because if we did, we would have no idea if we were getting real love, or not. As you may have noticed, for most of us, the concern tends to be about the love we think we’re getting, not the love we think we’re giving. This tends not to be an issue though, because everyone else is primarily focused on what they think they’re getting, or not getting, from us.
Can we really love without the stories?
Yes. Greg Baer in his book “Real Love” shakes the root of our entire definition of real love, in ways that play very well in the real world. He helps us change the way we define loving by showing us how our mind keeps us from experiencing the freedom of real love. The techniques described in Greg’s book help us to slowly let go of the tight grip that our conditioned memories and imaginations hold; the grip on stories about what constitues real love. Once the stories crumble, our experience of real love becomes, well, real. And this loving is much easier than the imitation love that our memories and imaginations tell us that we need to try to get and give.
This of course involves letting go of some old ways of doing things; old conditioned ways of relating to others in ways we’ve come to think of as loving. And, of course, this won’t always be easy, but the peace, the freedom, the happiness, and especially the loving we experience through giving (and therefore simultaneously receiving) Real Love are truly beyond anything we can imagine.