Love is a topic that is written about and sung about more often than any other word, yet, unfortunately, it is still misunderstood by the majority of people we encounter on a daily basis.
From the time we are very young, we desperately yearn for love and often we’ll do anything and everything to be able to receive it, even if it means giving up who we really are.
What is Love?
In the process of psychotherapy, many people will tell me they don’t know what love is. Often my clients ask me sincerely to define the meaning of love.
Love has many definitions in our culture, as we all know. The Encarta dictionary defines love as feeling tender affection for someone, liking something or someone very much, showing kindness to someone or having great enthusiasm for something or someone. (It can also be the feeling of a romantic connection or a passionate affair.)
But love has a different meaning in psychotherapy. In therapy, love is the essential ingredient necessary for a child to grow up to become a healthy, happy person. It’s also the precious emotional energy necessary for an adult to heal and transform his or her life.
Like sunshine is to a flower,
love is the energy that supports you to bloom and grow.
It’s the life-blood of your healing and transformation.
Nurturing love begins with the delight you see in a parent’s eyes when she sees her beautiful child for the first time. Over time that love develops into caring, comforting, cherishing, protecting, validating, affirming, encouraging, guiding, teaching and supporting her child.
A healthy parent’s love contains the ability to make the child’s needs and wants a priority. Nurturing love is unconditional, because it asks for nothing in return other than the health and well-being of the child.
When nurturing love is present on a consistent basis, the baby is able to grow and develop into a healthy, happy child, who walks and talks and interacts in the world. And when the nurturing love continues consistently throughout the child’s life, he (or she) becomes a healthy, happy, productive and contributing adult, who easily gives and receives love from others.
The Lack of Love
Because our culture is so damaged and dysfunctional, many people today have experienced a lack of love at some point in their lives. Some of them experienced it early in life from abuse, neglect or abandonment in childhood, and some experienced it later through a trauma or tragedy as an adult.
Often the people who are most difficult or challenging in our lives are those who never got the love they so desperately needed. Sometimes these people feel so hopeless and discouraged that their negative talk and behavior makes it difficult to spend time with them.
It can be challenging to know where to draw the line when a wounded person is overwhelming or draining to you. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to encourage him or her to seek the professional help that he or she so desperately needs.
What is Unconditional Love?
Unconditional love is when someone loves you and appreciates you just the way you are. When they simply enjoy you, see the good in you and ask for nothing in return, it feels like you’ve finally come home to the unconditional love you’ve wanted for a lifetime.
But it’s even more wonderful when you can begin to be the person who gives that unconditional love to others. When you have healed yourself enough that you can love others unconditionally, everything in your life begins to flow and life, itself, becomes rich and fulfilling.
People who love unconditionally can make a tremendous difference in wounded people’s lives. Through listening, caring, validating, affirming, guiding, encouraging, teaching and supporting, a compassionate person is often able to give a transformative, unconditional love that supports a wounded soul to come back in touch with his (or her) true self.
10 Tips for Loving Others Unconditionally
- Learn to be a good listener.
- Empathize and validate a person’s feelings.
- Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for.
- Affirm, encourage and support a person’s growth.
- Believe in his or her ability to overcome challenges.
- Always make his or her happiness and well-being a priority.
- Celebrate his or her successes.
- Laugh regularly, but never at a person’s expense.
- Set clear boundaries about what you can and cannot give.
- Say a prayer in your heart that he or she will be healthy and happy and that good things will flow easily into his or her life.
When you regularly give unconditional love, love always comes back to you a thousand times more.
“You ARE the love that you seek and you are here to experience it fully and to share it with others.”
~Chris Assaad; singer, songwriter and inspirational artist from Toronto
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