Coping.us
Helping you become all that you are capable of becoming!

 


 
Loading

Unconditional Acceptance and Love

Chapter 9 Unconditional Acceptance and Love

Tools for Handling Control Issues

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

What are unconditional acceptance and love?
To accept and/or love another person, place, or thing unconditionally is to:
  • Place no condition on the other as to how to behave or what to be in order to receive acceptance and/or love from you.
  • Not use if ..then clauses in establishing conditions for accepting and/or loving another.
  • Take a risk to be open and vulnerable with another with no pre-set limits on the relationship.
  • Accept and/or love another person, place, or thing for the fact that they exist rather than for what they are.
  • Value others for themselves rather than for what they do or have done.
  • Hold a person, place, or thing in an esteemed position because they exist in your world rather than for what they do for you.
  • Give others the respect and latitude to be themselves rather than to be what you want them to be.
  • Give others the freedom to be themselves rather than to restrain them to be something which is expected of them.
  • Let the others know that you value them for being who they are rather than for fitting into prescribed conditions or expectations which you have set for them.
  • Set the stage for others to feel warmth, caring, and concern for themselves which results in their growing in self-esteem and self-worth.

 

How do you feel when you receive unconditional acceptance and love?
When you are the recipient of unconditional acceptance and/or love from yourself or others, you feel:
  • Free to be yourself.
  • You have value and worth.
  • Wanted and desired for you as you rather than for what you do.
  • Listened to and understood.
  • That you have yourself to offer others which in itself is worthwhile.
  • Warmth, cared for, and nurtured.
  • You are OK just the way you are.
  • That there is no need to wear a mask or to act in any way just to please another.
  • Free to be yourself and to open up your feelings with no fear of rejection or non-approval.
  • That it is possible to take the risk to be vulnerable with others in order to have open and honest relationships with them.
  • No fear of retribution or reprisal from others if you should make a mistake or experience a failure.
  • That there are no conditions set on your relationships with others.

 

What are the negative consequences of a lack of unconditional acceptance and/or love?
When a person, place, or thing is not given unconditional acceptance and/or love, then they:
  • Feel constrained to act in ways which are inconsistent with their beliefs and feelings.
  • Lack the freedom to be themselves.
  • Live their lives to please others rather than to please themselves.
  • Are not given the freedom to experience the natural consequences of their own actions and decisions.
  • Can become dependent on others to make them feel good about themselves.
  • Can become very rule-bound and perfectionistic in seeking to do what is right or expected of them in order to be accepted or loved.
  • Are more likely to experience low self-esteem and low self-worth.
  • Feel misunderstood, not approved of, and defensive.
  • Have poor relationship skills and experience failed relationships.
  • Work harder at meeting conditions and expectations set for them by others than working at becoming self-directed, self-sufficient, and self-reliant.
  • Can become withdrawn and isolate themselves so as not to experience future rejection and non-approval.
  • Confuse the need to follow rules and obey directions as the only way to be accepted and loved by others.
  • Believe that they can never fail or make a mistake because they would never be worthy of love or acceptance from others.
  • Do not learn how to accept and love themselves unconditionally and therefore are very self-critical, self-disapproving and self-punitive.
  • Tend to set unrealistic, non-achievable, and overly idealistic expectations for themselves which must first be met in order to accept and love themselves.
  • Become their own worst critics who are never able to unconditionally accept and love themselves.
How is giving self and others conditional acceptance and love a control issue?
Giving self and others conditional acceptance and love is a control issue because:
  • It strengthens the internal locus of control for yourself and the others in your life.
  • Setting conditions which must be met before you fully accept and love yourself or others is controlling, manipulative, and, at times, coercive.
  • It is a way to keep yourself and others in line and dependent on meeting preset standards in order to be accepted and loved.
  • A pattern of thinking or believing can be developed on the basis of the need to meet conditions before one can be accepted and loved and this irrational, unhealthy thinking can lead to self-hatred, perfectionism, and self-criticism which controls one's way of managing and directing life.
  • When acceptance and love are freely given with no conditions, no strings, or if..then clauses, then others have a greater chance of loving themselves and practicing self-control in pursuit of wellness and happiness.
  • When rules, conditions, and expectations are set as the only way to be accepted or loved, the recipient of this contingent love and acceptance may be more caught up in the goal of meeting these conditions than in living freely, relaxing, and enjoying life guilt-free.
  • Guilt is often a way a person, place or thing can be manipulated and, if love and acceptance are conditional, then not meeting these conditions can lead to guilt.
  • Need for approval is often a result of conditional acceptance and love. In order to feel approval, a person can be a ready victim for manipulation, a con job, or intimidation.
  • It puts you into a position of power to influence how the other feels and responds to self.
  • If persons are nurture needy, wanting acceptance and love from others, it places them in a vulnerable position to be manipulated, coerced, intimidated, abused, and hurt.
  • Often people telegraph nonverbally their dependent need for acceptance and love and as a result attract people to them who will use, abuse, and take advantage of them.

 

What are some healthy alternatives to the irrational thinking about unconditional acceptance and love?

 

Irrational: You should always obey rules, accept limits, and meet another's expectations and conditions before you can expect that other to accept and/or love you.
Healthy: Following rules, accepting limits, and meeting expectations and conditions are often necessary for survival in this world but are not necessary conditions to be accepted and/or loved by others.

 

Irrational: Parents should require their children to obey their rules, accepting limits set, and meet up to the expectations and conditions set for them before the parents show acceptance and love for the children.
Healthy: Parents first need to accept and love the child because the child exists. Only once the child feels this acceptance and love will the child more likely obey the rules, accept limits, and meet the expectations in a healthy way.

 

Irrational: The goal in life is to scope out the rules of the games in the workplace, school, family, community, and relationships so as to gain acceptance and/or love by playing the games by the rules.
Healthy: It is politically healthy to scope out the rules of the games so as to survive in the workplace, school, family, community, and relationships but such survival does not always guarantee acceptance and love. Home, workplace, school, family, the community, and relationships can be too sick or toxic to offer acceptance or love even after all of the rules of the game have been followed. In such cases, you need to look outside of these environments for the unconditional acceptance and love you need to feel healthy, fulfilled, and fully human.

 

Irrational: If you want people, places, or things to do things for you, all you need to do is to offer them unconditional acceptance and love.
Healthy: Using unconditional acceptance and love to get others to do for you is manipulation and conning others to benefit yourself. It is a toxic behavior.

 

Irrational: There is no such thing as unconditional acceptance and love. There are always strings attached somewhere.
Healthy: It is possible to accept and/or love a person, place, or thing unconditionally with no ulterior motive.

 

Irrational: It is impossible to discipline a child and still accept and love the child unconditionally
Healthy: It is possible to not like a child's behavior and actions and develop logical consequences or disciplinary actions which the child must abide by and still love and accept the child unconditionally as seen in the statement, I accept and love you unconditionally. It's just your behaviors which I don't like right now and it is because I love you that I am making you experience the negative consequence of your own actions.

 

Irrational: You must be perfect in everything you do or others will not accept or love you.
Healthy: You are a human being subject to faults, failings, and mistakes and yet you are deserving to be accepted and loved not because you are perfect but because you are you.

 

Irrational: It is impossible to unconditionally accept and/or love another person, place or thing.
Healthy: To accept and/or love another person, place, or thing unconditionally is possible as long as you give yourself the freedom, risk-taking behaviors and trust to extricate or emotionally detach from the relationship if it becomes toxic.

 

Irrational: It is impossible to accept and/or love another and at the same time be emotionally detached.
Healthy: By being emotionally detached you do not automatically cease your acceptance and/or love of another. It only means that you are separating yourself from the toxic elements of the relationship so as not to get hurt.

 

Irrational: It is good for children to experience all of the negative conditions of life in their relationships in order to grow up realistic about themselves and the world.
Healthy: The words of this poem by an unknown author state clearly that it is healthier for children to experience unconditional positive acceptance and love if they are to grow up into healthy, self-loving people.

 

Children Learn What They Live
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to feel shy.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
he learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,

he learns to find love in the world.

How do you begin to unconditionally accept and/or love yourself, other people, places, and things?

In order to unconditionally accept and love yourself and others you need to:

  • Identify what are the conditions which you force yourself and others to meet before you are accepting and loving of self and others.
  • Analyze these conditions and expectations which you set for yourself and others in order to identify why they block you from being unconditional.
  • Analyze if these conditions are reasonable, rational, or realistic and develop healthy alternative scripts which free you up to be more unconditional with yourself and others.
  • Recognize that the limits and rules of appropriate behaviors which you expect yourself and others to conform to are rules for survival, decency, getting along, coping, productivity, sense, and order but are not the determinants of freely accepting and loving yourself and others.
  • Identify what are the necessary standards and limits of conduct, decorum, and interaction in your home, family, school, workplace, community activities, and relationships which are politically sound to abide by but not a legitimate basis for your acceptance and love of self and others.
  • Practice eliminating any conditions as you face yourself and others and attempt to accept and love yourself and others freely, generously, and with no limitations.
  • Identify what fears or beliefs or behaviors keep blocking you from being unconditional in your love and acceptance of self and others and replace them with healthy alternatives.
  • Be free to verbalize your open and unconditional acceptance of self and others so as to develop a new set of behavioral scripts which become more habitual for you.
  • Emphasize with yourself and others that it is because you love and accept yourself and them so entirely and freely that you want yourself and others to experience the positive or negative consequences of your or their own actions and that such consequences do not affect your acceptance or love of yourself and them.
  • Clarify that tough love is the continuous unconditional acceptance and love of self and others but yet holds the target of such love to be fully personally responsible for their own actions and the consequences of those actions.
  • Use the following words of Frederick S. Perls as you enter into or alter relationships with others to make them unconditionally accepting and loving.

I do my thing and you do your thing.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,

and you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you and I am I

and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.

 

What are the steps to increase in unconditional acceptance and/or love of self and others?

 

Step 1: In your you journal answer the following:

How well do you unconditionally accept the following people, places, and things in your life?

  • Yourself?
  • Family members?
  • Colleagues at work or school?
  • Friends?
  • Support network?
  • Work or school site?
  • Community?
  • Church?
  • People and places which offer you help?

How well do you unconditionally love the following people in your life?

Yourself?

  • Family members?
  • Friends?
  • Support network?
  • Coworkers or fellow students?
  • People in the community?
  • People in your church?
  • Helpers offering assistance to you?

For each of the people listed above:

  • What are the conditions placed on them before you can accept and love them?
  • Why are these conditions blocks to your freely accepting and loving them?
  • Are these conditions reasonable, rational, or realistic? If not, then develop alternative scripts to free you up to accept and love these people.
  • What are the rules or limits for survival, decency, getting along, coping, productivity, and sense and order which have become confused as the determinant conditions preventing you from unconditionally accepting and loving these people?
  • How does your need to fix, rescue, or change others interfere with your unconditional love of these people?
  • How would emotional detachment from all of these people help you to then accept and love them more unconditionally?
  • How is your current conditional acceptance and love of these people affected by their ways of conditionally accepting and loving you?
  • How well do these people allow you to be you? How well do you allow them to be themselves?
  • How free are you and they to openly express feelings, admit faults and failings, and to experience excitement and enjoyment in life with each other?

 

Step 2:  Once you have made a thorough assessment of how well you unconditionally accept and love yourself and others, then you need to recognize that to increase in unconditional acceptance and love of self and others opens you and the others to be vulnerable, as John Wood so clearly points out in this poem. Once you read the poem, answer in your journal the questions which follow it.

 

Taking a Risk

I will present you parts of myself slowly.

If you are patient and tender, I will open drawers that mostly stay closed, and bring out places and people and things, sounds and smells, love and frustrations, hopes and sadness.

Bits and pieces of life that have been grabbed off in chunks and found lying in my hands they have eaten their way into my heart altogether, you or I will never see them.

They are me

If you regard them lightly, deny that they are important, or worse judge them. I will quietly slowly  begin to wrap them up in small pieces of velvet, like worn silver and gold jewelry, tuck them away in a small wooden chest of drawers and close them away.

 

Answer this question in your journal first:

How do the following fears or behaviors block your ability to unconditionally accept and love yourself and the people you listed in Step 1?

  • Fear of taking a risk
  • Inability to trust others
  • Insecurity
  • Fear of being vulnerable
  • Fear of failure
  • Need for approval
  • Fear of rejection
  • Inability to identify feelings
  • Inability to forgive and forget
  • Inability to establish intimacy

Now answer these questions:

  • How does perfectionism and the need to be exact, right, or correct hinder your ability to be unconditional in your acceptance and love of self and others?
  • How would an increase in faith and development of your spirituality with your Higher Power assist you to be more unconditional?
  • How would emotionally detaching from the toxic elements in your relationships with yourself and others free you up to be more unconditional?
  • What are those things you would lose if you unconditionally accepted and loved yourself and the others listed in Step 1? What would you gain or recapture?
  • What new beliefs and behaviors do you need to develop in order to be able to unconditionally accept and love self and others?
  • How would you practice Tough Love for each one listed in Step 1 and how would this new approach free you up to be more unconditional in your acceptance and love for them?
  • What are the blocks which up to now kept you from allowing the people listed to experience the natural consequences of their own actions?
  • How did your need to protect these people from making a mistake or experiencing a failure prevent you from freely accepting and loving them?
  • How comfortable are you now with each person listed to begin to be more unconditional with your acceptance and love?

 

Step 3: Once you have looked at the blocks to being unconditional in your acceptance and love of self and others, then begin to practice this new behavior with yourself and those people, places, and things listed in Step 1.

 

Step 4: If you are still experiencing difficulty in being unconditional in your acceptance and love of self and others, then return to Step 1 and begin again.