Note: This is a guest post by Ari Koinuma of OurBestVersion.com.
I often take my kids to play in a sand-pit near our home. Both my 4-year-old girl and 19-month-old boy love playing in sand.
And sometimes I join them.
It's such a bliss. I highly recommend it if you haven't done it recently. Simple acts like digging a hole in sand has a very soothing, relaxing effect.
Like going back to a time when I didn't have responsibilities. No need to perform, please or prove.
Scarcity of Unconditional Love
Childhood bliss is, unfortunately, something many of us don't experience — and even if we do, don't experience it fully enough. Imagine a baby cuddled in mother's arms. You just exist, and your parents love you. You may not understand their words, but you get the message from their touches, their smiles, the tone in their voice. They tell you: we are glad you were born.
Unconditional love is a birthright. It's the builder of our foundation, the ground on which the rest of our psyche is built. But many (or most?) of us are given the gift of compromised foundation. You may not recognize it as such in your day-to-day struggles. But consider these common symptoms:
- Chronic, mysterious and/or incurable health conditions (migraine, skin rashes, perpetual history of getting sick or injured one way or another)
- Difficulty trusting other people
- Scarcity mentality
- Dependency (substance, food, approval of peer/parent/boss)
Virtually all big and deep personal problems can be traced back to your foundation: your right to exist. And unconditional love is the only true cure for the problem. There are many fixes for any and all of the problems listed above, individually. But since all the problems stem from your lack of trust in your existence, fixing your foundation will solve or cure all the other symptoms that come from it.
Where Can We Find Unconditional Love?
But unconditional love is an elusive commodity. If parents weren't available or able to give it to you abundantly, who can? Religious institutions claim to, though they are full of moral codes you have to fit into. Spouses, maybe, but romantic love isn't the same as unconditional/parental love. You may believe that a god or a “higher being” can provide it, but on the condition that you have to believe in such thing and have your spiritual antenna developed enough to really experience that love. It's not available to atheists, is it?
Is there any place in this world that everyone can turn to, a reliable source for our deep crave for unconditional love?
You can love yourself unconditionally. Even if you didn't experience enough of it the first time around, you can always do so today.
How? You may ask. I've never, ever really received it — how can I give myself which I didn't receive?
It's simple. You re-live your babyhood. Except this time, you play both roles — the baby and the parent.
5 Practical Ways to Self-Produce Unconditional Love
I put the list more or less in the order of potency.
- Visualization. In your mind, imagine your mother (or father or a caregiver) holding the baby you. With a big smile, she holds you gently and tell you over and over, “I'm so glad you were born.” You can write it down or verbally describe it, for aiding your visualization and for greater impact. This is the easiest method, though least potent and impossible to do if you can't remember experiencing unconditional love, ever.
- Drawing. You can use any material, but I recommend you at least invest in a sketch book and a decent set of oil pastels. You can draw the above scene literally, or you can draw more abstractly by intuitively splashing, lines, shapes and colors. If your hurt is coming out, you may draw ugly, painful pictures — allow yourself to do so. Just keep drawing until you get to a point where you can start drawing what your heart desires. You'll get there once you spill out enough of your hurt.
- Playing. This is where the sand pit comes in — once in my therapy session, my therapist had me play in the sand. Another time, she had me use a pile of dolls and figures to describe how I was feeling. I remember picking one figure for myself and placing everything else in a big circle facing me, surrounding — to express that I felt like the whole world was against me. Again, after pouring out your hurt, you'll get to a point where you start expressing your unconditional love for yourself.
- Role-playing. You can get a doll (there are ones that specifically designed for therapeutic purposes, though anything will do) and you hold it in your arms, and physically carry out the acts described in #1. Be sure to call it your name and tell him/her “I'm glad you were born.” Alternatively, if you have a willing spouse or a trusted friend, you can enact this where you really get to be on the receiving end.
- Caring a child. I obviously don't recommend becoming a parent for the sole purpose of healing yourself, but this is actually what takes place among parents: a chance to re-do their own life. We parents all project ourselves to our children to some extent. Raise your baby and shower him/her with abundant unconditional love. Alternatively, you can baby sit someone else's baby and do this, if you don't want your own child but want to try out this most powerful method.
As you try out these exercise, you'll experience a powerful sensation of relief and relaxation. If your scar is deep, you may feel the hurt coming out first — and you need to allow it. But be sure to incorporate the central message: you are telling the baby — yourself — that you are glad you were born. This the most fundamental message of unconditional love.
For most of us, this is not a one-time healing session. It's an on-going process. When you have a need to heal, life tends to create opportunities for you to do so — by creating situations where you encounter your brokenness. Each time you feel anxious, worried, or scared, take the time to engage in these exercises. Over time, you'll notice that your inner peace becomes less and less affected by life events.
An effective psychotherapist can mentor and guide you in this process, especially if your hurt is deep. But don't underestimate, don't misunderstand that you are healing yourself. Therapists and other healing arts are simply helping you use your own healing power.
My Personal Healing
I have personally used all 5 methods at one time or another in my healing process. I used to have this paralyzing fear of people getting mad at me, or being blamed for my mistakes. When such a situation occurred, my head would “blank out” with fear — I was so overwhelmed by sheer terror that I couldn't think. I had an unnatural drive to be blameless, or at least appear to be infallible. Whenever I was under stress, my defence mechanism was to cover my tracks so I had no visible failures.
After years of living with my fear, I finally submitted myself to therapy. I enjoyed my therapy sessions. I had two sketchbooks full of my pastel drawings, and piles of journals.
But my catalyst was when my daughter was born. At that very moment, I felt my capacity for unconditional love truly awaken. It has been the most transformational healing experience. As I poured my heart into taking care of her, and now my toddler son, I observed my own foundation become more solid.
Nowadays, those panic attacks are a thing of past. Sure, my heart would still pound faster when people get mad at me (which doesn't happen as often as it used to) or if I make a mistake and other people notice it. But nothing out of ordinary. I don't feel threatened, nor live in fear of such situations.
If you experience abundance of unconditional love, your life will be peaceful. By that, I don't mean quiet, slow or serene — it's just that you'll spend little time feeling threatened, afraid, and insecure. There's nothing to prove, no need to argue. Wars will end and crimes will diminish. Sounds idealistic? Yes, it can certainly appear so, until you actually experience this healing and transformation. The security becomes so strong and stable that you just simply lose room in your heart for things like desperation and aggression.
Regardless of your childhood experience or your relationship with your parents, don't begrudge them. It may be hard to feel grateful for getting hurt, but once you experience the healing, you'll realize what an amazing transformation it is. People who were uncompromised may not realize what they have. But you won't take it for granted. You'll be grateful and will feel excited to tell other hurt souls that healing is possible.
The above 5 methods are the ones that worked for me. What other methods can produce unconditional love to you? When have you experienced unconditional love's healing power? Please share your stories, so that we can tell the world that it is possible to heal and that opportunity is available to everyone.
Ari Koinuma writes on the theme of “Bic Picture of Healing and Growth: from Depression to Self Actualization” at his site, OurBestVersion.com. If you enjoyed this entry, check out his thorough analysis of self-esteem and his personal story of how he used the method described above to heal himself.