The third emotional dependency need is unconditional love and acceptance. The degree to which this need was met during childhood will be a strong determinant on how emotionally mature and psychologically balanced we are as adults. You are probably thinking that this is a pretty tall order to expect from parents who were doing the best they could just to put food on the table, a roof over your head and decent clothes to wear to school. I absolutely agree. I’d also like to add that over the past 2000 years, we still haven’t learned how to unconditionally love and accept ourselves and others. This translates into most of us walking around feeling insecure and inadequate with a deep need to feel special, unique and wanted in the world.
For parents to “give you” unconditional love and acceptance, they have to act in such a way that you feel wanted and fully accepted for who you are. In addition, you need to feel that you are truly unique and are being appreciated for your uniqueness. We are all a little quirky, right? Here are the messages that we need to hear, feel or see from our parents to know that we are unconditionally loved and accepted by them:
If these messages do not resonate with you, then you will need to learn how to meet these needs for yourself. You can do this through reading self-help books, saying affirmations and prayer/meditation. Every person deserves to feel loved, valued and appreciated. If you don’t, you’ll need to shore these things up now as an adult. Once you are able to feel unconditionally loved and accepted, you’ll be able to unconditionally love and accept others. This does not mean condoning, excusing or rationalizing others’ less-than-perfect behaviors. It just means that you are able to fully accept at a deep level that what has happened, happened. It is part of our evolution.
If you feel you are ready to extend unconditional love and acceptance to others, I will leave you with this exercise from the book “8 Keys to Forgiveness” by Robert Enright. It’s called Practicing Clearer Vision and Service Love.
Choose five people to focus on. Say the following statements to yourself, not to the person directly:
After making these statements (silently), end the exercise by demonstrating an act of love at least five times randomly throughout the day. This could be giving someone a hug, a smile or a “like” on social media. It could also be being patient with a cashier, showing understanding to a colleague or comforting a child. You could also send a silent blessing to someone.
Next week, we’ll look at the fourth emotional dependency need which is setting boundaries. Boundaries are a key component to emotional maturity.
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