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Resilience journey #4 – love is not a feeling, it is a choice

I think there is a huge misconception in our heads about love.

This might be one of the root issues from the topics discussed earlier. Some of us might have been brought up having to earn the love of our parents.

We had to prove we are worthy of their love.

We had to act in a particular way to gain their affirmation. Often refraining from acting in a particular way produced no positive feedback because “not doing that” was the expected behaviour. Picking up all the errors and neglecting any improvement, saying that the level reached is “the norm” so there is nothing to praise – won’t have contributed to developing a positive self-image.

The pattern seems to be painfully familiar:

being loved for what we did, not for who we were, leading us to embrace what we are instead of who we are.

It ended up rooting our identity in the what, because we missed out on the experience to be unconditionally loved for who we are.

The beauty of being grown up is that now we have a choice: we can say it is not good enough for us, so we want to change.

We want to discover and rely on, who we are, but where to start?

We tend to think of love as a feeling: we love our spouse when they act in a nice way – bring us flowers, a book, makes dinner, picks up the kids –, but dislike them (or should we rather honestly say “hate”?) when they disagree with us, doesn’t do what they promised, had a bad day and their tone is not the nicest. 

When we act like this, we are falling into the same trap: we love them for what they do.

And isn’t it easier to love our kids when they act in a nice manner rather than having a tantrum?

However difficult it seems, even impossible, we need to learn how to love them when they are having their tantrums. Again,

love does not mean the lack of healthy boundaries nor the affirmation of their behaviour.

So what is love?

Love is a choice.

Our choice.

Simple as it is.

We make a decision to love – our children, spouse, colleagues, boss, janitor, parents – and we stick to our choice.

It won’t come easily, it will take time to redefine our reactions until the new ones become the norm. Also, redesigning one reaction does not mean the automatic reshaping of our reactions for other situations, but the more we reconfigure the easier it will be. And in the meantime, we need to learn how to address our disapproval of certain acts. Which is another big chunk of sweaty work. So why would we bother with all this?

Well, there are two main reasons: us and them.

For them it would mean

they start experiencing being loved for who they are.

Not what they have or what they do, but simply who they are. And whether it is a close relative or even a stranger, it might start reshaping how they think of themselves.

It might trigger questions in them:

  • Is it really possible that someone loves me despite how I act? Despite how despicable I am?
  • Maybe there is more about me than my position?
  • What has someone spotted in me that makes them believe I am valuable?
  • Am I really worthy of love? How can it be?

They might even start a journey of re-establishing their identity on the ‘who’ instead of the ‘what’.

We cannot deny, humans are subjects of self-centredness 😉 so what are our benefits in all this?

First of all we step on a life-long journey of personal development.

We learn that we are capable of more than we think,

we have control over our behaviour.

We will slowly change in other areas as well, as our decision to love sneaks into our subconscious and starts its work there. As our perceptions and attitudes are gently altered, we change.

Our actions, tones, words chosen, start softening and this

triggers change in others around us.

They may get an unusual response from us which would likely make them stop and think – whether they re-think their own actions or analyse the change in us, it pulls them out of the recurring pattern of interactions. Their reactions start to alter.

And one day, out of the blue,

we realise that we do feel love for our child in the midst of their tantrum.

We empathise with them as we remember feeling as confused and hopeless as they might feel now, and we just simply leave them alone.

It is their battle with themselves.

And when our teen emerges later, pretending like nothing has happened, we know that our message has come through. Their silence is a form of acceptance and affirmation – of the rules and boundaries we, as parents, set up for their benefit.

They would not be afraid of doing the same to defend themselves.

Here is my hand.