Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Conditional Love

Conditional Love

It feels like the whole world only loves us when we are good, succeeding, doing something big, or performing.  

It feels like that.

It is easy to get down on yourself.

These days, if you try hard enough you can leave no doubt about how mediocre you really are. All that you need to do is go online, scroll through Facebook (or any other platform), and if you try hard enough you can even find it in yoga class. You can find people who are prettier, smarter, funnier, more successful, better at yoga, more confident, and popular. You can find whatever you choose.

There are a million ways to feel crappy about yourself- seek it, feel it, and the world will agree.

Unhappiness and conditional love are very easy to find.

To really bring it home, live your life in a constant state of assessment. Better yet-- to be advanced at feeling crappy about yourself-- you can  rate your crappiness by numbers. We all judge each other liking photos on instagram, posts on Facebook. We pin something on Pinterest. We reblog on tumbler. Perfect. Pay attention to this. Count the likes, the reblogs…. Count it all.

Even better yet, bring this all to work. You can assess and judge each aspect. For example, in academia there are things like h-indexes, which tell you how many times someone has cited your publications (sort of like Pinterest, except more academic).

Dig in. Feel super crappy and lost.

It is all measured. We are all measured.

It is all judged. We are all judged.

I believe it becomes a practice and then, over time, a way of being. We develop these habits of mind. We see our friend’s outfit, her face, her smile. Do we like it? Pin it? Reblog it? or scroll?

So easily and quickly we assess and discount one another all day long. So easily and quickly we assess and discount ourselves all day long.

Or, or, just maybe, there is another way. A long time ago, there was this psychologist named Carl Rogers (1902 to 1987, see http://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html). Growing up in a harsh judgmental environment, he strove to see things differently, to be different. One day, he was in his basement and he saw this old sack of potatoes. One of the potatoes had grown roots and a stem. The stem had grown all the way up the wall of the basement to the window, where its potato plant leaves found light.

Young Dr. Rogers saw this as a metaphor for all life, for human life. He saw in all beings this need, this capacity, to grow no matter the circumstances.

What Rogers realized was that even without the best of circumstances humans have this innate capacity for growth. You see, NO MATTER WHAT; we have the nature to grow. He saw that it is just there, in each of our hearts and minds-- this innate capacity is there and if we add a few things- bam! What Rogers came to realize is that things could not just survive, but thrive; people could thrive if they had the best of circumstances. With the best of circumstances, we are on the journey toward self-actualization (see references below).

The mechanism (outside of our own innate capacity for growth) that Dr. Rogers identified as critical to this whole process was unconditional positive regard- unconditional love. This kind of love occurs when you have someone (or more than one someone) in your life that loves you no matter what.

This means that when you are trending on the Internet and when you get scrolled by, ignored, or even negatively commented upon- you are loved. It means they love you when you are standing on the podium giving your thank you speech for an award and when you are being really annoying and hard to be with. It means they love you even when you are clingy and insecure.

They love you anyway, always. To have this kind of your love in your life. Ahhh. That is a gift.

Seems though, that people are busy and looking for their own love, and mad, and sad, and stressed. It seems that much of the time that there is no occasion for this kind of love.

Do we sit like a sack of potatoes on the basement floor hoping for our innate humanistic growth to kick in?

Sort of, yes. And more than that. What we don’t do is this: We don’t wait for the acknowledgement, the love, from the outside.

We engage in self-care, self-love, and self-compassion. We do this like we are the best mom to ourselves that anyone ever had.

In her stirring book, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Her Mother, Kim Chernin describes the process of internalizing the sense of mother, the practice of self-care. The way she sees it (and others; see Dan Siegel) each of us can development our own routine of self-nurturance, self reward, and self acknowledgement.

We can create our own unconditional positive regard

Zuri’s Story

Zuri has been at her Aunt Jasmine’s with Rashan for some time now. Her mom has touched base a few times and Zuri has decided to return her calls and sometimes even picks up her phone once in a while. Her mom is struggling; Zuri can hear it in her voice. She is in no place, right now, to be a parent. That is for sure.

Aunt Jasmine is not fairing much better. Zuri is quite sure that it is a good thing that she has come to stay with her Aunt. Her Aunt needs her. The cancer treatment leaves Jasmine quite tired. Zuri has been making meals for the three of them. Jasmine is very thankful for the support. She acknowledges Zuri.

Alone at night, Zuri digs into the yoga bag. She finds my notes on the four immeasurables (see http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/bs-s15.htm). In my journals, have written about them at length: Joy, Equanimity, Compassion, and Loving-Kindness. I have written that the practice of these four states of mind can be a pathway to contentment and happiness. I wrote about how I have worked to be centered and happy even though my mother is very sick and far away.

Zuri connects to this immediately. Her mom is sick and far away too.

I wrote about how I try to find joy in the present moment. Not in way to snuff out the pain and sadness, but as a way to bring light into my life. Zuri reads this and looks over at Rashan doing his homework and tickles him. He laughs his contagious laugh and tickles her back. Joy.

I wrote about equanimity. How when I have a set back or a success, I try to take them both in stride and remind myself that the journey is the reward. The highs the lows, the days with no change, they are all the reward. I look for balance in my practice. I wrote how I try to think that the backslides in my mom's illness and progress in her treatment just are what they are and to stay present no matter what.

Zuri thinks about her mom’s sobriety and lack there of. Yeah. She gets it.

I wrote about compassion. I wrote a lot about self-compassion. I wrote about how I honor my efforts and my discouragements. I wrote about how I understand that my struggles are struggles that are, in their core, human struggles. I wrote how I want to love and honor myself always. I wrote that I acknowledge my efforts, that I see myself for what I am and what I am not and that is good.

Zuri thinks about her own efforts in school. Her average has dropped to 92. She worries. This is an A-. She has been so off routine with the move and all the driving back and forth to Aunt Jasmine's. She sets her eyes on tomorrows and honors her commitment to work even thought it has been hard. Zuri is sure that she likes self-compassion.

I wrote of loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is love, a warm big-hearted love that we offer to ourselves and to others. We wish ourselves well, those close to use well, those we barely know well, and those who frustrate us well. We love.

Zuri thought about Rashan and Jasmine, the people in her life that are easiest to love. She sent them love. Then she thought about Eric, her bother, and sent him love. She thought about her teachers and the staff at school and sent them love. Zuri thought about the crossing guards. She sent them love. Last, she thought about her mom’s addiction, her addicted mom. This was hard. She loves her mom when she is sober, but her drunk, drugged, spaced out mom- ugh this was hard. She held the drunk version of her mom in her head and she sent her love. She hoped that love she was sending would penetrate the drugs and get the core of her real mom-- the real mom who could feel the love she as sending.

The four immeasurables… Zuri sat back on the couch and thought that these were definitely good things. She took her pen and drew hearts around the edge of the journal pages upon which I had written. She closed the notebook and tucked it into the yoga bag.

Aunt Jasmine asked, “What do you have there baby?”

Zuri said, “My journals. They help me be okay Auntie.”

“Well, good then baby. You write.”

Zuri was ready for bed. Another long day was in store for tomorrow. Pausing, she pulled the bag back out. She opened my notes to the page of the four immeasurable and copied them down on the inside cover of her daily planner. She thought, “I need these close by.”

She and Rashan headed up to bed. With the yoga bag tucked under her bed, she curled up and fell sound asleep, wishing loving-kindness to her mom.

The Process

Our practices can become our self-administered, unconditional positive regard. There is no need to wait for others to come to the rescue. No need at all.

A daily routine of yoga asanas, meditation (like the four immeasurables), and journaling can cultivate the very conditions that we see when a person experiences an attuned attachment. There are powerful changes that can take place.

·      Your practice and self-regulation help create neurological integration.
·      Self-as-witness in meditation creates a sense of being seen and validated.
·      The processing of emotions and words in your journal narrative stories your experience, much like you might experience when a parent is telling a loving story about you.
·      The asanas create an embodied experience within which your breath, movement, and awareness are synchronized creating physical experience of connection, a yoking.

Self-care, self-love, and self compassion are powerful forces. No need to search outside of yourself.

Within the practice of yoga, within you, they can be found. You can be your own source of unconditional positive regard-- a very powerful source.

Practice and all is coming.





Rogers and Unconditional Love (from http://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html)

Carl Rogers (1902-1987) was a humanistic psychologist who agreed with the main assumptions of Abraham Maslow, but added that for a person to "grow", they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood).
Without these, relationships and healthy personalities will not develop, as they should, much like a tree will not grow without sunlight and water.
Rogers believed that every person can achieve their goals, wishes and desires in life. When, or rather if they did so, self actualization took place.  This was one of Carl Rogers’s most important contributions to psychology and for a person to reach their potential a number of factors must be satisfied.
Self Actualization
"The organism has one basic tendency and striving - to actualize, maintain, and enhance the experiencing organism” (Rogers, 1951, p. 487).
Rogers rejected the deterministic nature of both psychoanalysis and behaviorism and maintained that we behave as we do because of the way we perceive our situation. "As no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts on ourselves."
Carl Rogers (1959) believed that humans have one basic motive that is the tendency to self-actualize - i.e. to fulfill one's potential and achieve the highest level of 'human-beingingness' we can.  Like a flower that will grow to its full potential if the conditions are right, but which is constrained by its environment, so people will flourish and reach their potential if their environment is good enough.
However, unlike a flower, the potential of the individual human is unique, and we are meant to develop in different ways according to our personality.  Rogers believed that people are inherently good and creative.  They become destructive only when a poor self-concept or external constraints override the valuing process.  Carl Rogers believed that for a person to achieve self-actualization they must be in a state of congruence.
This means that self-actualization occurs when a person’s “ideal self” (i.e. who they would like to be) is congruent with their actual behavior (self-image).  Rogers describes an individual who is actualizing as a fully functioning person. The main determinant of whether we will become self-actualized is childhood experience.

The Woman Who have Birth to Her Mother, by Kim Chernin

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all storytellers. Our stories can be as simple as "the time I locked my keys in the car," or "the fish that got away." Or they can be complex and difficult to relate—stories less for relating an experience than for preserving that experience in a manageable form. The storytellers in Kim Chernin's The Woman Who Gave Birth to Her Mother are preserving the experiences of growing up with their mothers. Some tell their stories reluctantly; some in what seems like a single breath. One woman's story changes each time she tells it; another's offers a startling, hidden revelation. For each of these women, the process of telling a story is an opportunity to work through paralyzing pain, fear, loss or anger so that she can move on with her life. It is this transformation, and the ability to achieve it, that Chernin brings to light in this moving book. 
Chernin's book offers two primary messages. One is the idea that through telling stories or by objectifying certain events in our lives, we can create an emotional distance between ourselves and those events. This distance allows us the freedom to explore those events less painfully—and even to be healed through the telling of them. As a writer, Chernin reaches for the same technique she employs in her clinical practice, in which she is ethically (and legally) required to maintain confidentiality between herself and her client. By disguising the women in her stories Chernin is able not only to protect their identities, but also, perhaps, to more effectively explore the importance of the stories themselves. 
The other message is illustrated by a metaphor—the act of giving birth—that offers images of renewal and possibility, of creation and survival. By giving birth to her mother, a woman can re-create her own experience of childhood and provide herself with the kind of mothering she needs but perhaps never had. In this book, Chernin identifies a series of stages women go through in telling their "mother stories." Like most natural things, these stages do not occur linearly but cyclically. They are part of a transformative process that may take months or years to complete—or it may never be completed. What Chernin shows us is that learning to identify any given stage is more important than getting through it as it is through self-awareness that we grow. As a psychoanalyst, Chernin understands that progress is more often than not the result of breaking down an idea to examine its parts, of slowing down a process to fully experience it. This takes time, patience and courage. The mother-daughter relationship is both complicated and fragile. It is also strong, and not easily changed. For women who want to start the process of that change, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Her Mother offers understanding and guidance as well as women with compelling stories of their own.
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