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Natural Awakenings New York City

The Healing Power of Unconditional Love

Oct 09, 2019 12:02AM

By Michael Mongno

“Love, love, love.… All you need is love.”

—The Beatles, 1967

I grew up in a generation that was all about love. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, we can see how drastically times have changed. With politics across the world growing more divisive, it’s becoming more and more necessary for us to give and receive love. This human need is ever present and can be made conscious if we’re able to tune in to it, yet that can seem like an overwhelming task. It’s easy to give up and begin feeling like a victim of the world and everything around us. However, A Course in Miracles teaches, “I am not a victim of the world I see.” The only decision we ever have to make is whether to give in to fear or choose love.

Fear is always related to the ego, which thrives on judgment and the narcissistic need for self-aggrandizement. Most of the drama we see stems from a deep need for power over others in order to maintain the illusion of our own specialness and separateness from them. We have become too good at dehumanizing others (those of different genders, cultures, religions, politics) and thus turning them into objects. We fail to see that in doing so, we become objects to them. Compelled to defend ourselves against their judgments, we perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

The only way out of this constant dilemma is to start loving. This may seem a bit naive at first, unless we’re able to pause and start loving ourselves—totally and unconditionally, no matter what we’ve been told or even tell ourselves.

Loving ourselves can be difficult. It may go against how we were “wired” by our families or cultures at the early stages of our development. It takes real searching and openness to reflection from others—most poignantly from those closest to us—to become aware of how we’re treating ourselves. Very often this disparaging, negative treatment is what gets projected outward to others, as an unconscious intention to ease our own pain.

Loving ourselves unconditionally means having compassion and empathy for all that we are, including our deficits, defensiveness, low self-esteem and other areas that could use improvement. So we try, with real acceptance and loving kindness, to acknowledge that we’re usually doing the best we can.

If we’re hurting, we can learn to take care of ourselves in the moment instead of projecting our hurt outward onto others. (Hurt people hurt other people.) Here we have the opportunity to interrupt the cycle of pain by accepting responsibility for how we feel and then taking ownership of whatever negativity we may be unconsciously putting out into the world.

Loving Unconditionally

Loving unconditionally means loving without judgment, even when we feel judged or criticized by others. It takes discipline and requires developing the skills to manage our emotions in the moment.

It can also be seen as a spiritual practice, something Buddhists call “skillful speech and right action.” By staying conscious, we’re called to transcend whatever uncomfortable drama is being created in the moment for the sake of experiencing something bigger and better.

This bigger, better something is peace—peace that indeed surpasses all understanding, as it’s greater than what the mind can imagine. It’s a feeling of contentment that can be felt in the center of our being, a joy that radiates out to others and can change the whole energy of a situation. As with meditation, when we practice peace, we transform ourselves from the inside out. With steady practice, we will model what Thich Nhat Hahn calls “peace in every step and love with every breath.”

Michael Mongno, Ph.D., counsels individuals and couples. His office is located near Lincoln Center in Midtown Manhattan, at 100 W. 67th St., Ste. #2NE. For more information, call 212-799-0001 or visit