Your idea of love is determined very quickly when you arrive on this planet. Whilst it may be adjusted over the course of your life, your childhood experiences impact your experience of love as an adult.
Children create ‘truths’ about love based on what they see
Children can’t discern the real truth, especially in their youngest years. They just take what’s in front of them and make it their truth. Whatever happens around them teaches them that ‘this is what life is like’.
Although young children are emotionally, instinctively and intuitively probably smarter than most adults(!), they are intellectually immature and don’t have enough facts or reference points to make considered judgements.
So absorbing their world like a sponge, children create their definition of love based on experiences with parents, siblings, friends, teachers, neighbours, strangers, animals and maybe even what they see on TV – anybody they share their life with.
When behaviour is linked to lovability
Take a seemingly harmless childhood experience such as being cherished when you got good grades but criticised when you didn’t. Or told off when you didn’t do as you were told and given treats when you did. Or perhaps something as subtle as being told that being quiet and polite (regardless of how you feel inside) is noble and proper.
Much like Pavlov’s dog, this conditioning instigated by well-meaning parents, teachers, anyone who wants you to ‘do well and succeed in life’, teaches you that love (in the form of acceptance and praise) is only given when you meet certain expectations, i.e. love is conditional.
(You can still set healthy boundaries and teach children right from wrong, this is not the same as placing conditions on love.)
Even bad situations become a child’s truth
Did one or both parents leave you? Chances are that your sub conscious definition of love is now equated with rejection and abandonment. After all, you were a child, you didn’t have the capacity to get other facts and make a balanced judgement. You believe what you see and what you see is that those who love you, leave you.
Very harmful experiences like abuse teach children that love is abuse. As bizarre as this sounds to a psychologically healthy adult, children are not capable of discerning otherwise.
Childhood experience manifests in adulthood
Our subconscious beliefs formed in childhood don’t come to us as clear thoughts in adulthood. They are very fast, involuntary and often go unnoticed. Or they manifest visibly as emotions, but we don’t always know what’s causing those emotions or we misinterpret them.
Like the superfast workings of this laptop – I can’t see the programming, I don’t really even know what’s happening, I just see the results.
This lack of awareness is why children who are abused often end up in abusive relationships as adults. It is why many people think they are in love but it collapses and turns to hate as soon as conditions are not met. This is why people have the same recurring problems in different relationships.
The mind simply instructs you to create a life based on what it believes to be true.
But what if it’s not true?
What did you learn about love as a child?
Take a good look at all the conditions, rules, and warped perceptions of love that you learned as a child. Even look at how media glamorises all these perceptions, how the celebrity world is full of people rapidly falling in and out of love. The more you probe, the more you will see all the misconceptions.
True love is not based on looks, money or intelligence, love is not abuse, arguing or abandonment, love is not doing what someone tells you to do, love is not pleasing someone with constant compliments and lavish gifts in the knowing that if you stop doing this, they will stop loving you.
And by the way – SO many people have a warped perception of love! So don’t feel alone or bad, don’t blame the people who interacted with you as a child and taught you this stuff, don’t blame the wider society and media. Most of them were just doing what they knew – for they too have had the same conditioning but didn’t have the self-awareness to recognise it.
But you do.
Strip away the nonsense, what are you left with?
Think about two people looking at each other. They could be anyone. Now between them, start stripping away the warped perceptions and conditions – looks, intelligence, money, behaviour. Remove the rules, the judgements, the ill treatment and the demands, the expectations and the neediness, the control, the people pleasing, the benchmarks. The mind.
What is left?
I’m going to leave you to answer that for yourself.
Just ask yourself when you get there – do you now understand true love?