My friend was wondering about the following question in an email, and she liked my answer so much that I decided to post it here too:
Q: I’ve been thinking a lot about unconditional love and acceptance of self. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Well I guess acceptance of self depends on self-awareness first. You can’t accept what you’re not aware of. Self-awareness is stifled both by a lack of feedback and a lack of introspection. A baby learns what a person is by watching other people. Eventually it realizes that it is one of those things it sees walking around and talking. Therefore people are not as aware of themselves as they are of the people around them. What I always strive for is self-awareness, but that is extremely hard. I’ve invested years of my life just trying to gain an adequate amount of self-awareness.
Another thing to think about are the psyche’s self-promoting protective barriers. All beliefs in (a loving) God are such protections. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t live in reality, but must erect defenses which allow them to love themselves. Obviously these barriers can be damaging, because they blind the person from reality, allowing them to hurt other people in the process. But from this point of view, very few people can actually love themselves – most have to lie to themselves instead. So is it ethical to lie to oneself and thereby gain the self-confidence which comes from believing false things? Or is it better to have the life force sucked out of you by confronting the truth? It’s a choice each individual has to make (I basically chose the latter).
The more others accept you, the less self-accepting you have to do. Therefore self-acceptance is most necessary when no one else accepts you. But how to do it without holding any delusions?
One of the best techniques I’ve found is to acquire some secret knowledge. Secret knowledge is so valuable that most people harbor secrets that aren’t even true. The self-esteem value of having a secret is far more important than whether it is true or not. Hence all the talk about the Illuminati and other conspiracy theories. But these are delusions. Other secret knowledge is actually true, and this kind can give you a legitimate boost to your self esteem. If you gain secret knowledge, it can help a lot. That’s how I get a lot of my self-esteem.
But beyond that, what can you do?
Well, it’s easy to say “Find where you belong!”, but anyone’s who’s done that probably has enough self-love. For a lot of people, they don’t belong anywhere. And then what? We could take the opposite approach and make a list of all the things which prevent you from killing yourself. In other words, stare death straight in the face. People don’t want to do this because maybe their reasons for living will turn out to be delusions. But if you’re really want to find self-love, you could make a commitment to killing yourself if you can’t find things which really and truly keep you from doing so. In other words, forget what anyone else says about why you should live, and confront the matter on your own. You will find self-love or die trying! Honestly, that’s probably the best way to approach the topic, because now it’s just between you and you. You want self-love? That’s how you find it.
Okay, let’s say you’ve chosen to live. Now you have your baseline. Now we want more things. Maybe we can’t get them, but as long as we’re alive, we might as well try. What does love get you here? It seems to me that more love equals more confidence, hence greater risk-taking and better chances of reward. But there is so much competition for the rewards of life. Why would anyone love you who was competing with you? Can we expect people to love us when we are competing with them? No. Therefore you can only expect love from people outside the areas you are competing with them for. Maybe you can get it, but maybe not. Obviously self-love is good when there’s no other source. But when you are competing, people will have less compassion for you, because they will not see you as needy or desperate, so why should they love you? Only unusually strong people will be able to love someone who doesn’t help them directly.
Unconditional love is very rare indeed. Most people need to spend all their time on their own needs. To love something unconditionally means to get outside oneself. It’s impractical. Life is more of a barter system, where people use each other rather than love each other. In the case of genetic kin, there is a kind of genetic love which is sometimes unconditional, but only if it succeeds in pushing the relation’s ego out of the way.
I think the desire for unconditional love is to alleviate guilt. The unloved is wondering what they did or could have done to cause the undesired outcome. How can someone be convinced that there was nothing they could have done? If they’ve received the shadow-projection of a close relation, then that relation received a boost of confidence, at the cost of the target’s being overwhelmed with doubt. Sometimes that’s the most important thing for someone to realize, the key to alleviating unbearable guilt. On the other hand, maybe that someone is guilty. Did their mother love them so much that they expect to be loved even while oppressing their rivals?
Let’s not look for unconditional love. What I seek is unconditional fairness, that I will not be blamed – nor loved – for that which I did not do. And I seek wisdom, so that I can know whether what I do ought to be blamed or loved. And patience, of course, for when what is blamed ought to be loved instead, and vice versa.