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What is True Love, Really?

Unconditional love is rare and very difficult to do. Are you willing to try?

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When you love unconditionally, you have no choice but to shed the selfishness and insecurity that are often the very causes of your suffering. There is no time to be self-centered if your newborn twins require nightly diaper changes at 3am. Indeed, you will find that the act of loving itself gives you happiness, not receiving love from others. If you hold others responsible for making you happy, you will eventually be disappointed.

Instead, decide to love others regardless of how they treat you, and experience the hidden joy of this simple choice. Of course, do not stay in abusive relationships. Unconditional love does not require that you subject yourself to excessive mistreatment. In such cases, the first step is forgiveness, which is explored in another "Cloud Nine" article.

MORE: How to be kind to yourself

Unfortunately, loving unconditionally does not come to most people naturally. So how do we do it?

  1. Start with yourself. As I’ve discussed in a previous Cloud Nine article, nearly all of us suffer from a lack of self-love. It is virtually impossible to truly love others without regarding yourself with compassion and acceptance. Loving-kindness meditation is a great way to begin this process, and leads to increased experiences of positive emotions such as joy and hope1.
  2. Select a target. Think of someone who deserves your unconditional love. It could be a parent, husband or wife, sibling, or friend. Start with someone with whom you already have a healthy relationship and gradually expand to others from there.
  3. Become other-oriented. Set aside your personal preferences or concerns. Focus on what you can do for someone else and the satisfaction you will feel when you do it. Do it graciously and without expecting anything in return. Give yourself the chance to love this way, even if it feels a bit uncomfortable at first.

Discover the delight of investing in the wellbeing of someone else. Feel the freedom of dropping your skepticism and trusting in the benefits of loving others. Although you may feel vulnerable, love will protect you. In truth, loving freely, without fear, and unconditionally is far more powerful than you may believe. Go ahead and see for yourself.

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1. Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1045-1062.

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