Unconditional Love is the Sine Qua Non of Conflict Resolution

Where there is conditional relating (where you’re seen for what you do) there is conflict; where there is unconditional relating (being loved for Self) conflict does not arise. Unconditionality is not a licence for you or another to do what he or she likes; on the contrary, unconditional relating puts the responsibility for Self and one’s own actions fairly and squarely on the shoulders of each party to a relationship. Unconditionality is that place of ‘I-ness’, that place of separateness, that solid interiority where nothing is buried under the carpet or where everybody else is not held accountable for how you feel; they are accountable for their own actions, just as you are. On the other hand, conditionality brings about quite the opposite scenario to unconditionality. Conditionality is a defensive means of passing the buck of responsibility for your life onto another; it is the place of ‘You-ness’, where communication is always about the other person and there is not a consciousness present that each adult is responsible for Self and for everything that arises from Self. Conditionality, too, is that place of enmeshment, of entanglement, where individuals are inhabiting each other’s space rather than occupying their own unique interiority. It is also that place of dependence, of lean-to-relationship and it is the most common way that individuals relate to each other. When couple relationships are of a conditional nature, it is because it is fearful for each individual to be separate, to be independent, to be one’s own Self, to reside in one’s own individuality, to be different, to be private and to enjoy one’s own company. It is not that individuals do not know that conditionality is an entrapment; it is that it is highly dangerous to be separate. When enmeshment is extreme, murder, violence, self-harming, attempted suicide and suicide are often the consequences when one person attempts to step outside the conditions. Typical conditions are:

  •             ‘You should be there for me’
  •             ‘You should take responsibility for me’
  •             ‘You should always agree with me’
  •             ‘You should be the same as me’
  •             ‘You should only consider my needs’
  •             ‘You should be successful’
  •             ‘You should conform to my ways’
  •             ‘We should do everything together’
  •             ‘You should let me live my life for you’
  •             ‘You should live your life for me’

Conditions, though always protective in nature, are tyrannical. It is a case of what I call the tyranny of the ‘shoulds’, ‘the musts’, the ‘ought to’s’. or the ‘should nots’, the ‘must nots’, or the ought nots’ and it is highly perilous to assert: ‘I’m here to live my life and I would wish for you to take responsibility for your own life.’

Examples of the conditional ‘nots (best heard as ‘knots’) are:

  •             ‘Your should not have your own friends’
  •             ‘You must not have a different opinion to mine’
  •             ‘You must not leave me’
  •             ‘You must not fail’
  •             ‘You must not leave me down’
  •             ‘You ought not have preferences of your own’
  •             ‘You should never be late’

Conditions operate in most couple relationships and in all the different settings in which those relationships take place. The power of conditionality is that it transfers responsibility over to another and, thereby, eliminates risks of failure, judgement, criticism and rejection. Where there is conditionality between two individuals – husband-wife, manager-employee, employee-employee, parent-child, politician-citizen, teacher-student, policeman-citizen – one of the parties will employ bullying and the other passivity to maintain the conditional and enmeshed nature of the relationship. Given all of this, it is not one bit surprising that there is an unspoken secret that ‘unconditionality is the sine qua non of conflict resolution.’ As long as conditionality reigns, each person’s progress is massively blocked, but unless it becomes psycho-socially safe to be real, authentic, to inhabit one’s own individuality, then individuals will continue to hide behind the defensive walls of conditionality. If unconditionality was present, the places where we live, play, work, pray, create would be radically different. It is an urgent responsibility for each adult to seek that independent, separate and alone place – the benefits for all are life-enhancing. However, as long as we seek refuge in others rather than within ourselves, the secret of unconditionality will remain unspoken.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist and author. Tony will give a lecture ‘The Inner Course’ in West Wing 6, UCC,  on Tuesday, 28th July, 8 – 9.30 p.m. Opportunities to gain information on Tony’s UCC Certificate, Diploma and Higher Diploma courses on Communication, Parent Mentoring and Relationship Studies respectively will be provided. Admission free.