Most of my patients, at least from time to time, will bring up the topic of love. It ranges from who they love, being loved, not being loved, and being hurt by a loved one. Invariably, the topic of unconditional love emerges. People ask, “why am I not loved unconditionally” and “I love (so and so) unconditionally.” Have you ever wondered what exactly unconditional love is? Is unconditional love humanly possible? Does your dog love you unconditionally but your human companions can’t?
Can psychology help us understand unconditional love? While there are many questions about the nature of unconditional love, I find that the scientific psychological study of human emotional experiences, such as love, leaves much to be desired. I prefer to look to the arts to help us understand the human experience of emotion. The arts evoke emotion helping us actually have the internal experience of the feeling. The scientific study of emotion falls short of what the arts provide limited by an intellectual focus. The arts access the irrational where emotion resides and science accesses the rational where logic resides.
So to try to understand unconditional love, let’s look to one of my favorite singer song writers, Willy Porter. He actually has a song called “Unconditional.” Willy has an amazing talent of making the listener experience emotion. He accesses deep regions of emotion in his vocal stylings, has poignant lyrics that wander into the irrational, and a percussive guitar style and sound that will stir the most guarded heart. Take a listen to this recording of the song Unconditional and notice how you feel. Use the feeling to guide you to love others as unconditionally as you can. My take on unconditional love is that it is an ideal we strive for but our humanness distracts our ability to love consistently. Use your emotional response to the song, and other music or artwork to guide you back to a place of love when you drift away. If you are experiencing that feeling inside yourself while interacting with another, that’s as good as it gets.
The questions on unconditional love remain. Is unconditional love humanly possible? You decide. Does your dog love you unconditionally? That’s hard to say. You give the dog affection and food and it sure feels nice.
To a good life.
Mark Hansen, PhD, Licensed Psychologist
“Unconditional” by Willy Porter