Unconditional Love and Self-esteem – A Psychological Study of Child Abuse Victims’ Emotional Journey

unconditional. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all need love. This is because that love make us feel connected to others, and this connection eases, or even eliminates our biggest fear: loneliness. Thus love becomes the greatest – sometime the only – reason for us to live.

But, unfortunately, love from others are not entirely secure. It comes and goes without warning and it’s not within our controls. This is because love from others usually is “conditional”, which means it happens only if we possess certain conditions, such as physical beauty, wealth, social status, etc. So without these conditions, we are in danger of losing love. But, if one possesses a type of love that is “unconditional”, he/she would feel the most secure in his/her life, because this love is provided regardless how he/she is, and stays with him/her as long as he/she lives. 

So where does unconditional love come from? I found that they mostly come from two sources: 1, parents; 2, one’s own.

1. Unconditional love from parents 

By nature, of human or animals, parents love their kids UNCONDITIONALLY. That means, no matter how their kids are, beautiful or plain, smart or dumb, healthy or sick, parents love them just the same. This is because children are the continuation of parents’ lives, so parents naturally love their kids as the way they love themselves. Also, from perspective of social responsibility, it was parents who brought children to this world without children’s “permission”, so it’s parents’ duty to provide a secure and loving environment to their children.

People who received this unconditional love from parents are the most fortunate, because from the very beginning of their lives they learned that they could be loved just the way they are. So naturally, this “learned knowledge” has been “implanted” inside of them, became their natural “understanding” of themselves, became their unconditional self-love that could last life time long. Most of these lucky people rarely experience emotional problems in their adult life, social anxiety for them is just as foreign as aliens from outer space. They feel naturally to be themselves when interacting with people, easily to do their best in they jobs. They can easily reach their life potentials, personal life wise and career wise, and constantly feel content and happy.

2. Childhood without parents’ love

But, not everyone is so lucky to receive parents’ unconditional love. Human race became so much more complicated than wild animals, so alienated from nature that it can go beyond our comprehension. One of the most “unnatural” attributes of human race is the fact that there are many parents DO NOT love their children. They either brought kids to the world by accidents, or use their children as a means to reach their practical purposes, or to satisfy their vanity. So when their children do not fit their purpose, they dislike them, hate them, abuse them, or worse, abandon them.

Individuals who suffer from this kind of abuse usually establish some unhealthy mental conditions in very young age, such as the feeling of inadequate, self-loathing, etc. because not being good enough was the first “knowledge” they learned from their parents. They would develop various kinds of emotional troubles, often life time long. They had strong fear of being rejected by others, because if they were rejected, they would fall into that unspeakably dark pit of childhood, RE-EXPERIENCE that dreadful feeling of being abused, being alone, being emotionally or physically estranged, even abandoned.

So they strive very hard to gain others’ acceptance and love. And by doing so, they put “others” over themselves, act according to others’ needs, and eventually, they don’t know what they want, who they really are. They lost that most valuable life compasses which originally existed inside their hearts, the one that bestowed to them by our nature, or “God”, which factually is the only beacon of our happiness.

Thus, the harder they strive, the farther they stray away from happiness.

3, Regain unconditional love by one’s own. 

But, things don’t have to be one way or another. Human race has great plasticity that guarantees our resilience to a great (if not unlimited) extent. For those who did not receive unconditional love from parents, as soon as they realized that their lack of self love is not due to their own nature, but “others” (parents) interference, they can put themselves in action to retrieve their own nature, and eventually regain self esteem. 

The first step of this recovery is ACCEPTANCE. They need to accept themselves as the way they are. This includes to stop beating themselves when making mistakes, stop pushing themselves to be someone else, to be “better”, to do “the best”, etc. Because initially, most of these child abuse victims did nothing wrong from the beginning. Their “wrong” behaviors or mistakes are mostly imagined. It was themselves who treat themselves so strictly, and this “hobby” of course is directly come from the way how their parents treated them.

This is significant. Because by doing this, they can be mentally relieved from the punishment they used to inflict on themselves, just like what their parents did when they were little. And more importantly, in case they made mistakes, real or imagined, they need to start telling themselves that “it is OK”. This was what their parents should have told them but “failed” to do so when they were so young. By telling themselves that “it’s OK to make mistake”, “it’s OK to be fragile”, or “you are alright, you are well protected”, these child abuse victims are simply making up an extremely important stage for mental development, that is to accept our imperfection, and understand that they can still be emotional secure (be loved) even they make mistakes.

Another EXTREMELY MEANINGFUL aspect of “allowing” themselves to make mistake, or to be humans, is that during this process, there would emerge another role inside themselves – “parent”. By being their own parents, they not only provide this unconditional love to themselves, they also become “parents”, become adults who are MATURE and STRONG. So there will be no more fear! There is a tricky psychological situation here that most people who had happy childhood never know, that for most of those who never received parents love, on one hand they missed childhood, never had right to be children, on another hand they always have that primal urge to stay as child, refused to grow up, because being a child is such essential need for all of us, without it we just mentally cannot go further (This is why Michael Jackson never had been a child, but also he was mentally a child all his life). So by letting themselves eventually be a child, they would gain the “power” of parents at the same time, and finally become a grown-up. (I first learned this through a book In the Spotlight by Janet Esposito, and later I had first hand experience myself. It was overwhelming and life changing!).

Of course, after this first step, the path to self-esteem would be still long and bumpy. But no matter what, this first one is the most crucial, and as soon as it is achieved, the rest of it will be relatively easier. And even by achieving this first step alone, without further progress, child abuse victims would feel a profound change, and this change alone would be enough for them to live a happy life.

Yes, love is the most important aspect of life. If one has love, he/she will be happy. Further more, if one possesses the UNCONDITIONAL love, no matter it is from parents, lovers or friends, he/she will be the happiest. And ultimately, if this unconditional love is from his/herself, he/she will be fear free, worry free, because not even loneliness can deprive him/her of feeling loved.

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