You want success, wealth and acclaim. I want freedom, acceptance and self-expression. Everybody’s list might sound a little different. But what if we’re all really looking for unconditional love — and we’re all pursuing it in the ways we were programmed to believe would get it?
Our fantasy idea of home is the thing we’re all looking for, because that is where we’ll be loved unconditionally. It’s where people will understand us and accept us. It’s the place where we will be able to open up to others — and experience something like a mirror of our own soul.
We’re looking for a partner who accepts and mirrors us — our thoughts, our values, our hopes, our dreams.
We’re looking for people who somehow feel like home — who feel familiar and who give us a sense of belonging.
On some level, we all want a hearth roaring with the fire of a shared home — because it represents something deep in our shared genetic history.
We’re longing for the love we’ve lost or been denied. We’re longing to be connected to people who we’ve lost or maybe never even had. We’re longing for a connection to places we believe are home, whether we have any reason to maintain those fantasy connections or not.
For some, the fantasy of home is tied to a particular place — an old house or a piece of land. For those, there’s an irrational connection to a place and there’s a feeling that all is lost if that place is gone for them.
For others, home is more of an abstract fantasy of a future they long to create. It’s images of children and a home and family meals together and the rituals of family life.
For me, it’s a wife who understands me and loves who I am, someone who trusts me completely to love her and take care of her needs. It’s mutual support and commitment to shared values. It’s raising children to share our values and to later go out into a lost and fallen world with a determination to make it a more loving place.
We even use home as a metaphor for heaven because it represents everything we long for. A common Christian theme is that of being a stranger in this world and of longing to be “home where I belong,” in the words of a popular old Pat Terry song.
Every one of us feels incredibly alone in this world. Some of us are more aware of it than others, so we deal with it in different ways. Some of us become depressed and turn inward when we realize that others aren’t like us and that no one offers the unconditional love we long for. Others prefer not to notice that they’re alone. They get hard and cynical. They lie to themselves. It’s easier to pretend that others are essentially like them on the inside, so maybe those people will eventually change — despite evidence to the contrary.
The realization that other people’s thoughts and feelings are fundamentally different from our own is deeply disorienting, which is why most people prefer to assume those who disagree with them are liars or idiots or monsters.
When others don’t give us the love and support and understanding which we desperately need, it’s easier to make excuses for them. Maybe we tell ourselves we don’t deserve to be loved. Maybe we tell ourselves that those people do love us, despite all evidence to the contrary.
But through it all, we keep running old mental scripts from childhood — and we don’t even recognize what we’re doing.
If you were given love — or at least the attention that felt like love — for achievements when you were young, you are going to wander through life desperately trying to regain those childhood feelings that came when you were successful. If the people whose love you needed habitually praised you for success, you will keep trying to succeed. You’ll even tell yourself this is who you are — instead of realizing it’s just an old habit designed to win the favor of someone long gone.
Whatever it took back then to get love — or even the counterfeits of love such as outward acceptance or praise — will be the thing you pursue. Since our childish interpretations of emotions, love and cause-and-effect were so immature back then, we will be stuck with those unconscious interpretations today. We won’t even realize they’re there.
And the things that failed to give us unconditional love then will continue to fail us today. We will continue to go through life trying to get something from someone who isn’t there — maybe from our childish interpretation of who someone was or maybe even from someone who’s no longer alive.
We can never be good enough or successful enough or loving enough — or whatever we think we’re supposed to be — to gain the approval of the terrible godlike figures we have erected in our heads.
We have to stop trying to win love and approval and understanding from those who can never give it to us. We have to set new programming for ourselves. We have to surround ourselves with people who are also driven to be emotionally healthy — and who believe that a real family has to be filled with unconditional love and understanding and acceptance. (Part of that is getting away from those who are emotionally unhealthy and destructive, because those people will destroy us if we allow them to.)
Until we reject the programming we received as children — the programming we were too immature to evaluate for ourselves — we will continue going through the world trying to earn love from someone who isn’t there.
You deserve better than that.
I deserve better than that.
We deserve the unconditional love that we all crave — and we’re only going to find it by changing what we believe home and family are.
Once we’ve done that, we can build those warm and safe homes with the loving people who we choose for ourselves.