by Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D.
The first principle of Attitudinal Healing is: The essence of our being is love.
What, then, is love? Because it must be experienced in order to be meaningful, I can't define it for you except to say that it is the total absence of fear and the recognition of complete union with all life. We love another when we see that our interests are not separate. This is always a union of higher minds and not an alliance of egos.
It isn't possible to evaluate or prove love in the usual ways. The fact that we are not able to measure it does not make it less real. We have all had glimpses of pure, unconditional love, and there is unquestionably a part of us that knows it exists. We become aware of love whenever we choose to accept people without judging them and commence the gentle effort of giving without any thought of getting something in return. This means, for example, that true love is not giving in order to change another's attitude from a bad mood to one of lightheartedness or from ingratitude to one of thanks to us. True love is a completely pure and unencumbered form of giving. It is extended freely to the love in others and is its own reward.
The word love, as we generally use it, means something quite different from real love. It is conditional love -- giving in order to get. It is a bargain, a trade arrangement. This is often fairly obvious in romantic relationships in which each partner is giving with the expectation that it will be returned in the specific form that is desired. Conditional love is also what passes for kindness in most parent/child relationships. Here, the extension of love is contingent on approved behavior and attitudes. Parents frequently seek an affirmation of their own worth through the accomplishments of their child and through "payments" of respect. Children often love their parents only when they get what they think they want, whether this be a new possession or approval and praise. Such love is neither dependable nor permanent, and its temporary nature causes us to carry the underlying fear that we are about to be abandoned.
When we are giving true love, our concern is not with our own or anyone else's behavior. We feel natural because we recognize that love is our natural state. We are not aware of limitations. We don't question the possibility of devotion, and we are not preoccupied with time. We are only conscious of now and all it contains. When we are extending love, we are free and at peace. Attitudinal Healing shows us how to allow ourselves to experience this kind of love -- the only love that is eternal.
Love Is Our Essence
We all say that we want to have less conflict, fear, stress, and depression. And deep within our hearts we do want this. But on the level from which we function most of the time, we rarely choose peace over conflict and happiness over fear because of the sacrifices we believe this choice must entail. We also believe that there is satisfaction in revenge, that we can be right by proving someone else wrong, that to humble someone who is being difficult will give us "a little peace and quiet." It seems logical to us to be stern with our children in order to teach them gentleness. We think that there are people who deserve to lose because of their behavior and that the pain they receive is just. We try to increase love with one person by excluding others. We mistake guilt for attraction; we believe that pain can be pleasurable and that taking is getting. Then we are puzzled as to why this approach to life does not bring us peace, and yet we see no reason to change our basic beliefs.
It is obvious that we need an experience which will bring clarity to our mind. The experience we all need more of is love. In order to move more deeply into an atmosphere of love, we must identify less with the body and more with our love-related emotions. These are the feelings that speak to us of what has always been within us but what our shabby self-image has not allowed us to see. To recognize it we have to bring it forth, for only by extending what is good can we know and believe in the good within us and that we ourselves are good. However, to bring it out does not always mean to act it out but rather to bring it into our hearts and minds.
A preoccupation with the body and its behavior does not allow love to flood our mood, because the body is merely what is different and separate. In order to love, we must recognize what is the same within us and all living things. The love in us can unite with the love in others, but two bodies can never become one.
Emotions that center on the body and exclude others are negative or self-denying. As a first step, we must honestly and gently question our investment in how our body looks -- in how we have adorned it, honored it, and employed it and in how we calculate the fair amount of credit, thanks, influence, money, or popularity that our body should receive. To the degree that we value our body identity, we tend to downplay or ignore altogether our real identity, which is love.
This gentle questioning does not call for impulsive or drastic changes in behavior or lifestyle. It calls for nothing more than simple, calm noticing, especially inner noticing. Once we recognize our true value, if any external changes are needed, these will occur naturally and in their own time. If we become preoccupied with what we do rather than how we do it, we needlessly delay ourselves. Attitudinal Healing is concerned only with how. Are we acting with love, with peace, with happiness, and with certainty? If we are, whatever we do will promote those states.
A preoccupation with other people's bodies and bodily behavior leads us to believe that our body determines what kind of person we are and what kind of relationships we must settle for. We may get momentary pleasure from the fact that others seem less attractive than we do, and some people may be drawn to us because of our personality or special accomplishments, but we always know in our heart that relationships based on such things are shallow and fleeting. We really don't want people to be attracted to us because of our bodies but because of what there is about us that is changeless and timeless. We want people to understand us and love us because they truly see us. They cannot do this while relating to us only as a body. We want to be aware, and we want others to be aware, of the golden glow from within and not merely the glitter of surface appearances. The part of us with which we identify determines this outcome. What we put forth, mentally and emotionally, is what others relate to. We are either extending gentleness, joy, kindness, openness, and peace or we are hiding behind a purely physical identification. We can't do both, because one is love and the other is fear.
Many things we do not understand simply because we are not yet in a position to do so. This is why patience with other people's experiences and points of view is not only a comfort to them but a relief to us as well. Love overlooks differences, for it notices something of far greater importance: how much alike we are because how much like love itself we are. Once we see this honestly, we quickly begin to lose our fear of others and to gain confidence in our potential harmlessness as well. The more we enfold others in this harmlessness, through releasing our own mind of defensiveness and suspicion, the more we begin to glimpse the vast harmlessness of the universe and how utterly impossible it would be for any living thing to suffer for very long in any true sense. There is an end to pain. There is a point beyond which misery cannot go. Never are we left comfortless.
This article is excerpted from the book:
Teach Only Love
by Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D.
About the Author
Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., a child and adult psychiatrist, is a graduate of Stanford Medical School. He founded the first Center for Attitudinal Healing, now a worldwide network with independent centers in over thirty countries, and is an internationally recognized authority in the fields of psychiatry, health, business, and education. Dr. Jampolsky has published many books, including his best-sellers Love Is Letting Go of Fear and Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All.