Dear Donagh,
I have visited your website several times. One article - Falling Out of Love - I sent to my sister, she found it helpful and passed it to her friend too. So I send her address of your website. It is good to have an opportunity to ask an question and receive an open answer. Thanks for that. I try to find "my cardinal question" that I have been solving for very long time: Why should a person love her/himself? Where can he/she find reason for it? Sometimes I try to be perfect, but it does not work, does not bring love or happiness. When I fail "to be perfect" according to my images (ideas), I become unhappy and often self-destructive. It is such a sad circle. I know that love should be "without conditions", but for me that is only words, I cannot live it in reality. Something is wrong and I cannot see what. How can I get over it? I feel that the relation to myself affects all other relations. When I do not accept myself because of something I cannot accept others.
Things in my life can be black or white, nothing between. Such world is quite sad. I am judging the others and I fear their judgements and non-acceptance. Sometimes I feel that such a world is false, that I live in world of my images and prejudices. I keep hope that God can help me because He is Way, Truth and Life and because "the Truth will set you free". But I am afraid that if my image of love is wrong, my image of God is wrong too and I am blind and wrong. Sometimes I am tired and discontented by worshipping "my God". On the otherhand I believe that world is not only black and white.… Silvia

Dear Silvia, For the first time I have a face to go with a question! When I met you I had no impression at all that you were agonising over this question; your life seemed to 'flow' with great ease and naturalness. I'm sure that's how it should be. And I feel sure that that already contains the wisdom you are looking for. We don’t need a reason for loving ourselves; we can love ourselves with great ease and naturalness. It's just normal, it's not a problem in itself. The instinct of self-preservation is the basic form of self-love. When you are in physical danger the body automatically reacts to protect itself; it doesn’t ask why. Similarly at all the levels of our being there is an unselfconscious "positing of the self," as the philosopher put it. Thinking is a wonderful capacity that we human beings have, but when it begins to undermine areas of our life that are working perfectly well it becomes a problem. In the natural sequence of things, action comes first, then self-criticism if it's needed. But if self-criticism comes first, the roots of our action are cut. Something has pushed you to become over-critical of yourself; something or someone made you doubt yourself, and this is the problem, not you.

Sometimes you try to be perfect. An idea of perfection is standing over you with strict demeanour, demanding correctness in every detail. Or rather it is inside you. So it gives you no rest, you can't get away from it. This idea has the capacity to make you suffer immensely and for your whole life. Such ideas are usually not as abstract as they seem: they have a human face, the face of someone who has some powerful influence over us. You mentioned in another letter that your mother is disappointed in you, that she has had difficulties of her own, and that these have a bearing on your own difficulty. Perhaps her voice is always sounding inside you, repeating her disappointment, saying that everything you do is useless. I think it would be helpful, Silvia, to identify this voice as your mother's voice.  It is not your own. Listen to the tone of it, learn to recognise it by its repetitions. Then listen for your own voice. This may be very quiet and hesitant, hardly more than a whisper - because it is so used to being overruled by the other voice. But it is your voice and the only one the world wants to hear.

I know in fact that you do much better than you think! You are very pleasant company and you speak in your own voice. But the inner feeling, you say, is different. If there's a word I would urge at this moment it's the word 'trust'. Trust what you already do so well. I've seen you living and I know that you are bright and friendly, kind and helpful, a very loveable person. There is no call for anyone or anything to cut in and undermine that. The mind, especially the critical mind, knows all about judgment; it knows all about black and white - you could say it IS judgment. By itself it cannot generate love or happiness. Love doesn’t know much, if anything, about conditions; conditions are the mind's substitute for love. You already have in you a richer resource than that.

God loves us without conditions. "How has God loved us?" Eckhart asked himself. "He loved us when we were not, and when we were his enemies." Julian of Norwich has a motherly voice, if any Christian writer ever had. "I saw," she wrote, "that the Lord is to us everything that is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us." If you could listen to this motherly voice it would encourage rather than silence your own.
God bless you, Silvia

Donagh O'Shea

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