si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Can You Love A Paedophile?

One of my oldest friends just got thrown in jail, after pleading guilty to paedophilia.

I sat in the court room for three days, and even though I wasn’t specifically involved (I was just there as a character reference), it was still one of the most intense weeks of my life.

Now, I’ve blathered on here for years about love, specifically, unconditional love.

I’ve consciously chosen to be as unconditionally loving as I can (which increases the more I heal, wonderfully).

Yet paedophilia is generally considered to be one of the most morally reprehensible things a person can do.

Is such a person even deserving of love, or really, should we chuck them in jail and throw away the key?

Obviously, people have been very seriously hurt here. Innocent children. With long lasting and major consequences.

I struggled with the choice I had to make for days: Should I stay in contact? Should I write to him and support him while he’s inside?

Ultimately though I realised there were only two possibilities that covered the entire universe.

  1. He was actually innocent (and pleaded guilty for other reasons – eg, inability to afford to fight the case weighed against likelihood of a worse sentence if he didn’t plead).
  2. He was guilty.

If he’s innocent and in jail, then yes, of course he deserves love and support.

If he’s guilty, then he may not deserve it, but he will certainly need it. Society needs it, if there’s to be any hope for his rehabilitation and not simply coming out of prison in an even worse state than he went in (as happens with such a high percentage of ex-cons).

This definitely felt like the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make, in terms of loving someone. Angry girlfriends or grumpy siblings or even myself are trivial by comparison.

And yet, as I write this I realise, I didn’t need to make it all so complicated.

It’s right there in the name; UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

My choosing to continue to love him has nothing to do with his actions. If it does then it’s not unconditional, is it?

However awful his past actions, however many people he’s hurt, however large the damage, I can choose to be loving.

An important caveat here – me loving him isn’t putting myself in any danger, or hurting me in any way. Being loving doesn’t mean standing in traffic, or otherwise neglecting to love ourselves first.

Of course, this also doesn’t mean I condone what’s happened. Or that he shouldn’t be in jail (if guilty). But while he’s responsible for his actions (and thus the consequences he’s now living with), I am responsible for mine.

And, for better or worse, I choose unconditional love, and yes I will be writing to him.

It never ceases to amaze me how much judgement messes things up for us, in terms of leading a better, more loving life.

[Sorry, I have been specifically requested not to publicly discuss any of the aspects of the case. Thank you for respecting this]


    Celebrate The Small Victories

    I recently flew from London to New Zealand.

    To say it was a disaster is an understatement. Although to be fair, I did get home safely, on time and with all my bags.

    I booked this particular flight a year ago. It comprised of two legs, from London to Sydney, then from Sydney to Wellington.

    Less than 24 hours before I flew I discovered (completely by accident) that not one but both legs had been cancelled.

    The Sydney->Wellington leg I’d been shovelled onto a later flight, which meant 11 hours sitting in Sydney airport (instead of an hour and a half).

    The London->Sydney leg was even worse. That had been changed to London->Hong Kong, with no connection between Hong Kong and Sydney.

    That’s right: if I hadn’t rung the airline, I would have been unceremoniously dumped in Hong Kong and left there. No, really.

    Ok, so, I managed to get those two issues sorted. After I waited 45 minutes for the airline to answer the phone (my 5th airline related call in two days) – and a one hour twenty minute call in total.

    When I got to the airport, I went to the wrong gate. There were two flights leaving for Hong Kong at the same time, from different ends of the airport.

    So, I had to sprint to the correct gate as they were already boarding.

    Finally, when I was on the plane the TV screen was broken (plus the one in the next empty seat), so I had 12 hours with only my thoughts for company (Argh! The Horror!). Ok ok, so I have a soft spot for watching movies on long haul flights. Oh, and I couldn’t easily move seats because I’d ordered a special meal.

    The second leg (from Hong Kong->Sydney) the screen was working (yay!) but as a consolation prize the flight attendant tipped a cup of coffee into both sleeves of my shirt (yes, quite some achievement).

    Oh, and of course there was a screaming kid most of the way too.

    Then I had to get a boarding pass in Sydney, which involved asking for directions multiple times (“Just go down the escalator – you can’t miss it!”), and walking around the entire airport twice, only to discover that the night before the down escalator had been removed, and there were no signs. At all.

    The flight to Wellington I sat next a large South African couple who alternated between complaining about everything (including things I would never have thought possible – the accent of the flight attendant?!?) and nudging me. Non stop. For two hours. I was utterly exhausted and had hoped to sleep.

    When I finally arrived, my sister was coming to pick me up. She wasn’t answering her phone and was nowhere to be found.

    To call the whole journey a cluster fuck wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

    The interesting thing though? My reactions:

    • Hearing about the 11 hour layover: a bit gobsmacked, but no real emotion there
    • Waiting on hold for 45 minutes: relaxed and happy I’d decided to get this all sorted before I went to the airport
    • Sprinting for the gate: amused at myself, since I’d been so careful not to sweat before getting on a 30 (now 40) hour flight
    • The TV screen being broken? I took the time to sleep and meditate. Very productive
    • Having coffee dumped down both sleeves of my shirt? Hilarious actually. Apologised profusely, since the attendant felt so bad (for no reason – it was both of us, really, not paying sufficient attention. Just a silly accident)
    • The screaming kid: just sent them love and forgot about it (whereupon they immediately calmed)
    • Walking around the airport twice: a bit sweaty, confused, but otherwise amused
    • The actual layover: cool actually. I decided it would be great (somehow) and it was. Got chatting to a lovely US Marine about the research paper he was writing (discussing the effects of exponential technological advancement on historical warfare theory. Fascinating stuff). He later ended up inviting me out for cocktails
    • The couple keeping me awake was hard, I admit. I was exhausted and struggling to maintain my equanimity. Eventually I got on top of it though and let my aggravation go. I looked over and realised the guy wasn’t intentionally nudging me. He was just so fat he couldn’t help it (even with me scrunched up so far over I was almost falling in the aisle). Unsurprisingly, as soon as I let it go, they stopped complaining.
    • With my sister there was a little aggravation, but really very minor. Not to the point of swearing.

    Now, I have no idea why all these things happened. To have this many things “go wrong” is very unusual for me. In fact, I can’t think of any other time in my life when anything even vaguely close to this has occurred. I do find it interesting that nothing serious happened (lost baggage, delayed connections, plane crash).

    The super interesting thing is – none of them threw me, particularly.

    Historically? This is very unusual. Typically, even a few of these things happening would have made me irritable, angry and generally aggressively petulant. Ask any of my ex-girlfriends from years back *blush*.

    So, maybe the lesson is just this: To stop and enjoy progress that is being made. That even if some things in my life don’t appear to be shifting, in general things are improving. I need to celebrate the small victories. To appreciate the journey thus far, to stop every so often (as a friend once told me) and eat the flowers.


      Are We Allowing Ourselves To Be Happy?

      Recently I’ve been thinking about happiness.

      Obviously, there is some level of conscious control involved:

      Additionally, if we choose to be loving, that’s the quickest path to feeling deeply happy in any given moment or interaction.

      The weird thing I’ve noticed is that despite years of healing, I’m not particularly happy.

      These days I’m incredibly peaceful, centred, content and mostly pretty calm – which for me are HUGE steps forward. I just haven’t felt any noticeable level of deep happiness.

      Joy? Hell yes, just not consistent happiness.

      So what’s been going on?

      Eventually, I’ve realised that I’ve had a whole list of conditions that had to be met before I would allow myself to be happy.

      While consciously I may have been choosing to be happy (and taking appropriate steps), subconsciously I simply wasn’t allowing it to occur.


      So, what next?

      I got a piece of paper and wrote at the top “I’ll be happy when…” then made a giant list. All the conditions, all the expectations that had to be met before I was “allowed” to be happy.

      (and yes, the alert among you will have noticed I’ve written about this before – but then, as with so many things, it’s not about knowing them intellectually, it’s about living them every day, in our hearts. Reminders are good, even for me. Especially for me. Also, there’s been a subtle shift. Before when I was doing this exercise it was to “get” something. Now it’s just to remove all limitations. Ie, for the sake of the exercise itself.)

      All these conditions are, of course, utterly ridiculous. But then, this is just how our brains work half (all?) the damn time – against us.

      Once I had the list, it was pretty straightforward (and as usual, quick) to just take each item back to wanting approval, wanting control or wanting safety, and simply let it go.

      Of course, this isn’t going to be a one-off task. As we peel back layers of the onion we’ll see deeper and deeper into ourselves. We’ll be able to identify more and more subtle limitations.

      The good news is, it’s a super quick exercise, and really, once you’ve got the hang of it, you could do it anywhere. While sitting at a bus stop. In the shower. While having a sandwich. In the shower with a sandwich! Just say to yourself “I’ll be happy when…” and see what your brain fills in for you.

      All these conditions are standing between you and happiness. The more you let go of, the easier it gets to make that simple choice. To actually be happy. To feel happy.

      To be honest, while I wouldn’t say I am now deliriously happy, I do feel as if several huge weights have lifted off me. I’m no longer dragging myself around quite as heavily. My soul is lighter and genuine smiles are closer and easier to reach.

      I just need to keep doing this exercise. Keep working my way down through the layers till there’s nothing left.

      Of course as with all of life, it’s a journey, not a destination. Today is better than yesterday, and tomorrow will be even better. What more can I ask?


        You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

        I’ve been on a dating site recently. Not with any significant expectations (I trust the universe to look after me), more just about “keeping the door open” and passing the time.

        However, I noticed myself slipping into compulsive behaviour. Checking the site way more times than strictly necessary. And really, how often is “necessary” anyway? Once a year? Once a week? Once a day? Once an hour?

        But I digress.

        As with most forms of escapism, once I spotted it, I wanted to get to the root of it, and clear it out.

        After I got quiet and focused in on what I was feeling and what my motivations were for constantly checking the site, I realised Dean Martin summed it up perfectly decades ago.


        See, the real problem is, this concept is insidious. It’s everywhere.

        How many films are there where a couple start out together, then breaks up and are happier being single at the end of the movie?

        How many adverts involve someone being perfectly happy being by themselves?

        Versus, of course, the exact opposite.

        The media tells us, constantly, that we can only be happy if we’re in a relationship. That really, we only have value, that we’re only lovable if we’re in a relationship.

        None of this is news to you, I’m sure. But holy crap, how twisted is that?

        And of course, I realised this was exactly the rabbit hole I’d fallen into.

        I had a whole raft of beliefs along these lines:

        • I need the love of a good, beautiful woman
        • I’m happiest when I’m loved – I feel I can kick ass and achieve anything
        • I have no value unless someone else values me
        • I’m not lovable unless someone else shows this by loving me
        • I’m somehow failing unless I’m in a relationship
        • I’m not important/don’t have value unless someone better than me loves me (whoa!)
        • I’m not attractive unless someone attractive/amazing wants me

        … and so on.

        You can immediately see how these beliefs both set me up for instant failure (default mode: unhappy, unattractive, unloved), but also are self-defeating. Why would someone else want to love me if I don’t love myself?

        Of course, the good news is – as always – the hardest bit is seeing these beliefs.

        Once you see them, you can very easily drop them.

        So, just to be thorough, how can we get all of these beliefs to the surface?

        What worked for me was asking myself questions like:

        • How would I feel if I never had another partner?
        • How do I feel about being alone?
        • How do I feel about being alone for the entire rest of my life?
        • What if no-one attractive ever wanted me again? (ie, I had to compromise or settle not to be alone)
        • What if I was never loved again?
        • What if I never experienced love again? (slightly different phrasing often helps)
        • What feeling will I have when I have this partner?

        (then imagine, and feel these feelings as strongly as you can – to really dig everything up. Tapping 2″ down and across from the beginning of your collar bone (point 7) can also help you “tune in” to these feelings more strongly)

        As well as these, there will always be the ever present feelings of “wanting or lacking love/approval.”

        To some of these, you may feel a general, non-specific energy coming up. To some you may get specific phrases or beliefs bubbling to the surface.

        To the non-specific energy, I’d recommend just letting the energy go – you don’t need to know what it is to get rid of it.

        Specific beliefs or thoughts are pretty straightforward to dump too. Use whatever tools work for you. These days I tend to simply choose to let the belief/energy go, or let the picture go. You could also tap them out, etc etc.

        Either way, once you can see/feel these things coming up you can easily drop them all.

        Then, just go back to the questions, and keep going over them until you feel completely at peace. Completely at ease. Completely loving about being alone.

        Take that, Dean Martin. You can be somebody, even if nobody loves you. Hello? Who should love us the most? US OF COURSE!

        The paradox here is that when you’re in this state, you immediately become more attractive. Why? Because you’re dropping any sense of neediness or desperation. You become more loving. You become more centred and connected with yourself. Less pulled around by the vagaries of other people.

        Which of course, makes you more attractive.

        Hilariously ironic really, this life of ours.

        Oh, and the dating site? Yeah. I’m now checking it 10x less, but more importantly, with a definite feel of “Well, this is very nice, but really, whatever.” Win.


          What Is Love?

          It’s a big question. What is love?

          For a start, the word “love” can mean a lot of different things. The ancient Greeks had five main types:

          • Philia – loyalty. Motivated by practical reasons; one or both the parties benefit from the relationship
          • Xenia – hospitality. The almost ritualised friendship between a host and their guest.
          • Storge – natural affection, like parents have for their child
          • Eros – passionate, romantic love, with sensual desire and longing
          • Agape – pure love. Soul love. For lack of a better description, God’s unconditional love.

          Mostly on this blog I’ve been talking about unconditional love, what the Greeks called agape. Why? Simply because this is a superset of all the other forms of love.

          If you have unconditional love for someone, it doesn’t matter if they are guest, child, an intimate or business partner – you’ll treat them as lovingly as (or more than) if you had only the first four types of love.

          Agape, unconditional love, is the deep root beneath all other forms of love.

          Ok. Well, that’s nice. Now what?

          I’ve always struggled to find a good synonym for the word love. How do we identify if we’re being truly loving or not? How can we look at it from slightly to one side, just to be sure?

          Up until recently I’d often described love as “unconditional positive regard.” However, this lacked something. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it wasn’t the whole picture.

          I could feel myself feeling unconditional positive regard towards people I knew that I still thought were complete shitbags.

          Then, recently, I was (finally, it’s amazing) reading Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. In there, I found the missing pieces of the puzzle.

          These pieces are: admiration and great respect.

          So now in total I understand that unconditional love means unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect.

          (obviously this may not be the entire thing, but it feels damn close. If it’s not complete, I don’t feel there’s very much to go.)

          Of course, as soon as we think about anyone like this, part of our brain will scream “Why the hell should I respect them? I refuse to admire them! They’re…” (etc).

          Well guess what? That’s us being judgemental. No matter how “right” we (think we) are, it’s not unconditional love.

          This is a tricky area.

          This is where Christians with their cries of “love the sinner hate the sin” start to slide – it’s still being judgemental.

          As soon as we say “this is wrong”, we’re sliding into judgement. It’s what makes it so insidious, and unconditional love so tricky.

          Think of the worst people you can imagine – typically something along the lines of a serial murderer, rapist, paedophile or Hitler. Or, closer to home, those that have harmed us in the past.

          Obviously these people have done some atrocious things. This is why they’re good examples. Because it’s so hard for us to unconditionally love them.

          If we put aside the rule of law (what should society do with people that commit atrocities), we can simplify this situation enormously.

          In terms of being (or not) unconditionally loving, what are we really talking about?

          We’re talking about how we feel.

          So, pick one of the cases above. What we’re doing by not choosing to be unconditionally loving is this: we are letting someone else’s behaviour decide for us how we are going to feel.

          In other words, we decide they’ve been awful, therefore we are going to hold negative (non loving) feelings towards them.

          We are giving our power away.

          Well, how silly is that?

          Surely we are the boss of us? Surely we decide how we should feel?

          Of course, there are people out there doing simply awful things. But why should we let them make us feel bad? Who gave them that power over us?

          Well, by choosing to be judgemental, by choosing to hold back from loving them (particularly when we feel they “don’t deserve it”), we did. We gave them power over us.

          So really, by choosing to be unconditionally loving, by choosing to give them unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect what we’re really doing is choosing to let go of their power over us.

          We’re choosing to feel as positively as humanly possible, no matter what they do.

          This is the ultimate power we have. As Viktor Frankl (who survived Auschwitz) said

          “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

          This is why unconditional love is so important.

          This is why understanding what love is is so important.

          Of course, if love as “unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect” doesn’t resonate completely for you – please do keep looking. I’d be most curious to hear your thoughts. I’m always eager to learn more.

          At this stage, this is the best I’ve found. It feels complete to me. Most importantly, when I think about applying that definition to people (or organisations) in my life I’m least likely to feel this way about, I feel challenged and uncomfortable. Which is probably a very good sign I’m stumbling in the right direction.

          Now obviously, the next practical question (and I do like to keep things practical, as much as possible) is what do we do with this information?

          Well, here’s what’s been working for me, it’s super simple.

          Basically, just imagine someone (or something) horrible in front of you. Then think the phrase “unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect” towards them.

          If there’s any part of you that disagrees with giving them these things, those are the parts of you that are holding you back from loving them completely and unconditionally.

          From there, you can simply let those feelings or thoughts go. Or tap them out. Or breathe them out. Whatever works for you.

          The key is to keep letting go of all the objections, arguments and generally non-loving reactions that come up in response to trying to feel unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect for that person (or organisation).

          Once you let go of all of these reactions, you’ll feel yourself naturally slip into genuinely feeling those feelings towards that person.

          In other words, regardless of that person’s behaviour, you are now feeling genuine unconditional love, agape (the highest possible way of feeling).

          You’ve stopped yourself (your emotions and energetic state at the very least) from being a victim of their behaviour. You’ve regained mastery over yourself.

          Now, I’m definitely not saying you should put yourself in harm’s way here.

          For example, you can cross the road safely (a very dangerous thing to do, statistically), but you can do that happily and at peace, or you can freak out and be full of fear. It’s completely your choice.

          For me, I choose unconditional love. I choose happiness. I choose peace. Oh, and I choose not to stand in oncoming traffic, human or otherwise.