si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: communication

An Odd Thing I Can’t Explain

I’ve noticed something odd.

The more I stay in a loving space – particularly when the people around me aren’t – the more douche bags seem to exit my life.

Let me explain.

Say someone starts having a go at me online. If I stay in a calm, loving space, most of the time they will simply disappear. Stop talking, block me, whatever.

A similar kind of thing, often almost as quick, happens in real life.

Now, on an esoteric level, it could possibly be said that our vibrations don’t match and they find this uncomfortable and so vibrate their way away. You can see a similar thing when shaking sand in a bowl; it will tend to separate out the big chunks from the smaller grains.

Or maybe they’re just having a shitty time, and they get annoyed that someone won’t assist them in feeling grumpy.

I’m giving them nothing to push against.

Maybe it’s a verbal form of Aikido.

I don’t really know.

Either way, antagonistic, angry or generally nasty people are continuing to vibrate their way out of my life.

And I’m definitely noticing that the more of my own crap I let go of, the more wonderful the people I find around me.

Or maybe they were always that wonderful and I’m only just noticing.


    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.


      How To Love Without Pain

      First of all, despite whatever you’ve experienced in life so far, yes, it IS possible to love without being hurt.

      It’ll take a bit, but let me explain.

      In your past, and in mine definitely, we will have experienced loving and being loved, only to be horribly, terribly hurt.

      Why does this happen?

      Very simply? Because we’re not loving unconditionally. We love hoping for a certain type of reaction or reciprocation (maybe that they’ll love us back, behave a certain way, or NOT do certain things).

      In short: we hurt when our expectations aren’t met.

      We have either attachments or aversions to their behaviour.

      So, when they don’t live up to those expectations, we feel pain.

      Pretty straight forward really.

      Now, the key bit – how do we avoid this?

      This won’t come as ANY surprise – “simply” drop our expectations.

      Ha ha ha.

      Oh boy, simple yes, but easy? Well, generally not so.

      Of course, we could spend an entire lifetime dropping our attachments and aversions to various things. That said, we don’t REALLY want to have to wait until we’re 150 to have a great relationship, right?

      The good news is, I’ve found a bit of a short cut.

      To be fair, I haven’t practised this anywhere near as much as I SHOULD have (sorry ex-girlfriends). However, when I have? It’s worked incredibly well.

      Now, I’ve hinted at this in the past, but here’s the full story.

      First of all, it’s important to understand that relationships are a form of energetic connection. The stronger (more emotionally intimate/intense) the relationship, the stronger our connection.

      So, for example:

      1. The most powerful connections are usually to our parents (eg, there’s only one person on the planet that you’ve spent 9 months living inside of).
      2. After that are family members – depending on how close you are of course – but these are people who’ve you’ve generally known your entire life.
      3. After that tend to be the most tumultuous relationships in our lives. Lots of emotion flying around – for better or worse. People we’ve been intimate with for long periods of time.
      4. Finally we have other intimate relationships, friends.
      5. Below that, well, everyone else.


      Now, one convenient way to “view” this connection is to imagine a thick white cord running between your hearts. The stronger the connection, the larger the cord. When negative energy/emotion gets thrown around, this cord can get filled with dark gunk, or twisted up.

      Before we get into exactly what to do with this cord, a little back story.

      I discovered this technique a few years back, when I was in a fairly heavily abusive relationship. She’d just come out of a marriage, so had a LOT going on.

      ANYWAY. I had many, many chances to experiment with how best (and quickest) to get her off the ceiling when she started acting up.

      After running through all the usual possibilities – placating, reasoning, apologising, arguing, fighting, attacking, defending, explaining, escaping (none of which REALLY worked), I stumbled on to this.

      While she was busy shouting at me, I would focus all my attention on the cord between us.

      Usually, I could see that it was twisted up, or covered in black gunk etc.

      Whether this is ACTUAL reality or not really doesn’t matter. It’s just a useful representation (just like how a London tube map isn’t ACTUALLY how the tube is, but is still super helpful).

      So. Then I focused ALL of my energy and attention on pouring as much love as I possibly could, out of my heart, down the cord to her heart.

      I just imagined this as a super bright white light, but anything that works for you would do the trick.

      It also helped for me to just keep repeating in my head “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

      Now obviously, parts of you will likely react to whatever is being said, particularly if it’s nasty or hateful.

      If you’re pissed off too, you’re also going to react negatively to saying “I love you”! This is totally fine.

      When these reactions come up, just let them all go and go back to focusing on sending as much love as you possibly can.

      THIS is the real secret. That immediate letting go of every thought and reaction? THAT is where the magic really takes place. THAT is what makes it true, unconditional love.

      Plus, best of all, every time you’re letting something go? You’re healing yourself and making it easier to love unconditionally in the future. It’s a HUGE win.

      Oh, and for a bonus? It also puts you in an energetic space where it’s basically impossible to fight you. It’s like trying to push against water. So, it’s the fastest way possible to calm down and resolve a highly emotionally charged situation. A handy tip next time someone you love goes a bit nutty.

      Obviously it may take a bit of practice to be able to do all this AND have a conversation with someone, but that’s ok. There’s no rush.

      Just focus exclusively on pouring love out of your heart and into theirs, down that cord. Let everything else go that might come up. EVERYTHING.

      Anyway, here’s the thing.

      If you really are focusing EVERYTHING you have on sending them love? If you’re letting go of anything and everything else that might be coming up in you?

      These two things combined mean you have zero expectations attached to loving them.

      Which means, whatever they say or do – yes, it might have a reaction, but you’ll be so focused on loving them that your reaction will near-instantly disappear.

      And guess what? That means you won’t get hurt. Can’t get hurt.

      I came out of this ridiculously intense relationship, where I was called and accused of the most vile things I’ve ever heard in my life – and you know what? The cleanup required after it was utterly trivial. None of these awful awful things caused any damage at all (or such a minuscule amount that they fell away instantly).

      Seriously. Don’t believe me. Try it for yourself and see.

      As long as you let go of every thought and feeling that arises and focus 100% on SENDING love? It works. Phenomenally.


        Look Where You Want To Go

        There’s a simple trick for creating the life of your dreams: Look where you want to go.

        The only catch here is: our brains are not our friends. They’re useful tools, but they’re not our friends.

        One of the key ways they’re not is by constantly focusing on what’s negative  (search for “cognitive biases” for others).

        There are sensible evolutionary reasons for this.

        In life-and-death terms, good things (eg delicious berries on a bush) are lower priority than, say, a tiger that’s about to eat our head (generally known as “a bad thing”).

        So, we’re tuned: Pay MUCH more attention to bad things. They’re more urgent, they’re more important.

        However, now we’re roaming the streets not the savannah, this evolutionary priority isn’t helping so much.

        These days, our actual life-and-death risks are much more probabilistic and long term – heart disease, cancer etc. They’re no longer things that jump out of a bush and try to eat us as we’re walking to work.

        In fact statistically, surprising events are generally pretty benign – spilling coffee on ourselves, bumping into someone on an escalator, a boss shouting at us at work. Not great, sure, but no longer life threatening.

        [obviously if you live in a war zone or an otherwise rough area, you’re in the modern equivalent of tiger jumping territory, so things are a little different for you.]

        The real problem is, our brains still treat negative events as if they were ALL life and death.

        Which doesn’t help us at all.

        Of greater concern is the larger effect of our brains instinctively focusing on the negative.

        After all, what are our lives but the sum total of our experiences and memories?

        Our lives are simply the sum of everything we pay attention to.

        If we are focused on negative events – particularly fears and worries (which, almost by definition haven’t happened), then that is what will fill our existence.

        This is particularly obvious in relationships.

        We may have a perfectly fine relationship with someone, but if what we’re most focused on is some negative event that happened, or some fear that didn’t – how is that going to colour our feelings towards them?

        What’s actually an otherwise decent relationship will seem utterly awful.

        Now obviously, I’m not suggesting being myopic. Every relationship has issues and these should be dealt with.

        However, if you WANT the relationship to be good, focusing on the positive aspects will create that much more reliably than constantly looking for what’s wrong.

        If your partner does something a bit off, assume they mean well. They love you and want to be with you, right? So why hold the picture that they’ve intentionally tried to hurt you? It’s only destructive.

        If you get quiet and pay attention, you’ll be able to see this in action.

        When you look at someone, what’s the general feeling you’re filled with?

        THAT is the sum of all your most common thoughts about that person (whether conscious or subconscious)

        • If they’re mostly negative thoughts, you’re going to feel pretty crappy.
        • If they’re mostly positive thoughts, you’re going to feel pretty great when you think about them.

        (here are some techniques for dumping those non-loving feelings)

        Of course, this goes for everything in our lives.

        Think about your job. Your home. Your commute. Your family. Your wardrobe. Your bank balance.

        You can instantly feel what your predominant thoughts are.

        Is your brain focused on the good or bad aspects?

        Look where you want to go.

        If you want a boring life, focus your attention on the boring things around you.

        If you want a happy life, pay attention to what is already around you that brings you happiness and joy.

        If you want a peaceful life, pay attention to what’s peaceful and choose to let the rest of it go.

        Our eyes and ears face forward for a reason: Look where you want to go.


          Stay Loving When Your Partner’s Not

          Ever had an argument with your partner (or, frankly, anyone important in your life)?

          Arguments typically go something like this:

          The other person gets pissed off and start whinging, shouting, criticising, or worse, refusing to say a damn thing at all.

          So then, of course, you get pissed off with them and you both continue to rark each other up.

          (and yes, if we’re honest, sometimes the arguments start from our corner too).

          In short: One person getting upset results in a race to the bottom of the misery pit.

          This. Isn’t. Helpful.

          Think about it: where’s the benefit in both of you getting upset? What does that gain you, either of you?

          Of course, when someone is going off their nut at us, there’s good reasons why we respond the way we do.

          • We want to be heard
          • They’re wrong and we’re right
          • We want them to love us
          • We want them to stop

          Let’s take these one at a time, it won’t take long.


          Do you really think they’re listening while they’re pissed off? No, of course they’re not. Not really. They may grudgingly concede a point, but they’re not REALLY listening, they’re just trying to get to the end of the argument.

          If you want to be heard, it’s much, much better to try talking to them when they’re back in a calm, loving space again.


          So what? Who gives a shit who’s right?

          Seriously. In that moment when they’re upset, how is them having an epiphany and realising that they’re wrong going to help them (or you)?

          For a start, they’re probably not really even listening to you (see point 1)

          Secondly, this is us trying to control them. And nobody likes being controlled. Smartest thing is to let go of that.


          Ok, now this is completely understandable.

          When someone we deeply care about is attacking us (or it feels like they’re attacking us), that can hurt.

          Why does it hurt? Because we want their approval.

          Now, the subtle thing here is, if we want their approval, it’s because we don’t have it (if we already had it, we wouldn’t need to want it, now would we?)

          However, by sending out the message that we want, we’re also sending out the message that we lack their approval.

          By feeling needy, we become needy.

          What’s the solution? It may seem a little paradoxical, but let go of wanting their approval.

          Ultimately, you’re better off loving yourself than looking outside for approval. You have infinite love inside yourself – you just have to find and allow it.

          The more you let go of wanting love from others, the more you’ll find the love inside yourself.


          Again, this is wanting to control them.

          Hint: IT WON’T WORK.

          (it can also be that we want to feel safe in our relationship – but see “feeling needy” above – the same thing applies. Let it go)

          Sure, you can control someone, for short periods of time. But ultimately? All that builds in them is resentment and the propensity to lie. In other words, to hide things from you so they can do what they wanted to in the first place.

          Here’s a gentle irony. Long time readers will see this coming a mile away. The fastest way to get someone to calm down when they’re upset? BE LOVING.

          It’s impossible to fight someone who’s not fighting back. It’s like pushing against air. You run out of steam very quickly.

          Don’t take my word for it. Try it some time. When your significant other is upset, to everything they say, reply (in your head) “I love you.” Let go of all non loving thoughts and feelings that arise. Feel as loving as you possible can towards them. Feel your heart open up and envelope them in your love.

          Just keep saying “I love you” and watch their resistance dissolve in seconds.

          It’s a choice. It’s always a choice.

          Sometimes it takes a bit of practice, or we forget, or we’re tired or whatever. But it’s always just a choice. Try choosing to be loving and see what happens.

          So if you do want them to stop, (and quickly) let go of wanting to control them and be unconditionally loving instead.

          Think about it this way. Why are they upset? Typically, for exactly the same reasons. They want to be heard. If you’re loving? You’ll be listening to them. They want you to love them. Hello? Bingo!

          If they do want to control you (and you don’t agree), well, isn’t that conversation going to go a lot better if you’re both in a loving space? If you stay in that place of love, you are the powerful one in the conversation. They will come to you (impossible to fight, remember?)

          The other thing that happens here is the more we let go of these reactions inside ourselves and choose to be loving to them, the easier it becomes to love ourselves. To calmly set respectful boundaries. To extricate ourselves from situations that are unhealthy for us. To help grow a mutually supportive, mutually growing and healthy relationship.

          Realising that just because our partner is upset doesn’t mean we have to be too is the first step to a massively improved life together.

          You can see this really easily with children. When a child gets upset, you have two choices:

          1. You can let them be the boss – ie, you follow their lead and become upset too
          2. You can remember that you’re the boss of you, stay in an upbeat, loving place, and let them come to you.

          When you stay in a loving space regardless of what’s going on for them, they snap out of it super quickly. Remember, you’re the boss. If you hold a loving space, the child will come to you. You’re the mama duck, whether they realise it or not they’re constantly following your example of how to behave.

          You have to let go of all judgement. All criticism. All non loving thoughts – but that’s surprisingly easily done. Just focus ALL your attention on feeling loving towards them. Let every other thought go.

          Kids are great to experiment with like this (their moods shift so quickly you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice).

          Once you’re comfortable staying loving when a three year old is having a tantrum, you can up the ante to a grown up. Coz really, do we ever truly grow out of this kind of nonsense? We learn more sophisticated ways of expressing ourselves, but our behaviour is often not that different from a three year olds.

          Additionally, people we’re not close to are easiest to do this with. The lower the level of emotional connection, the less attached we are to how they react to us.

          For example, if some random dude on the street goes nutty it’s relatively easy not to get swept up in his tidal wave of grumpiness.

          However, if your partner (or heaven forbid, mother) disses you, it’s a major affront.

          We want to be liked by people we like.

          We want to be loved by people we love.

          Remember the paradox above? If we want something, we’re subtly letting the universe know we don’t have it.

          In order to BE loved, we have to let go of WANTING love.

          It’s like that old saying – be the person you want to fall in love with.

          So, if you want someone to love you, be loving to them – without condition or consideration of reciprocation (that’s the trick, of course).

          (Obviously there’s all the usual caveats here about co-dependence, setting healthy boundaries and avoiding being used).

          Think of it like holding jelly. If you squeeze it too tight, it’ll all slop out between your fingers.

          Same thing here.

          And you don’t want your love slopping out between your fingers, now do you? No, of course not.

          The challenging thing is – how much someone needs love is directly proportional to how much of a pain in the ass they’re being.

          You could easily put a positive spin on this though. The more upset someone is, the more powerfully you’ll affect them by staying loving.

          You’re not gonna make much difference to someone’s life if they’re already in a happy and loving place.

          If they’re upset though? You being loving, caring, supportive is EXACTLY what they need. Staying loving is the most loving thing you can do for them.

          Best of all, if you don’t get it right this time (and you both end up upset), there’ll always be plenty more chances to practice until you learn to stay happy and loving no matter what.

          Being happy – isn’t that we all want?