The Prison of Conditions

After recently volunteering to work as a mentor for children coming from challenging life situations (which involved a comprehensive interview process to determine a good match between the mentor and child), it was relayed to me that many previous mentors were not willing to work with kids who had poor manners or were not as polite as it was thought they should be.

Now this really struck me as being not only an odd response, but a position that seemed to not get the whole point of being a role model to these kids who many times have been physically, emotionally, and even sexually abused and come from impoverished neighbourhoods with very little familial support or guidance. Although everyone has a right to choose what they are comfortable dealing with, it was as if these volunteers were attempting to place constraints on their commitment to help these children and perhaps were doing it as a ‘feel good’ exercise rather than one with the child’s best interest as the primary focus.

When I inquired about this to the coordinator who was interviewing me, it was shared with me how many of the people who volunteer are doing it to either get credit for a school program, to put on their ‘resume’ for a future job, or as I previously suspected, to feel like they are doing something ‘good’ in a way that is more like checking off a step on a ‘to-do’ list, rather than something that was truly inspired from their heart. She said many times they were ‘going through the motions’ of being a mentor rather than connecting deeply to the kids in a way that can help inspire them to appreciate all they bring to the world.

It was this conversation that sparked a deeper reflection on just how much we as a society – including myself – have lived life with conditions placed on many of our decisions and actions that result in our being imprisoned by the very forms of protection that we think are providing us a sense of security.

All the times we do things, like help a friend move house, while in the back of our minds we expect a future favor in return, or as kids we say “I’ll clean my room if I can watch my favor-ite cartoon,” it is setting us up for a life pattern that is destined to need external sources for our inner contentment. The key point here being, if our motivation to do something that should be obvious to support oneself, a family, or humanity at large is based on the need or assumption of getting something in return, we will be living in a way that guarantees a state of unsettlement and certainly not true joy for all that life can offer, unconditionally.

One of the things that contributes to this form of conditional living is how we have been told since childhood that once we get that ‘good education’ it will guarantee that ‘good job’, or that if we find a partner who loves and appreciates us, then we have found love or happiness, as if these are external things that can be attained the same way one goes to the local store to buy groceries.

The truth is that we are made of LOVE (it has always resided within us) and until we connect with THAT, via a deeper appreciation for ourselves and all we offer the world, any quest to find it via material acquisitions (whether it be a new house, car, yacht, or job, etc.) will be futile. Putting out conditions on life that one deems necessary to have in order to provide some sort of comfort or security is prevalent in relationships, where we metaphorically say things to ourselves like “I will expose my true sensitivity, love and tenderness to this person once they show this with me first,” which basically holds both of these people back from evolving in their relationship together, and instead ensures a ‘tit for tat’ game being employed where both partners are waiting for the other to make the first move towards the transparency and trust that is necessary for the foundation of any lasting and expanding relationship. This is the prison of conditions.

But why have we bought into this fallacy of being content, loving and joyful only when certain outer criteria are met, and why can’t we simply answer the call for service to others without any need for something in return? My feeling is that it has something to do with a disconnection from our inner selves and a fear of either being rejected or not accepted by others. For how can we be affected by someone rejecting us or not accepting and appreciating how amazing we are if at some level we have not done those things to ourselves first?

We have bought into a belief system that makes it look seemingly easy to have love and joy in one’s life by the simple acquisition of material goods and services. This same belief system puts constraints and conditions on relationships in an effort to make it look easy to have that same love that it touts to be easy to ‘acquire’ without first having connected to it within our inner hearts, where its depth is actually infinite. Therefore, there is a constant need to protect oneself from getting emotionally hurt, and therein lies the birthplace of the conditions that are formulated to gain the security needed. It’s ‘sold’ as an easy path, but in fact it is one that will always result in disappointment and disillusionment, and until we can allow ourselves to be as open and honest about the games we play with conditions in life, we are sure to remain their prisoner.

Alternatively, when we let go of any conditions and expectations out of a need for things to be a certain way in order for us to feel secure, it allows a whole other world of possibilities and connections to develop naturally without constraint and we are no longer ‘boxing ourselves in’ by our conditions we place on life.

By Michael Goodhart, Aircraft Technician, B.A. Psychology, Lover of people, Nature and the philosophy of Universal Life, North Carolina, USA

Further Reading:
The Games People Play
Relationship games – fear of losing love
Relationships as Far as the Eye Can See

33 thoughts on “The Prison of Conditions

  1. Michael, I love the manner in which you reflect on everyday aspects of life to expose the extent to which many of us buy into a way of being that only serves to reduce us and hold us back from living the magnificence we truly are. Such is the case when we live imprisoned by conditions we place on others rather than feeling the joy and expansiveness that comes from building brotherhood with those around us.

  2. A great way to put it Michael, it is indeed a prison of conditions we are used to live in, the moment we step out of this prison and love ourselves, it feel we free ourselves and this gives space in every relationship, no imposing anymore but a joy to behold.

  3. As they say ‘we cannot serve from an empty cup’, we first have to live in a way that sustains, appreciates and loves ourselves in full so we do not need rewards, recognition etc. Then we are able to truly support others. If we are still needing something for ourselves because we don’t hold ourselves in love, we will always want something back even if we are doing voluntary work.

  4. I too sit with this question and see the ridiculousness of our trade off – and yet we hold onto it for dear life:
    “why have we bought into this fallacy of being content, loving and joyful only when certain outer criteria are met, and why can’t we simply answer the call for service to others without any need for something in return?”

  5. I am learning and loving what it feels like to be open and transparent in relationships, by no means perfect (there is always more to excavate) but super amazing to feel the freedom of living without the lies that live in the ‘prison of conditions’. It makes absolute sense to me that the intimacy that is our natural way to be with each other will flourish when we bring it from within for ourselves and bust through the layers of behaviour that have withheld it from others.

  6. Have we become the rat in the maze that we have wilfully created? We know precisely the motions required for the outcome we desire and then repeat! What if we remove the labyrinth and be open to the world around us?

    1. Great analogy Steve – I reckon if the labyrinth was removed, we would freak out. And yet our natural is to not have the labyrinth at all.

  7. It seems that quite often we go into a situation with a picture of what it will look like and how it will help others but in the back ground it’s a way to give meaning to our own lives and to make us feel worth something.

  8. I agree Michael we have come to accept conditional love as the norm, but as you say if we know and have known love why would we want to settle for anything less.

  9. It just goes to show the lists of condition we have on others even when we are supposedly ‘helping’ … very exposing and also sad. Time to make it about people being true, real and genuine and knuckling out everything that isn’t that.

  10. We all know deep down that no matter the acquisition of material goods, services etc., it is never enough and it will never be enough because the euphoria cannot last. There is an underlying unsettlement in all of us because we miss that inner connection within ourselves. It is now so heightened in our society that it reminds me of Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream.
    We are all in such misery of our disconnection to God we are collectively screaming out into the universe.

  11. Manners are something that many of us place huge emphasis on, especially mothers. We urge our kids to be ‘polite’ to say ‘please and thank you’ but don’t consider the energy in which these things are said. When my son was small I often noticed in the playground that stressed parents would squeeze the word ‘please’ out of their mouths when asking their kid to stop playing and come home but that the word felt more like either a threat or a cry for help; which then begs the question ‘what are manners truly?’.

  12. Michael your observations about life reflect a man who sees the detail everywhere, a man who observes human nature and who ponders on it deeply. All of these qualities combine with your easy and relatable style of writing to make very powerful reading, thanks for another heart opening blog.

  13. It’s interesting that the coordinator could feel the quality of people who were not committed to supporting the children, so she was reading energy that they were just going though the motions. We can play all these games, but it can all be felt by everyone when it is not the truth.

    1. Unfortunately are living mantra has become ‘what’s in it for me, what’s in it for me?’ and the short answer to that is ‘very little if that’s our question’. But the flip side is when our mantra becomes ‘how can I serve the all, how can I live to contribute to everybody?’ then what’s in it for us is beyond what our mind can consciously consider.

  14. I’d be lying if I said I was completely free of conditions or wanting a return, perhaps more refined or much less than it used to be but from experience it’s worth not dismissing a certain aspect of behaviours, ideals and beliefs. There’s always more of every aspect of life to be aware of.

    1. Leigh I am very aware that I like people more when they do what I want them to do, especially at work but also with my family members. What an incredibly reduced way of living eh to be basing how I feel about others on what they are either doing or not doing according to my needs and expectations at the time.

  15. The reality is we have set up a rewards system – starting before school, being rewarded for waking, ditty in a potty etc, heavily used throughout school – there’s huge rewards systems in schools – such as stickers for simple acts we should do as decent human being, or point systems where kids or class will be regarded, food rewards, which really doesn’t support our children or teach the the responsibilities of growing up, life and becoming adults, it’s almost used like a behaviour management tool, a way to control, not deal with stuff on ground level which I understand as bad choices behaviours are becoming more intense, frequent and common and we use it on ourself as adults, rewarding ourselves with food. So we can’t blame or judge others there’s needs to be understanding and acceptance, a step back an observation of what’s going on and what we have all created.

  16. Reconnecting to the ever-expanding Love of our inner-heart is to be free of the constraints and imprisonment of what we have been conditioned to think.

  17. I love what you are exposing here Michael. The love we are is not found on any shop shelf, nor is it a recipe or tick box exercise. We are everything we have ever wanted so lets to bring it out and live it.

  18. We don’t have enough honest conversations like this where we talk about what’s really going on. We are too taken by the surface of life, but scratch a little deeper and actually it can be very toxic. Highlighting people’s true motives to mentor children is one area we need to be more open about, the truth can be confronting but it’s much better than allowing people into those systems of child support when they are actually completely in self absorption and harming others with behaviours that are totally focused on their own personal agenda – whilst they tick the box of ‘doing good’ and looking good. It’s through these open conversations we can call out these behaviours and set standards that ask people to step up to decency and respect, and acknowledge life is not about self, as our every move affects us all.

  19. Well said Michael. I can see where I have placed conditions on many things and areas of my life. As you point out – it doesn’t work and we are still left empty and searching outside ourselves for something more when in truth, the answers are right there inside us.

    1. Beautiful Helen – the answers are right there inside us, and yet we pretend to be blind and only see that what we want to see or choose to see selectively.

  20. Thank you Michael for a great blog that offers us to reflect on all the conditions we have placed in life in terms of our relationships, friendships, family, work etc. Conditions do not allow the fullness of love to flow, and it is for us to feel where the stagnancy lies and heal the hurts that prevent us from going with the true flow.

  21. Giving up on conditions is ultimately very powerful and is in fact not a process of giving up or negating ones needs. Nor is it a submitting or a disempowerment. In fact it is a surrender to the true power and connection that lies within. However, because of our past experiences and hurts, it can make it very difficult to let go of this control and the comforts that we can hold with conditions. Hence to heal the hurts and feel complete about our experiences is a key part of this surrender to our own power that comes with no conditions, no expectations, no fine print or things owing.

  22. “But why have we bought into this fallacy of being content, loving and joyful only when certain outer criteria are met, and why can’t we simply answer the call for service to others without any need for something in return?” – In addition to this, there is a lack of trust now in humanity where if one actually does give without expecting anything in return, another is surprised to have such treatment or may even be distrusting thinking there are strings attached or some fine print requiring something in return or owning back.

  23. Awesome point Michael, and one that exposes how we can live in life by dancing with conditions and using things in life like commodities, rather than embracing life and all it has on offer: “One of the things that contributes to this form of conditional living is how we have been told since childhood that once we get that ‘good education’ it will guarantee that ‘good job’, or that if we find a partner who loves and appreciates us, then we have found love or happiness, as if these are external things that can be attained the same way one goes to the local store to buy groceries.”

  24. Very astutely observed, Michael. So-called charity or philanthropy can be a treacherous path and often more like the proverbial ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ kind of scenario with tightly bound and very restrictive conditions.

  25. Amazing to hear you are mentoring and supporting children and young people Michael. Working with young people for nearly 6 years now this is something I see many times which is the absolute lack of interest and connection from people who work with children and young people that are supposedly their to support them. Very sad indeed. But it makes sense if we have a lack of interest, love and connection with ourselves then how on earth can we have that for another. So much to be healed here but as you say it is neither hard or complicated as we are all made of LOVE so everything we ever need is always within us. It is but a choice and we are living in a era where energetically it is now easier to choose Love more than ever before ✨

    1. The ridiculous thing is we have to continually keep choosing ways of being that are not loving to be in the dire straits that we are. Over and over again we all keep choosing unloving patterns of behaviour and we do this so consistently that we have created the illusion that we’re living in an unloving world. There is no truth in any of this and yet we are utterly convinced that this is how life is.

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