Conditional Love: I Can´t Say No

The inability to say “no” or handle negative feedback are often the result of conditional love.

What is conditional love

Someone who is very close to you, like your life partner or parents, keeps giving you the feeling that you have to behave in a certain way or achieve certain results to deserve to be loved. They punish you by (playing to) taking their love away if you do not comply.

It's emotional blackmail and very unhealthy, as it harms a person severely and haunts them for the rest of their lives – or until they act to remove the damage.

What are the effects of conditional love?

Regularly, victims of conditional love also have enormous problems in their careers. They take criticism personally, and it's devastating for them. After all, they have been conditioned to believe that they are only worth being loved if they fulfill the conditions. When they were young, criticism used to be very personal. If you criticize anything about them, they understand: I say “no” to you. I don't love you. You're no good.

Consequently, they fear that if they say “no” they might lose the person they reject. And they think they hurt the other person way worse than they actually do.

I have been exposed to conditional love by my parents as well. Probably because I started reading pretty heavy (intellectual) books at the age of 9, it could not harm me in that way. I understood that someone was trying to manipulate me and that it was to my disadvantage.

But I showed an adverse reaction too. I did not listen to authority and orders. I investigated every order and everything someone told me:
— what's their motivation
— what's their agenda
— does it make sense

Only if I was ok with the motive, I did or accepted something. You can imagine that this is not a great attitude when it comes to attending school. I did not attend classes I felt made no sense. At the age of 12, I stopped having notebooks.

I always had the reputation of being very intelligent; that's probably why the school never called the police on me for staying away. I am not convinced that this is the case, by the way. When you ask many questions, you are automatically perceived as intelligent.

Learn to say “no.”

As you all know, I do not believe in psychologists very much. I do believe in neuroscience. While you were exposed to conditional love, neural networks have formed in your brain.

Learn to say NO

Our brain has the job to protect us from harm and pain. It tells us to remove ourselves from dangerous situations (danger = can hurt or kill). That applies to emotional pain as well.

So if our boss tells us “You did not do that task right,” in most cases all he means is: “You did not do that task right.” But you might react as back as when you were a kid. When “not right” meant = you do not deserve my love.

That might cause you to overreact in a way that can lead to a problematic situation and disadvantages.

The best thing about our brain and the neural networks is: They might be stubborn, but they can be retrained. At any age.

I do not need to tell you that it is necessary and healthy to say “no.” The intellectual part of your brain knows that. Just, you react before you have the chance to evaluate a particular situation.

Nobody who loves you will stop loving you for rejecting a task or being of a different opinion. In your career, as a grown up, you are expected to set boundaries and signal when you cannot take on additional tasks.

People who cannot take criticism well or create drama are not very well received. So if you feel that your individual situation can be improved – get started right away. The damage of being exposed to conditional love can be reversed.

Check if one of those applies to you:
— Criticism hurts me deeply
— I often do things for others I don't want to do
— I take on extra tasks I do not want to do
— Sometimes I think, “Why did I say that?/Do that?”
— Saying “no” is very hard for me