The Dilemma of “Unconditional Positive Regard”

The only way a person can reach their full potential in life is if they practice positive self-regard, and the only way they can do that is if they have unconditional positive regard for the people in their life.”

Humanism Article

The concept which I found most interesting when learning counseling skills is the idea of unconditional positive regard which to me means the ability to accept others without any conditions; to love and respect where they stand with themselves and with their beliefs. This simple 3-worded idea is something I find very hard to put into practice in the relationships in my life. Firstly, most of the people I have met in love, work or friendships are either too close for comfort or too distant to make me feel secure in the relationship. I always felt like there won’t be anyone in the world I could be close to who would understand my need for my personal space and time. For this reason, I tend to run away from any person who is too clingy or too demanding. Pressure is something I am allergic to, both in personal relationships and work. I hate it when I am told to do something out of the blue and very fast. My anxiety flies through the roof and I get paralyzed, which leads me to avoid that task as much as possible because that is the only way I can avoid feeling uncomfortable.

This attitude never helped me to keep any significant relationship so far. Sometimes when I initiate those rough breakups in my romantic relationships with partners who are either too distant and detached to make me secure, or too demanding to make my anxiety worse, I get complaints from the opposite party saying how I can just “ghost them and never return their affections,” or how I can just be sweet and mellow one day and “explode like a volcano the next.” Of course, in my defense, I have my reasons for acting the way I do, mostly. For instance, when someone expects me to pick their calls every few hours in a day just so they can ask why I haven’t yet replied to their latest text message, what do they expect me to do? The most obvious reaction is to tell them that I am not a telemarketer or operator at a call center, and that my phone is not affixed to face face through some surgical operation, so that I could be able to text and call back for 24 hours a day! Try and tell me to have unconditional positive regard in such a situation and I would have a hard time listening to that.

On the other hand, I experienced the opposite of the above in a relationship with someone who would only be present-barely- when we are physically together in the same space, but would disappear and ghost me the moment we parted ways. How would you react to that? Of course, surprisingly, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this explains why I would start being afraid and text that person forever- of course with no single reply. There is absolutely no validation for my feelings with this person. If you go on an angry rant, he will keep quiet for the next two or three months until you can decide to swallow your ego and reach out first-of course with an “I am Sorry”.(I just don’t like to love someone for the simple reason that it makes life harder than it needs to be.)

Now, if we think of applying unconditional positive regard for the distant person, the first thing that comes to my mind is this, “Is it possible that this on and off, hot and cold person is reflecting my own habit in relationships?” If something annoys me about a person, I have learnt to look at myself and see if the thing I hate in someone else is something I have hidden within me. Mostly, I have found this to be true. So yes, I have been seeing my bad habits reflected in others, especially the closest people whom I love very much. Secondly, the next thing I ask myself is, “what does it mean if I hate my own habit in someone else? How does that affect my self-image? Am I someone who hates weaknesses in myself and others? Am I expecting myself and others to be perfect?” And thirdly, “How different would my relationships be like if I simply accepted others without judgment or conditions?” I am sure that would mean I first start accepting myself with all my bad habits! And that is how the statement quoted above applies in my life: In order to have positive self-regard, I need to have unconditional positive regard for the people in my relationships and vice versa!

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