Why is it so hard to actually realize that you are afraid of either giving or receiving love? I know some evolved, smart people and they are usually a fair way into their journey of self-discovery when they realize they experience fear in giving or receiving love. And it is a major revelation. David Richo points to some pretty believable rationalizations that help us keep up the illusion that we are not afraid, but, in fact, it is someone else who is doing or being something that doesn’t work.
At this point in the book, David Richo is really getting into how love and fear are opposites and intersect regularly. He says: “We fear love when we run from commitment, refuse to state that we want to be loved, refuse to hear it said to us, refuse to receive it” (p. 101). I think this can include even deflecting or minimizing compliments or I love yous. We can also know the fear is there on a deeper level when what we are saying we want and what is showing up is different.
For example, think about someone who is constantly saying they want to be in a committed relationship, but this is not showing up in their life. What is the missing variable in this equation? At least one variable is fear. It’s OK. We all have silent fears that we don’t know are there. As human beings, we are complex and our unfolding experience is simply meant to reveal more to us about what we hold inside. We know there is so much more inside than our conscious minds perceive. Let yourself look. All the truth you need in this lifetime will come through your attention and reflection.
David Richo spends a little bit of time focusing on the experience of people who have a hard time letting love in or being close with others (I think that captures a majority of the population!). I love the image he uses of the wall that gets constructed out of fear. He says the “wall we built to keep love out will also keep fear in” (p. 104). When he talks about the wall, he mentions that we can see the people who pace outside, that they are hurt, but that we don’t stop to consider that there is something going on inside of us (fear) that has the wall be there. He says the wall “guarantees that we go on fearing because we stay inside, huddled up, safe, but never getting the chance to confront and transcend our fear” (p. 103).
Ok, so you are considering whether or not fear is there or maybe you know. What next? David Richo says that “fear is a signal by which we notice what we have not yet integrated” (p. 104). I, personally, have not yet integrated the experience of getting injections. I cannot tolerate the thought of a needle going through my skin and avoid this at all costs. That means I don’t get a lot of practice dealing with injections or accepting the process.
My only progress has ever come from allowing the truth to be present: a needle is going through my skin for my own good, it is going to be a tiny bit painful and it is going to make me sweat. If I can add in a little breathing, tell myself I am adult and I can handle mostly anything, even the uncomfortable, it’s even better. So, when I can enter into “a wholehearted engagement with [the] circumstances rather than arguing with them”, I am OK (p. 105). That means that I am vulnerable to the circumstances in those successful moments, not trying to stop the circumstances.
So how does that apply to fear and love? We can work on being vulnerable to the circumstances when we are able to integrate the fact that pain will occur in a relationship and we have a program for dealing with the pain: we acknowledge it, we find out what message it has for us, and we take action (i. e. speak up, do the work to learn about ourselves) if that is what is required. So, can we practice by coming out to greet the people walking outside our wall for a couple minutes? Can we stay unprotected for one minute longer than we think we can take? If you have a wall, it is OK. Realize it. Work on it by looking inside at your fear instead of believing that it is just someone or something else that is the problem. Work on it by building up your ability to be vulnerable with someone you love that is a safe person. Breathe and take in a compliment. Don’t say anything but thank you. Do the uncomfortable. It will get easier and, eventually, love will be able to come in and go out as it pleases a lot more often.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".