The Fear of Love

Those of us who fear love fear not only the pain it may cause but also the joy it may bring us. We fear the extremes of emotion that love carries us towards on its capricious wings.

Why? Because we fear change and value security. And surely there is little in life that can bring about change the way love does. Also, if we have a lack of love in our life, we have come to depend on that lack whether we realize it or not. For a lack of something generally provides us with a need for it. And a need for love gives us something to pursue. It provides a sense of adventure for us. Without the need there would not be that deep yearning inside us. For some of us, yearning is what gives us hope.

We fear love, and yet we want it. Some of us even want it more because it can be dangerous. Yet the danger both attracts and repels us. Like a film that we are riveted to even though we want to turn away, love both beckons and threatens us. And even when it beckons and seems to promise fulfillment, part of us rebels. We don’t want anything too “serious.” Sure, we want something “meaningful” — but in the future, not now. We want kids, but we don’t want them yet. Marriage is an option, but not if it means giving up any of our freedom.

Where we err is in imagining that love is exactly as we perceive it to be. Where there is fear, there is no love. So, in being afraid of love, we have provided the perfect fortress to keep it out of our lives. And if we fall in love while fearing it, our fear will prevent us from wanting to sustain that love. Perhaps, we can do better. Maybe this person isn’t all he or she seems to be. Or maybe he or she is so attractive or appealing that he or she will leave us for someone else.

Just as we fear failure and oftentimes thwart or avoid the possibility of success, we fear failing at love and use this to justify closing it out of our lives. But how can you fear something you don’t have? How can you fear a love that is unknown?

You fear what you perceive love to be — not what it actually is. And you fear what you perceive to be both sides of it. You’re afraid of the pain and misery that follows rejection, abandonment, and betrayal. Yet you also fear the contentment and happiness that may give temporary bliss but, more often than not, ends in loneliness, emptiness, or indifference masquerading as obligation.

Of course those of us who fear love rarely admit we’re afraid of it. We simply avoid it. We imagine through fear that we can escape a basic human need. But we don’t have rational reasons for avoiding it. Our reasons are based on warped perceptions — perceptions that will destroy the very thing we want even though we fear it.

Many of us see ourselves as courageous. And many of us have great physical courage. But for love, it isn’t physical courage that’s needed — it’s emotional courage.  Yet emotional courage will elude us if we are afraid of anything, including love. We imagine that vulnerability is weakness, and in the words of C. S. Lewis, “to love is to be vulnerable.” But vulnerability is not weakness. Rather, it is strength. For it requires much less of us to avoid the possibility of love than to open ourselves up to it.

~Sascha

This essay and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2012 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements

~Love, Reexamined~

Love as an idea may exist in the abstract, but as a reality it does not exist. For love is not based within the framework of thought, though it can, in its truest and most lasting form, be an act of the will. There is, however, a difficulty in viewing love as an act of the will. In doing so, we seem to disregard all the romance and sentimentality that are associated with it. And truly, what could be less romantic than thinking of love as a decision?

We are the first to agree with the popular adage that everything in life is a choice. But to consider love as a choice seems almost blasphemous. Is it not something sacred, something divinely inspired? Well yes, it can indeed be divinely inspired, but it is the act of falling in love that we speak of when we talk of divine inspiration. Being in love is something entirely different. For to be in love implies a prolonged attachment to someone. However, the process of falling in love can end almost as soon as it began.

Where there is no recognized difference between falling in love and being in love, two people may believe that the lack of overwhelming passion and exuberance that was part of the former indicates that the latter is without depth or worth. Just as it is easy to mistake lust for love, it is also easy to mistake the process of falling out of love and into being in love with the end of love. At the same time, the process of falling in love can be mistaken for much more than it is. It can seem to be life-changing, but the alterations it brings into one’s life are transitory, at best. It reaches the heights of emotion with a rapidity that seems miraculous and makes one feel as if the world one lives in has come alive again.

In reality, a void within oneself has been filled — a loneliness and longing to escape one’s everyday existence into something magical, almost surreal. We imagine that the euphoria will last forever, and the person we love seems to be an angel or a dream sent down from heaven to fulfill our deepest needs. But another person cannot fulfill needs that are our own, and, in expecting them to do so, the process of falling in love will come to a halt, usually quite suddenly. Then, we will look around and ask ourselves, ‘What was I thinking?’

Yet if the process of falling in love makes a smooth transition into being in love, these doubts do not exist. For though being in love does not flow with the same fervor that falling in love does, it is the only experience through which a person can truly be transformed. But the state of  being in love takes time and patience to develop, and these are things that the world encourages us to forget. If we meet someone whom we think might be our ideal, we leap into the unknown, often falling in love in a very short time — a few days or even a few hours. In our minds this is real. Yet, alas, what we are in love with is not the ideal but only our image of the ideal.

How is this image created? By piecing together parts of the possible ideal that match up with our fantasies and disregarding those parts that don’t. We have created our beloved ourselves. He or she does not really exist. And although this discovery may happen gradually or quickly, when the realization comes about, we feel not only devastated but also betrayed. Instead of understanding that we betrayed ourselves by creating an illusion, we blame the other person for failing to be all that we hoped and imagined. As the process happens again and again, we begin to question love itself. If love exists, why doesn’t it ever seem to last? And why do people who have been married for two decades or more stay together when there no longer seems to be obvious passion or amorous excitement between them?

The answer is simple. We have confused the process of falling in love with being in love. We have confused feeling with an act of the will. We have deceived ourselves into imagining that the euphoria and bliss that falling in love brings must be present in every form of love.

~Sascha

This essay and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2012 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved.