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.

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Poverty

Why is it that most of us go on seeking more even when we already have enough? Where does this sense of impoverishment come from? Most of us have our basic needs met in our lives and, at least, a few luxuries besides. Yet deep within ourselves, we feel poor.

I am not speaking of merely financial impoverishment. Ah, no. This inner sensation of poverty oftentimes afflicts those who are rich most of all. For those things that are of true value are things money can’t buy. When a person has enough money, yet says he is unhappy, how many of us scoff at his complaints? How can one take a rich person seriously when he says he feels poor? Alas, we have such an obscure, rudimentary understanding of the state of poverty that engulfs the human soul.

Do we truly imagine that wealth makes one’s soul or spirit richer? It’s rather baffling, one must admit, that we are still surprised when people who are rich and famous commit suicide and/or become addicted to things that ultimately destroy their lives. What little understanding others might have provided them with is generally replaced by envy over their material possessions, affluent lifestyle, and celebrity status. These people are the elect ones — the ones who “have it all.” But are they?

There have been so many writers, musicians, and artists, whose understanding of this poverty of the human soul has come through their work. Those who are not intuitive enough to feel the personal pain behind these creations merely attribute them to brilliance or innovativeness. But brilliance does not give one the ability to reach inside oneself and express the impoverishment within. And although innovativeness may influence the way a person expresses his inner poverty, it is not what enables him to admit it and share it with others.

It is vulnerability that gives one the ability to open one’s heart and soul. Yet this very vulnerability often seems to increase the sense of poverty in one’s soul. It is far easier to surround one’s soul with walls so that the emptiness within is never seen. That which cannot be affirmed by others is often denied by ourselves. But these walls, however formidable they may seem to be, are rarely impenetrable. There are people and events in one’s life that temporarily break down the walls and, during these times, the poverty in a person’s soul is laid bare for all to see. And it is in such moments that it also becomes the most real to us, for only when we are forced to admit something are we compelled to deny it.

If we are brave, we find a way to use the times of genuine vulnerability to achieve a deeper understanding of ourselves. Yet such courage is not common, particularly since it involves pulling off the proverbial social mask one wears. Granted, getting in touch with our inner poverty is our only chance of ever diminishing it, but many of us would prefer to cover it up as best we can so that we can continue to deny it — even to ourselves.

Or, perhaps, it is to ourselves that we are least inclined to admit 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.

~Seeing~

Seeing — true seeing — is done with the soul, not with the eyes. For we can look at someone and imagine we see him or her when all we see is his or her outer shell. Inside everything, all that is, there are complexities that cannot be fathomed with the eyes. Can our eyes look into another person’s heart? Can we read another person’s thoughts simply by looking at him? No. And there are thousands, possibly millions of things that we look at each day; yet, we do not see most of them.

This casual glancing is something we have become so accustomed to that we apply it to everything — that is, to people as well. To a certain extent, looking is more pleasant than seeing as it requires much less effort on our part. We are not called upon to imagine or conjecture when we merely look. It would be rather akin to reading the summary of a book instead of reading the book itself. A few details of what we look at may be so obvious to the eyes that one cannot help but notice them; but, anything that isn’t plainly obvious eludes us.

Even life itself is something that we oftentimes only see the appearance of. Some of us look at our lives with such a casual glance that only that which we cannot avoid noticing is a reality to us. Yet sadly, that which one blatantly acknowledges is often that which is least significant. We speak of looking within to understand ourselves, but what good is merely looking if we fail to see?

The world encourages us to race through life rather than savoring every moment. When we do take time for being instead of merely doing, others may well regard us as lazy. After all, what could be more slothful than doing absolutely nothing at all? Isn’t activity supposed to be at the core of living? Isn’t our life supposed to be mapped out, planned, managed as one might manage a corporation? Staying busy is what we must do. We must run to and fro all the time, remaining in constant motion. Otherwise we might have time to see ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. We might become aware of the dissatisfaction within us. And how would we cope with it once we came face to face with it?

We have been taught that nothing can cure our dissatisfaction inside. Thus, to stay consciously blind to it seems to be the only reasonable alternative. But what does blindness give us? A temporary escape from ourselves and life? Perhaps, some of us lack the courage to confront things as we might have to if we truly saw them as they are. Maybe our illusions seem to be the only light in the darkness of our discontent. But if this light remains intangible, of what use is it?

Illusions may give us comfort but they will never give us truth. In fact, more often than not, they cast a  veil over the truth. And when the veil is removed — not by us but by life — we feel as if part of us has been destroyed. But has it?  If we were able to overcome the fear and the need for security that led us to create the illusions in the first place, would we not finally be able to see not only ourselves but everyone and everything else as well?

Those of us who continue to look without seeing are blind. But it is we who have blinded ourselves. Even if an outside force leads us to the point where we can merely glance at things, we are still the only ones who can alter this. For we are the only ones who have our particular set of eyes through which we can see the amazing world around us — if, that is, we choose to.

~Sascha

 

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

~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.

Self-Deception

We claim that we are content — that our lives, as we lead them, give us all that we could ever need. Yet we are so occupied convincing ourselves of this that we ignore the true promptings of our inner selves. We fear our own emptiness. We’re afraid to be alone with ourselves. Thus, we are always seeking a distraction lest we begin to see ourselves as we truly are.

Those who seek something such as fame are really attempting to run from the loneliness in their own lives. They believe that accolades, success, and recognition will give them the approval that they are consciously or unconsciously withholding from themselves. But the attention and admiration of the multitude rarely present anything but momentary satisfaction. Why? Because down deep within ourselves we know that someone else’s opinion of us never changes what we think about ourselves.

If we but followed Socrates’s sage advice, “Know thyself,” instead of merely paying lip service to it, we would be on a journey of self-discovery instead of on an adventure of temporary pleasure and self-gratification. Perhaps, you say, it is impossible to ever completely know oneself. Well, even if it is, there is something admirable about the person who has the courage to begin this daunting quest for self-knowledge.

When we begin to see ourselves clearly, we see many truths that are painful to acknowledge. We may see that we have deceived ourselves for as long as we can remember — that the deceit we thought we have perceived in others has actually been self-deception instead. We may also see that the hurt and pain we have caused ourselves far exceeds any hurt or pain that others have caused.

Ah, how easy it is to find fault with other people! Yet, how difficult it is to acknowledge the ingrained flaws within ourselve.! For, we must completely destroy our self-pride if we are to see ourselves as we truly are. We must stop listening to the compliments, the flattery, and the praise of other people because their words, though they are kind and gratifying, will give us a false sense of self-confidence that has no genuine foundation beneath it.

If we feel proud of a false self, what does this tell us about who we are? How can we be so deceived as to believe what other people tell us about ourselves when their conception of us is completely different from our real selves? Do we imagine that believing the flattery and praise we hear in some way elevates us as human beings? Can we not see the folly of accepting this flattery? To even accept it as sincere is self-betrayal. Yet, who can blame us? Who wouldn’t like to hold on to an idealized conception of himself or herself?

The problem is, self-pride cancels out humility, thereby making it impossible to peer clearly into our soul. But if we are brave enough to choose to look within not only with honesty but also with a certain amount of ruthlessness, we will see that there is no reason for self-pride. At the same time, there is undoubtedly every reason for humility. After all, we are all guilty of the sins that we condemn in other people. Each one of us is capable of committing crimes that we judge as horrendous when someone else commits them. We look at another person’s life and imagine how much better we would have handled their opportunities, challenges, and circumstances than they have. But how do we know unless we are living in their shoes?

If we continue to run from our true selves, there will come a time when we are no longer capable of distinguishing between the person whom other people praise, flatter, and admire and the person we genuinely are. Ultimately, then, we will have given up any chance to be authentic. For, we will have deceived ourselves to the point where even we no longer know who we are.

~Sascha

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

~Grief~

Are we only to feel grief when we lose someone precious to us? Is grief reserved for the loss of a loved one? Or can we also grieve when we lose part of ourselves or when our most precious, cherished dreams have been shattered?

We are encouraged to believe that grief is not an everyday emotion. It is not something one feels in the gloom of life’s “little” tragedies. It is only something one can feel while in the midst of life’s enormous catastrophes. We are allowed to experience grief when someone close — a spouse, a family member, a pet — dies,  but not when we feel a dying of our innermost selves. Perhaps, if grief were a more acceptable emotion to feel outside of the death of someone or something we have loved, we would be better equipped to cope with it. Perhaps, if we allowed ourselves to mourn the loss of our former selves, we would be better able to accept the people we are right now. Is not becoming entwined to the past to the point where we cannot break free from it often a form of grief? And might not what feels like sadness, disappointment, or even bitterness at the way our lives have turned out thus far be a form of grief?

Of course, we already know that the world doesn’t want to see our tears. We are supposed to be sensitive enough to cry at the “right” moments (whatever these are — and, yes, generally they are chosen for us). But to weep when, to the outside world, we have no viable reason to do so, is unacceptable. If you’re alive and have your basic needs met, why should you grieve? You shouldn’t, of course. Rather, you should be grateful. Ah yes, forget about the beautiful, exhilarating dreams you waltzed to when you were a child. That was before you understood how the world works. To aspire towards being or having more than what has been allotted to you is mere foolishness. You must be satisfied to read about great men and women in biographies and history books. As for eternal, everlasting love, if you believe in that you must surely have read too many fairy tales when you were growing up.

Self-help gurus tell us that we have the power within ourselves to be whatever we want to be — that the “seeds of greatness” are within us. But, in the real world, life steps in and snatches anything we get that might seem “too good to be true,” as the saying goes. And since we are to focus on all of the blessings we have, acknowledging our grief over any lack that exists in our lives is, we are told, a form of ingratitude. Indeed, it is egregious of us to grieve for that we don’t have or what we failed to achieve when we have so much more to be thankful for than so many other people.

Sadly, though, telling those who are grieving that they must be grateful doesn’t seem to do an enormous amount of good. I know when I am grieving that someone reprimanding me for not being grateful enough doesn’t seem to help. At the same time, I find that in addition to grief I begin to blame myself for my lack of gratitude. Granted, the self-blame only makes the grief more intense, but to those who have so kindly pointed out my folly (i.e., ingratitude) I assure them that they have done their part.

The thing about grief — and those who have genuinely experienced it know this — is that there is no magical remedy for it. You can’t find pills of happiness somewhere or bottles filled with joy. And even if you could, who imagines that joy or happiness will eradicate grief? In many ways, one can experience joy and/or happiness at the same time as grief, for one can feel joy or happiness about one aspect of his life while simultaneously grieving for another part of his existence. Joy and happiness seem, to me, at least, to be far more ephemeral than grief. Joy flies on sparkling wings like a gigantic, bejeweled butterfly, and happiness beams down upon one like a dazzling but fleeting morning sun.

But what about grief? Grief neither flies on wings nor does it give forth light. Grief creates a dark tunnel inside the center of ourselves and burrows deeper and deeper until it strangles all other emotions with its tenacious grip. Grief is the weed that kills the most glorious flowers in the garden of our heart. And yet, its effect can never really be explained, can it? If we try to, we either sound ridiculous or, at the least, melodramatic. So, those of us who feel it often become quite reticent about it, using vague terms like “dissatisfaction,” “sadness,” “despondency,” or “depression,” even though these words do not begin to define the essence of grief. If we are more honest about expressing our feelings, we may say that we are in “a state of despair.” But oft-times, the kinds of explanations that must be forthcoming when we make such a confession make it seem scarcely worth the trouble. And even though grief and despair may be close cousins, they are not the same thing. They may be garments fashioned from similar materials, but they are different.

So how, taking all this into consideration, are we expected to bear grief? Should we smother it with petty worries or suffocate it by staying busy? Should we stab grief in the heart by focusing on being grateful? Since grief cannot be killed, all of these so-called solutions are useless. What one can do, however, is allow oneself to experience grief — to even embrace grief with love rather than attempt to cast it aside with hate. For sorrows, like joys, are given to us for a reason, whether we fully comprehend that reason or not.

~Sascha

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