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Scared Separate

by David Truman

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Chapter 2: Take Off Your Fear-Colored Glasses

"If I can't have it, I don't want to want it."

How love became a four-letter word

The dumbest way to protect ourselves

The sweeter they come, the harder we get

Too good to be true, or too good to be true to?

A personal experience

Behind fear-colored glasses

The campaign against love and relationship

Don't throw your greatest treasures in the trash

The joy of our desiring

What are we so afraid of?

What goes around comes around

The truth of the matter

No one wants to be disappointed. So, when we think something we love is out of our reach, we tend to turn against it in our heart, to protect ourselves from getting hurt.

You know how it works: You go to a store and fall in love with a couch. You want that couch bad, but then you find out how much it costs... far more than you can afford. Immediately, you start talking yourself out of it: "It's the wrong color. I don't have the space for it anyway. It really isn't that great." Sound familiar?

You're trying not to love the couch so much anymore, so you can avoid the heartbreak of not having it. Anyone who's ever been disappointed has done some compensatory self-talk.

But here's the thing...

When it's only a couch, that's okay. You're better off not pining for a couch you can't have. But the stakes are much higher when we turn against love.

How love became a four-letter word

Ego is keen to invalidate things that you, as a human being love most. And not just the things you want most, but the things you need most. Like love.

When it comes to love, ego claims: "Love is dangerous and unlikely. Happy relationships are a pipedream. Better to let these idealistic fantasies go, and settle down for something more realistic..."

Then, when you've finally been convinced that you can't have what your heart pines for—or you've learned to fear it—you start preparing yourself internally for a life without it. To lessen the heartbreak, you try to talk yourself out of what you hold dear: "Who needs love anyway?" "It's important not to need anybody." "I'm better off on my own." "Relationships are just a heartbreak and a hassle." "It's dangerous to give your heart." "Love stinks!"

The dumbest way to protect ourselves

The ego's standard anti-love speech—"There is no love; no one cares; better to protect myself"—seems almost reasonable. Until, that is, love shows its lovely face. Then we begin to see something perverse: even after love takes wing, and we know it's ours to give and to have, we still push it away.

It's a familiar story: You fall in love, and your happiness knows no bounds. Then suddenly, you feel afraid. Fear rears up within you. Time to run for cover! Suddenly, you're thinking: "What am I doing? I'm losing my center. I must be crazy! I hardly know this person. They're probably no good. They might be Jack the Ripper, for all I know. How could I open up to them so quickly? I practically trusted them. What a fool I am! What a mistake I almost made! I'm just lucky I didn't go for it."

Smart, we call it. Yep, just like paranoia is supposed to be smart... and hopelessness, and sabotage.

Granted, the enthusiasm to invalidate a potentially good thing is a self-protective mechanism. We think it protects our heart. "I love this thing so much, I need to guard my heart against it, in order to keep from being heartbroken—heartbroken if it isn't what I thought it was, heartbroken if it doesn't work out, if I can't have it, if I can't handle it right...." But paranoia and avoidance are not as safe as they seem. Actually, the heart breaks when we turn away from love. Nothing could hurt us more! It leaves us desolate, hopeless, jaded. And it creates a painful, lonely life.

The sweeter they come, the harder we get

And here's the real kicker: the better the love, the deeper and more beautiful the relationship being generated, the more likely a person will bail because of fear. "This is getting too good," they feel. "I can't give this much of my heart. I'm setting myself up to get hurt."
Or similarly, you'll sometimes hear people say, "We need to remain friends, because if we become more than friends, we'll ruin it." They know, intuitively, that the deeper and more intense the relationship, the more volatile their emotions will be. They'll be more disappointed if their expectations aren't met. Their fear, jealousy, and reactivity will be greater.

So, people are not just becoming generally afraid; they're becoming afraid in proportion to the depth and beauty of what's likely to be created in a given relationship. The bigger the promise, the bigger the fear of losing it.

"You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn't hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose, and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can't recall;
So if I broke your heart last night, it's because I love you most of all."

-- Mills Brothers

That familiar perversity is accurately expressed when people ask their therapist, "Doctor, why do I push the good ones away?" Or "Why, when things get good, do I always sabotage it?"

It's not because people are anti-love. It's because they're all about love, all about togetherness, all about relationship. They're so much about love that they just can't bear to face the possibility that love would fail, or NOT be theirs. So they heap on all this garbage to try to unbreak their heart.

The problem is, all that doom and gloom, all those negative expectations, are a self-fulfilling prophecy, a self-limiting expectation. People shoot themselves in the foot that way every day. They start a relationship, but say it will never work. They start a business, but fear it will fail. That fearful psychology is destructive to the possibilities of success and fulfillment. It undermines people's willingness to participate wholeheartedly: to take risks, to put one's heart on the line, to invest big—to do just the kinds of things that are needed to make any dream come true.

Too good to be true, or too good to be true to?

But there's another side to this story. It's not quite that simple. There's a fuzzy line between fear of losing something that seems "too good to be true," and outright sabotage. Sometimes, the would-be lover is actuallyunwilling to be true TO a good thing. In other words, they don't want to rise to the challenge of supporting and maintaining such a beautiful relationship. It demands too much. They're not willing to bring that much heart, commitment, and self-transcendence to the table. That's why people push the best ones away.

A personal experience

These are patterns I can personally comment on, because I've seen them many times in people who come to visit our community.

We are far from perfect, but we've worked on relationship sincerely for a number of years. And we must have gotten somewhere, because now, when people come to visit us, they're amazed at how well we get along. They think they've found Shangri-La. That may sound like boasting; but actually, it's less of a commentary on how great we are, and more a commentary on how abysmal conditions are in the culture at large.

The oppressive climate of fear and indifference that characterizes almost everywhere is suddenly, as if magically, missing when they come into our home. And they are amazed to see something that they consider to be anachronistic: happiness! Yes, happiness itself.

And cooperation—another thing we've worked on for a while. Many visitors have told us: "I can't believe how well you guys work together. I've never seen anything like this before!"

In this day and age, it's terribly hard to get people to cooperate. Too often, it's more trouble than it's worth. People complain and disagree. They're resentful and resistant. They're always trying to one-up each other, trying to get out of having to do the hard stuff. It's all just the ego's prideful attempts to get its way. So, when people visit our community, and see us jump right in cheerfully and just start working—no hassles and no arguing—they feel like they died and went to heaven.

They see it as a return to a day when humanity was humane; when a handshake meant something; when cooperation was possible; when smiles flourished; when people were happy in their love for one another, and in their cooperative spirit. A better world. A simpler world. A world more true to the heart. A world that is genuinely supportive and workable.

It's beautiful to see that, even in this skeptical age, people respond so powerfully to love, togetherness, cooperation. That shows that the human heart is alive! And that people still recognize the heart values of love, cooperation, trust, interdependence. It's a tremendous validation of the fact that, even though egotism pretty much runs the world—in all the fear, distrust, and separateness that's so prevalent these days—each person secretly burns a candle in their heart for these high and beautiful human values. They know what they love, they know what they are. They want to live with people, in a truly cooperative and loving spirit. This gives me hope for a brighter future for this humanity.

But then, skepticism and doubt kick in. Before long, our guests start thinking stuff like, "This is too good to be true. What have these guys been smoking?" And they start trying to find something wrong, looking for a reason to doubt or disagree. A "good reason" to distance themselves.

Behind fear-colored glasses

So, people first have good perceptions, beautiful responses, bright as the sun. And then, out come the dark glasses! Just when we feel love, resonance, and relief, ego jams our headspace with fear, suspicion, insecurity, self-doubt—thoughts that combat our heartfelt response to something we love. We put on our fear-colored glasses, and suddenly it looks darker. The light is now dimmed, obscured with fears and reservations. Worst case? A blindfold. A total eclipse of the heart.

But behind those fear-colored glasses, what's really happening is this: we felt something so beautiful it made our heart jump out of our chest. We wanted that. We loved that. We recognized it as what we've longed for. The fact that we react against it so strongly only shows how much we love it. So, the impulse to invalidate and push away what we love is really just a perverse inversion of an intense desire for those things—a desire thatis so valid, because every human heart is social.

The campaign against love and relationship

Human beings are social animals, indeed. But society has become a machine of the invalidation of the human heart and its needs. You've surely heard the popular recommendations: "Live for yourself. Don't expect anything from anyone else. Trust no one. Depend on yourself alone."

And of course, psychologists do their part: "You don't need love. You can live without it. Don't waste your life fantasizing about some childish ideal. You need to learn how to cope, to adapt to reality. Don't fool yourself. Don't be naïve. Don't be gullible."

Even "spirituality" has come down heavily on relationship and belonging. Particularly in the faddishly cool, New Age adaptations of traditional beam-me-up philosophies. Many modern spiritual teachers preach the dogma that interdependence is illusion. "True enlightenment," they say, "is to be self-sufficient. You will not need relationships, because you will have achieved unity in your spiritual consciousness."

To be "complete in yourself" is the stated goal of spiritual life, and it's the stated goal of psychological life. And it's certainly the goal of insecure teenagers, who are falling in love every week, and trying to stabilize themselves by becoming self-sufficient.

Don't throw your greatest treasures in the trash

But here again, the prevailing passion for independence is really an overreaction against our natural, powerful, beautiful impulses. It is a reaction against who we are. Our hearts are alive, and they love what they love: Belonging. Closeness. Togetherness. The heart loves to love. It even loves to desire.

Making an ogre out of desire is deluded—and so is saying that you're losing your center because you're obsessed. Hey, human beings are obsessed. Human beings are obsessed with love! Human beings are great because they're obsessed with love. It's part of our beauty and majesty, that great force of desire. It's glorious that the urge to merge should course through our veins, and reach out, and work to realize unity with the beloved. Inseparability, even. You are, by God, a great lover, who loves with a great power, and has a great desire for love's fulfillment. How tragic to characterize all this as weakness!

It's a shame that people have bought these egoic arguments—telling themselves that if they want people, they are sick and weak; if they desire, they're losing it; if they trust, they're stupid; if they depend on anyone, they're a fool; if they need anyone, they're wrong.

The truth is, teachers and therapists who are skeptical of love are themselves sick—emotionally, spiritually sick. Fear of love is a terrible sickness, and they're sharing it with you when they tell you that you're sick because you want love, and you trust people, and you desire interdependence. They are calling you ill in the very areas where you are healthy. And they're trying to infect you with their disease in an area where they themselves are diseased.

No man is an island. We have real needs, social needs. To have made a golden idol of not needing, to have condemned need as bad and wrong, is a direct attack on your own heart, and your soul.

The joy of our desiring

Mutual dependence is the way of the heart. Your heart says, "I feel better cooking for someone else than just cooking for myself. And I feel better cutting firewood for my family than just for myself." It is the joy of the heart to be interdependent in those ways. Your heart realizes that mutual dependence is much better than each one cutting his own firewood, each one cooking his own food by himself, buying his own car, watching his own TV, living alone in his own condo. But that's what is happening, for the most part. With our anti-dependent dogmas, we've created a generation of solitary people, living lonely, self-directed lives.

Autonomy may be the politically correct lifestyle, but how sad it is! Think about the mother who sighs, "Well, my kids have grown. Nobody needs me now." Or the lonely woman who cries, "I have so much love to give, but no one to give it to. Nobody needs me. No one wants to depend on me. I have no use." Or the man sitting alone in his apartment, doing his own thing. He's got his guitar, and his peanut butter jar, but he doesn't have anybody to bring home the bacon, to fix the screen door for, be there for. He isn't harnessed to any kind of plow. And he feels terrible. "This isn't the life I want. What good am I for anybody? All I do is I work; I buy more stuff, and I live in my apartment. What use is that? No use."

These everyday stories show clearly that our desire to be good for other people and to enjoy mutual dependence with other human beings runs deep. Deeper, in fact, than our fears and reservations.

The joy of man's desiring is belonging, working together, depending on one another. When we actually allow those things to happen, we are ecstatic: "Oh my God, I found someone. I have someone. I am part of a love." You see? This is celebration. "L'Chaim! This is the greatest day of my life, not the worst manifestation of what I feared. This is my best day!"

What Are We So Afraid Of?

In spite of the fact that we love it so much, mutual dependence has been condemned. The very thought strikes fear in the heart of the modern person. To recommend it in today's culture is practically heresy. Somebody's liable to burn the books!

What are we afraid of? We're afraid of being let down. We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we are relying on somebody else. We're afraid that if we start depending on somebody for cooking our food or cutting our wood, that person might stop doing it, and then we'll be up the creek. We don't want to depend on a system that could break. We don't want to depend on a person who could abandon his responsibility. We prefer to be self-sufficient.

But here's my question: What if no one let you do the cooking, or do anything for them, because they were afraid you weren't reliable? What if nobody gave you their heart, because they were afraid you would hurt them, or leave them? What if they weren't willing to trust you and they called that wise?

Nobody wants to see this attitude coming back at them. We don't want to hear that nobody trusts our reliability.

Nowadays, people don't want to trust anyone enough to give them a chance to prove themselves. So, while you may want to be there for someone, care for them, support them, be their reliable someone—they won't let you. The basic message of this fearful mentality is: I can't and won't take a chance on you. I'm not willing to gamble on you... No wonder relationship is failing!

To have another person's vote of confidence is crucial to a human being. To be trusted. To be needed. To be depended on. To be found reliable. It's a universal need.

What goes around comes around

As a lifeguard, I found that drowning people want air badly—very badly. They may want air badly enough to drown their own would-be rescuer and, ironically, prevent their own rescue. Just so, desperate attempts to protect ourselves often put us in peril. A runaway desire not to need others will surely result in not being needed. If you want to be needed, depend on others so that they, too, can be needed. It's only fair. What goes around comes around.

So, rather than fearing everyone's unreliability, why not cultivate reliability? Why not bring out the best in people rather than fearing the worst—and by fearing the worst, bringing out the worst? Why deny the beautiful impulses of the heart to love, to serve, to work for one another... to be part of a whole... to have actual belonging? Why put steel armor on a beautiful flower? Let it grow. Let it show. These are your greatest beauties!

The truth of the matter

Though people these days look askance at the possibility of interdependence, loyalty, and love, we still need those things. Trustworthy friendship. Alliances that can grow and grow through the test of time, and the ups and downs of life. That's what it's all about! To look at love and interdependence as dangerous, dubious, and unlikely is dishonest. Closer to the truth, they are the fulfillment of every man and woman. That's true in spite of society's great skepticism and disapproval. Have the courage to admit that, and act accordingly.

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Chapter 3: The World Social Fear Is Creating

by David Truman

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