By facing our fears we can learn to love

Walls block out the grand view of what one's life could be.

In the following extract from a friend’s letter is a reflection of how many people live their lives in fear of being hurt.

“I used to change myself when I felt inadequate in social situations. Now I’ve got another philosophy. When something bothers me I no longer change myself: I flee the situation… So with my girlfriend I am pleased with having loose relationships: if she lets me down, I’ll have less pain.

“I hope there won’t be any painful situation in my sentimental life. I hope the same thing in my professional life. One of my drives is to build bulwarks around me to protect myself against misfortune.”

We live in fear, each one of us – of being abandoned, having love withdrawn, losing a job, not having enough money to pay the bills, parents splitting up, relationships not working out, not being liked, losing friends, death, illness, failing, making mistakes…of being a mistake. This list goes on and on…

And we build walls to protect ourselves from what we fear. That wall is a denial of life, feelings and emotions. It creates non-communication.

Each time we avoid facing difficult situations and distract ourselves by engaging in activities that we pretend (or fool ourselves into believing) are more important, breakdowns in communication occur.

We avoid looking at the cause of a problem because we may be unwilling to face some painful truths in our lives and make the necessary changes to resolve them.

Several years ago I read an article written by Father John Catoir which was enclosed in a note from a friend’s father.

“I sometimes cringe when I hear a man tell me that he loves his wife and children, when I know very well they are starving for his love and affection. He reacts defensively to any reproach, thinking he should be given more credit for all the hard work he’s done putting bread on the table.

“How sad. When a man doesn’t know how to love and nourish his own children it might be more a sign of weakness than bad will. He may be wounded himself.

There’s no such thing as a perfect father, or a perfect human being for that matter. As children grow up they have to come to terms with their father’s frailty and not allow his behaviour to destroy their chance for happiness.”

My friend was intensely angry that his father was unable to connect with him in a more meaningful way, unaware that by enclosing the article, his father was trying to communicate that there was something in his own life that was preventing him from doing so.

Perhaps the challenge for us all is to learn to love ourselves so that we do not pass on the frailties and wounds of our parents to generations to come.

In my counselling work I see many people who are unable to love themselves because they didn’t feel loved as children. Negative feelings and beliefs about themselves create painful experiences that are repeated in many different ways for the rest of their lives. The pain they seek to escape follows them like a shadow and squeezes out all joy from their lives.

It is time for each one of us to face the fears within us and dismantle the bulwarks so we can learn to love again, and show our children that we love them.

This, I believe, is an antidote to the spread of violence and crime within our society.

First published in the Ballarat News, August 2, 1995

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