Now, she was afraid of loving life, too. How? I had to know what she meant by that. As I delve further into my line of questioning with her, she finally gets to the root of the problem.
Never in my life had I ever seen a person’s eyes rain the way hers did. I wasn’t fast enough to reach for the tissues before her skirt was already damp with tears.
It was all out in the open now, as she explains to me that she has been married for nearly 20 years and lived her life for her husband and kids. Their needs, wants and desires became her entire life.
As far as HER needs, wants, and desires? Well, she took whatever was left over, and never asked for anything more. All because she knew that, if she did ask, she was certain she wouldn’t get it – she’d already tried that before.
Giving appreciation for what little they already give, and lovingly asking for more didn’t work. When it came down to it, pleading and begging didn’t work either. With that, she learned a habit of being content instead.
She talked to herself about making lemonade from the lemons that her life was handing her. Knowing almost the first year that her marriage was empty, she fell into raising children. Her emotional needs weren’t met by her husband so she embraced the children.
After all, they would love her unconditionally. That was all she had for any sort of love and affection… or, so she thought.
Soon, the children grew into selfishness, as did her husband. By then, the attention was even more scarce. Fast forward to today, she is free from her marriage now, and her children are nearly grown.
She has begun to date, but she’s being held back by the fear of loving again.
Afraid to love – this isn’t living.
Her ability to make lemonade out of lemons and “work” to feel content, on its own, is a positive quality, and I told her that. What she has done, however, is using it as a defense mechanism to avoid fear by not asking for more out of life.
To which, she responded with a story to back that up. In a recent date with someone she is beginning to see more and more, he asks her if she “wanted” to explore a place they were visiting on a road trip to which she replies “no”.
She confides that she really wanted to get out and explore after the fact as they continued to drive away and her opportunity was gone.
She was afraid to be vulnerable. She was afraid that he would not share the same joy and enthusiasm she did about the beautiful sight. She was certain in her mind that he wouldn’t have fun if she’d said yes, because she could already tell that he had other plans.
I asked her why she responded “no”. She said after a long pause, “I’m not sure,” but then she intimated that, for her entire adult life, she never felt as though she was “allowed” to want anything.
She begins to recount examples in her memory when she wanted something; someone else’s desires overshadowed hers – whether she herself made them a priority, or they selfishly decided that on their own.
What has happened here? How would she be able to learn a new way of living? Is she existing moment to moment without getting in touch with what she wants?
He’d promised her long enough now that he’d go to counseling and learn how to be a better lover, but he never even picked up a book. She’d finally had enough.
Beyond the tragedy that was her entire marriage, the divorce was like icing on the cake for the fear she already had. Now, she was afraid it might end like this one did, too.
Being afraid to love is a learned behavior. How do you gain the courage to ask for more out of life?
Understand – that your needs are important. Being a naturally selfless person is a great quality however it is easy for this personality type to lose themselves too easily. She never built those muscles. Truth be told, her self esteem is rather low. She puts on a great mask. She looks all put together, chin up and chest out. Boy does she have the world fooled. She’s afraid to let anyone see her true self, weak and hurt. Gaining understanding puts a person in a more powerful place. When we understand, it makes our feelings feel…okay. This is a comfortable place of acceptance. This is how we can move into a more free, authentic self.
Identify – a “safe” person in your life. This is a person whom you feel comfortable practicing on. You want to go to this person and “ask” for something that you want. For this client, it was her daughter. She didn’t announce to her teenage daughter that she was part of a test. She simply asked her daughter “would you please go for a walk with me?” This was simple but somehow too much to ask in the past. She tells me that she remembers her mother as a young child being angry at her when she would ask for anything. My client has been putting her desires aside that long…
Relationships –Take a look at the people in your day to day life. Do you feel as though the people in your life have your best interest at heart? If you believe that your life is filled with selfish people who don’t care about your needs, you may need to think about reducing the time that you spend with them. Ending relationships is never easy, simply remember to meditate on them and ask if these are healthy for you in the long run. Ask if the relationships make you a better person.
For this client, her issue spills over into something much bigger. She is in a big way, shut down; simply shut off from her feelings. This is stemming from a story that she told herself long ago that she wasn’t significant and that her needs did not matter. She took from life what it gave…and nothing more.
Take a long look at your life, are you afraid to love? Do you ask for more out of life? Do you find that you are shut off from your feelings? I’d love to hear from you.