When we extend ourselves to have the courage to love, we enter a new and different self. We do things we are not accustomed to do. We change. The experience of change, of unaccustomed activity, of being on unfamiliar ground, of doing things differently is frightening.
It always was and always will be. People handle their fear of change in different ways, but the fear is inescapable if they are in fact to change. Courage is not the absence of fear; it`s the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future.
Some people`s whole lives are devoted to avoiding risks; and that in this endeavor, rather than enlarging themselves, they have narrowed and diminished it almost to the point of nonexistence.
We can only love that which in one way or another has importance for us. But with cathexis there is always the risk of loss or rejection. If you move out to another human being, there is always the risk that that person will move away from you. So move out and grow in any dimension, and pain as well as joy will be your reward. A full life will be full of pain. But the only alternative is not to live fully, or not to live at all.
The attempt to avoid legitimate suffering lies at the root of all emotional illness. Not surprisingly, most therapy-patients have a problem in facing the reality of death squarely and clearly. When we shy away from death though, the everchanging nature of things, we inevitably shy away from life…
As a very very young teenager, I did little but sleep, for only in sleep I could find any comfort. In retrospect I think perhaps in my sleep I was resting and unconsiously preparing myself for the leap I was about to take very soon after that.. I took it when I got kicked on the street at the age of 14, in the middle of winter. And kept on being homeless and wandering around until the age of 19…
If I would have returned to my parents` house or to my parents`church, I would have been returning to all that was safe, secure, “right” , proper, “constructive”, proven and known. Yet: it was not me! In the depths of my being I knew it was not my path. But what was my path? If I did not return, all that lay ahead was unknown, undetermined, unsafe, insecure, unsanctified, unpredictable.
Anyone who would take such a path must be mad. I was terrified! But then, at the moment of my greatest despair, from my unconscious there came a sequence of words, like a strange disembodied oracle from a voice that was not mine: “the only real security in life lies in relishing life`s insecurity”. Even if it meant being crazy and dissident and out of step with all that seemed holy, I had decided to be ME – whoever I might be..
Many never take any of these potential enormous leaps, and consequently many do not ever really grow up at all, never having dared to truly take their destiny into their own hands. While such great leaps are most commonly made during adolescence, they can be made at any age.
As a 34-year-old mother of children, married to a controlling, extremely jealous, stultifying, inflexible, chauvinistic and agressive husband, I gradually and painfully came to realize that my dependency on him and our marriage was a living death. He blocked all my attempts to change the nature of our relationship. So with incredible bravery I divorced him, lost everything I ever gathered and paid for in my whole life, nearly got killed by him, sustained the burden of his recriminations and the criticism of family, friends and neigbors ( for outside the house he was “mister gentleman”), and risked an unknown future without any money or work, alone with my children – but free for the first time in my life to be my own person.
After long reflection I realized that I had been driven by a need of approval from a domineering, constantly critical mother, going on and on and on, so as to be finally accepted and loved by her. Such major changes into independence and self-determination are enormously painful at any age and require supreme courage.
These are also acts of self-love. It is precisely, because as a punished and kicked-on-the-street-teenager I valued myself that I was unwilling to remain miserable and pleasing everybody but me. It is because as a housewife had regard for myself that I refused to tolerate any longer a marriage that so totally limited my freedom and repressed my personality. Not only does love for oneself provide the motive for such major changes; it is also the basis for the courage to risk them.
Although I felt inadequate and worthless and possibly crazy in doing what I did, I was able to tolerate those feelings only because at the same time, on an even deeper level, I sensed myself to be a good person, no matter how different I might be. In daring to be different, even if it meant to be crazy.
Finally, it is only when one has taken the leap into the unknown of total selfhood, psychological independence and unique individuality that one is free to proceed along still higher paths of spiritual growth and free to manifest love in its greatest dimensions. The highest forms of love are invitably totally free choices and not acts of conformity..