What is your biggest fear, the one you’ve struggled to overcome for years, the one that continues to stymie your best efforts at conquering? Some people fear the concrete: animals or insects, flying or closed spaces. My biggest fear is less tangible. I fear living out my old age and death isolated and alone, with no one really caring what happens to me.
I suppose the origins of this fear go back to childhood, when I felt radically different from everyone else. I was a self-contained entity, surrounded by thick, high walls of protection and imprisonment. I now know that the primary reason I held onto this perspective is that I am a highly sensitive person with many of the personality characteristics associated with that kind of internal wiring. What added to my feeling different was something I would not discover until my mid-20’s: that I was gay. Growing up with that kind of back story only enhanced any feelings of isolation I might normally feel.
Facing this greatest fear with the help of my wise life coach has caused me to reexamine my presuppositions concerning relationships. I now understand that I have unwittingly used relationship with others to try to fill the void in my heart and heal the feeling of being different and isolated. Over the years I’ve sought validation from all kinds of authority figures and institutions, especially my school teachers, the church, and the people I’ve served in parishes. I’ve hungered for companionship from almost everyone I’ve met. I’ve yearned for commitment from new friends and old. I’ve worked hard to keep up relationships, much harder than I should have, especially when they’d gone fallow. I’ve labored under a wet blanket of guilt and shame whenever I thought I might have hurt someone’s feelings. I felt like an emotional shot gun, scattering my aim and hoping to hit the target, even with just one or two tiny pellets.
And it’s not that I haven’t been somewhat successful. I have some wonderful friends, longstanding, loving and kindred spirits. Yet my fear tells me they might leave me someday and so they are not enough. The result is that I often show up in encounters with people with a sense of neediness, judgment, and high expectation…saboteurs all.
You see, all I want is permanent commitment, continual connection, the fulfilling of my insatiable hunger for intimacy. And much of the time I want it now! Clearly, a great plan for life. NOT!
These longstanding habits are subtle, however. I’m intelligent enough to make my anxiety into something bitter-sweet so that I can avoid the passive-aggressive or needy labels. Underneath it all I can’t seem to accept simply what is. I focus too often, too intensely, and too subconsciously on the future, what I want, need, expect, desire, demand, or will tolerate. And when I don’t get it, my inner spirit devolves into anger, hurt, bitterness, sadness and ultimately depression. This is a whole new insight into my own codependence. It is also a major reason why, after 32 years of priesthood, I left ministry, disappointed that the church community and God could not and did not fill that void.
Now I’m looking inward and trying to get to know more deeply and appreciatively the real me, who am after all, a wonderful and creative person when I’m not wasting energy on continuous mental analyses. I am trying to replace my pipe-dreams with appreciation for what I have and who I am in this moment. I am moving away from searching for the relationships that will give meaning to my life to renewing what I mean to myself.
I now have a new perspective. Instead of seeking the perfect date I am going out on dates…with myself. I’m going focus on myself as an independent person without need of anyone to complete me. How often I’ve given this advice to others! Maybe it’s about time to take it myself!
Contact the Man’s Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org