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September 2, 2011

How to Withdraw Graciously

One of the most common mistakes people make in relationships is to keep talking when conflict is developing. When people are afraid--always an element of conflict--they become quite insane, and the conversation can only become increasingly destructive.

We must learn to recognize, therefore, when we're becoming afraid. Use all the synonyms you can think of to help you identify this condition. You're afraid if you're feeling anxious, tense, frustrated, irritated, or nervous. In fact, if you're simply not feeling peaceful, you're probably well along the path of fear.

The moment you identify this feeling, stop the conversation. Withdraw. couple angry.jpg Every military strategist knows not to continue fighting when defeat is certain. Under such conditions he or she withdraws or retreats, making it possible to regroup, rethink, gather information, increase strength, and so on. We all must develop a similar common sense in our relationships. Regrettably, most of us leave difficult interactions in a way that would more accurately be termed running, rather than withdrawal.

What is the difference between running and withdrawal?

When we run:
1. We are motivated by fear
2. Our reaction is mostly involuntary, like a knee jerk reflex.
3. We have no plan other than to get away from pain.
4. We blame the other person for how we feel and what we're doing.
5. We're thinking of our own welfare, not loving the person from whom we are running.

When we strategically withdraw, on the other hand:
1. We are not afraid, or at least that is not our primary motivation.
2. We're motivated by a careful consideration of the benefits and disadvantages of staying in the interaction versus leaving it. We're making a conscious choice not to increase the pain in our lives and relationships.
3. We're admitting our own inability to love in this situation, rather than blaming someone else.
4. It's the first step toward formulating a plan that will bring us closer to the other person.
5. We explain to the other person exactly what we're doing.
6. We're recognizing that more harm will be done by staying in the interaction than leaving it. And because we explain what we're doing, and we're thinking about how to return in a more loving condition, our withdrawal is both wise and loving.

On occasion running and withdrawal could appear similar from the outside, but the motivations and feelings involved are vastly different. Running is fearful, while withdrawal is courageous. Running is selfish, while withdrawal is loving.

Once you have made the decision to withdraw from a potentially destructive interaction, what exactly can you say?

1. "I'm not listening to you very well right now, and that's not your fault. I'm distracted by other things, so let me collect my thoughts here for a few minutes (or hours or whatever it takes for you to regain a loving perspective), and I'll be in a better place to really listen."

2. "What you're saying is important, and I need some time to think about it. Can I come back to you about this in a few hours (or minutes, or the next day) and talk some more?"

3. "I need to finish this a little later. Would 3:15 work for you?"

Notice some characteristics of these expressions:

A. You are taking complete responsibility for withdrawing from the conflict. You must avoid any hint of blaming your partner for your withdrawal, even though it may seem quite justified. It can be very tempting to say, "I just can't talk to you when you're like this," but then you're not simply withdrawing from a conflict; you're attacking your partner. People hate being blamed.
B. You're expressing a need that you have. You need some time to prepare to be a better listener, couple happy.jpg to be more loving. In the middle of a conversation, if you said, "I have to go to the bathroom right now," would anyone insist that you stay and finish the conversation? Of course not, because it's obvious that you're so distracted by whatever is going on with your body that you can't fully participate in the conversation. Similarly, when you express a need to leave a conversation, you're saying that you have a need to eliminate the distractions that would make a productive interaction impossible.
C. You're promising that the conversation will continue--at a later time. People don't like to be cut off or ignored, and you're making it clear that you're not doing that. It's quite loving to always specify exactly when the conversation will resume.

You'd think that our partners would be pleased on the occasions we withdraw from a conflict, thereby putting out the fire, but often they resist our withdrawal. Why? First, they're afraid that we're just running and are not willing to listen to--love--them. Second, because they have a lot to gain from the conflict. With their Getting and Protecting Behaviors they seek safety, power, and the sense of worth that comes from being right. When we decide not to participate in a conflict, we're often taking from them the morsels of Imitation Love they want, and they may not like that. They might insist on continuing the conflict that feeds their need for a sense of power. Your partner might call you names or otherwise become abusive. You might have to repeat the above responses more than once. Sometimes the best response is to say nothing at all. That might be uncomfortable at first, but eventually, if you refuse to be involved in the conflict, your partner will run out of steam. You might even have to leave the room, or the house.

No matter what happens, do not continue to participate in a conversation where anger and conflict are developing. Nothing good can come from it.

One way to avoid conflict is simply to refuse to argue about things that don't matter. In the end, very few arguments matter at all. One powerful way to end a conflict is simply to say, "My mistake." Admit that you're wrong. When our partners are angry and criticizing us, we have a natural tendency to defend ourselves. As soon as you demonstrate an insistence on being right, however, your partner will sense that you're also saying that he or she is wrong. People do not like to hear that they're wrong--because then they feel powerless and less lovable--so they naturally defend themselves from that accusation, direct or implied. You can often defuse all that if you simply say, "My mistake."

But what if you're certain you're right? Get over it. You can always find something you're wrong about. Like what?
A. If you were defending your position and not genuinely listening to your partner, you were wrong. Anytime I'm not contributing to the love and happiness in my own life and in the lives of others, I'm wrong.
B. If you were irritated, you were wrong.
C. If you didn't notice that your partner was empty and afraid--and therefore unable to discuss the issue you were eager to pursue--you were wrong.
D. If you have a need to be right, you will spark and perpetuate conflicts everywhere you go. How could that be right?

In a war, nobody wins. Nobody wins in a conflict either. So, stay out of them.

September 6, 2011

Real Love Has Made My Life Worse

Mark had read the book Real Love and attended several Real Love groups. He called me and said, "Real Love has ruined my life."

"How so?" I asked.

"I feel worse about myself, and my marriage is worse than ever." exasperated.jpg

After asking a few questions, I said, "For many years I was an eye surgeon. One day a woman came in the day after her surgery and said, 'My house is filthy, and it's all your fault.' I asked her what she meant, and she said that in recent years she simply hadn't known how dirty her house was, because her vision was so bad. Now that she could see more clearly, the house was 'suddenly' filthy, and--tongue in cheek--she was blaming me for that."

"So you're telling me," Mark said, "that I'm just finally noticing the problems that have been there for a long time."

"Yep."

Very few of us realize how unloved we have felt all our lives, or how unloving we have been toward others. Everyone around us lives the same way, so we accept our condition--empty and afraid--as normal. When we learn the true definition of love, we begin to recognize our pain and the reality of our lives and relationships. Many people, however, are not willing to endure this discomfort, so they put their heads right back into the sand, believing that if they can't see a thing--like dirt in the house--it doesn't exist.

Growth and genuine happiness are not possible without telling the truth about where we are right now, and that requires great faith and courage.

September 7, 2011

Lost in Translation

For years Aaron and his wife, Vikki, had been locked in an emotional firestorm that showed no signs of burning out. In recent months Vicki had been practicing Real Love with some success, but Aaron had adamantly refused to participate in any way.

Aaron called me and said, "I just don't understand her." He sounded quite exasperated.

"I'm sure you don't," I said.

woman and man in conflict.jpgMissing entirely the effect of my left jab on his chin, he continued. "She's pushing me to see a Real Love coach, and I'm not ready for that."

"You might be right about her pushing you, or--in your own words--it may simply be that you don't understand her. It may be that you don't understand what she's saying or doing. Would you like some help?"

"Sure."

"Exactly what did she do?"

"She made an appointment for us to meet with a Real Love coach, and I wasn't ready for that. She was pushing me."

"Maybe. You're already making a judgment about her behavior when it's possible that you have simply mistranslated it."

"Mistranslated? How?"

"How long as your marriage been a disaster?"

"Long time. Many years."

"You've been to counselors before, yes?"

"Several."

"Didn't help?"

"Not a bit."

"So out of the blue, she suddenly schedules you two for a session with a Real Love coach? Not likely. She almost had to be responding to something that happened or to something you said. Did you indicate some new interest in Real Love?"

"Well, I did notice that she's been happier lately. So I thought, Maybe if this is working for her, I could at least read one of the books. So I told her that I'd read the Real Love in Marriage book, and then maybe we could talk to a coach. But it's not like I made a promise or anything."

"So then she made an appointment, and you felt pressured."

"Yes."

"Not a problem. You were just deaf. You didn't hear what she was really saying. You heard her telling you that you had to do something, that she was pushing you, right?"

"Yes."

"Would you like to know what she was really saying?"

"Yeah."

"Your marriage has been terrible for a long time, and she's been miserable. She's hated it, you've hated it, it's been a living hell."

"Yep."

"And then she starts doing Real Love, and for the first time in many years she feels a little happiness, even a little hope. With me so far?"

"Sure."

"And she's made this significant progress on her own, without your participation. That's pretty good work on her part. Then you told her that you'd be willing to read the marriage book. How exactly did you think she'd take that? She was like a kid at Christmas. Woo-hoo!! She was very excited. But you said even more than that. You mentioned that you might even be willing to see a Real Love coach. At that point she was positively giddy. So what she was really saying was, Aaron, I'm so excited that there's a possibility that we'll be working toward being closer to each other that I can hardly stand it."

"But I didn't say that I'd see a coach."

"I know that, but you're not listening to me, just like you didn't listen to her. You're too afraid that you're being pressured--you're thinking of yourself--instead of really hearing what she's saying, which is that she still cares enough about you to get excited about doing something with you. When was the last time she was this excited about being with you?"

"Long time."

"So shut up and listen to the real message instead of getting all defensive."

"Good point."

When we become afraid, we can't hear what other people are saying, and then we miss wonderful opportunities to feel loved or to be loving. Our relationships become so much more rewarding when we focus on the needs and fears of the other person, instead of being blinded by our own needs and fears.

September 9, 2011

The Lie of Magic

Cynthia was telling me about the affair she was having with her new boyfriend, Curt. "This is more fun than I've had in years. My life was stale and boring. But when I'm with Curt, all the excitement is back. I love it."

"And Malcolm [her husband] doesn't make you feel like that anymore, right?"

"Exactly." She was pleased that I understood her situation.

"Kind of magical, isn't it?" Fingers dancing.jpg

"Yes, you've got it."

"Darlin', I really get how fun this is--exciting, interesting, entertaining. Really, I do. But all those feelings are just confusing you. The fun and excitement feel so good that you believe you're happy. But fun and exciting are not the same as happiness."

"But when I'm with Curt, I really am happy."

"I know you believe that, but sincere belief in a thing doesn't make it true. So let's look at what's true. Has Curt ever had a lasting, loving relationship? Truthfully, now."

There was a long pause. "No, not really."

"Neither have you. Neither of you has had any consistent experience with Real Love, which would utterly disable both of you emotionally, and yet you believe that 'magically'--a word you just agreed would describe what you're feeling--you two have created a loving, healthy relationship. Impossible. When you and Malcolm first met, that was magical too, wasn't it?"

Another pause. "Yeah, I guess it was."

"Sweetie, there's no blaming in what I'm saying, but I am telling you that Real Love requires conscious choices that you simply are not capable of making at this point. You expect that happiness--in the form of excitement and fun--will magically fall from the sky and hit you on the head. You want the intoxication of romance. Nearly the whole world believes that is happiness, so you're hardly alone in this."

"You're right. I do want the magic. What's wrong with that?"

"There not a single thing wrong with wanting the fun and the excitement, but they won't last unless there's a foundation of unconditionally loving choices. Once I've learned to find and share Real Love--not perfectly, but at least making steady progress--and I find a partner who is willing to do the same, we can build a solid, genuine foundation. And then fun, excitement, magic, thrills, and all the rest become expressions of that solid love. But what almost everyone does is skip the foundation and hope that the fun will create unconditional love. It simply can't happen that way. We can't rely on magic to make us happy, but if we choose the truth and unconditional love first, the magic will naturally follow."


Learn more here about the seduction of magic, versus the power of miracles
Part 2


September 12, 2011

Playing the Organ

From childhood I've played the piano, and when I was twelve, the church we attended asked if I could play their organ for the Sunday services. I said, "Sure," and then I scrambled to teach myself how to play this instrument I had no experience with.

Playing the piano is difficult enough. You have to translate the notes you're reading on the printed page to the keys you push with your fingers--as many as ten keys simultaneously--in a wide variety of tempos, syncopations, phrasings, and acoustic volumes. But the organ is even more complicated. In addition to playing with both hands, you play with one or both feet, which adds a layer of bass notes to the sound. playing an organ.jpg The tone of each note can also be manipulated by the use a broad spectrum of buttons and pistons--called stops--that control collections of pipes or electronic devices that simulate the sounds of flutes, bassoons, trumpets, and more.

It gets more complicated. In large church organs there can be as many as four different keyboards, all used to produce yet a greater variety of sounds. So imagine playing with all the fingers of both hands, moving them from one keyboard to another as needed, while dancing over a huge keyboard with both feet, simultaneously reaching out from time to time to frantically change the entire sound by pushing or pulling the stops. That's what it's like to play a large organ.

Not long ago I was asked to lead the congregational singing at church, and a young, inexperienced pianist had been asked to play the organ. She was terrified and asked me if I would be willing to conduct the music at a much slower pace, so she wouldn't be overwhelmed.

"Sweetie," I said, "it's your job to follow me, and the congregation will follow both of us. That's just how it works, and I'll be leading each song at a pace that I judge will best express its meaning."

I knew that wouldn't calm her down, so I further explained that she didn't have to play everything she saw on the page. She could begin by playing only the melody--just one note--with her right hand. As she felt more confident, she could then add more of the notes written for the right hand, creating chords. Then, here and there, she could begin to add notes with the left hand. Eventually--weeks or months hence--she could use her feet on easier passages and change the stops once in a while.

She followed that plan, and her confidence grew with each experience. As with a musical piece, life has a certain pace. It doesn't slow down because you're having a hard time. But you don't have to play with every finger, both feet, and all the stops. You are not required, for example to love everyone all the time. Relax. If you try to do too much, you'll become overwhelmed, and then you'll just make more mistakes, lose your confidence, and be unhappy.

Love people as much as you are able. Not too much, or you'll empty out and be unable to love at all. Don't love too little either, or you won't stretch and grow. Start out with one finger. Simply practice genuine listening, for example, which is actually a rare phenomenon. Listen only as long as you feel loving, and when you begin to feel tense, terminate the conversation. There are many ways to do that, which you can find at this link.

As you learn to listen, you can add other notes to the loving music you play. You can express loving thoughts, physically touch people, and offer acts of service. Relax and do what you can, which is often less than what other people need or demand.

September 14, 2011

The Real Education

I talked to a man whose teenage son was obviously on a path that would lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. Son not listening.jpg The father tried to talk to his son, but the boy refused to listen, finally climbing out the window of the bedroom where they were talking. The father did nothing in response, saying, "What could I do? I can't force him to listen."

I know another man whose daughter is a selfish, demanding, narcissistic disaster. She treats him and everyone else with disrespect and contempt. He spends enormous sums of money to keep her in a private school, a nice apartment, and an expensive car. She refused to listen to anything he had to say, and I suggested a gradual implementation of consequences, which might prompt her to consider listening. The goal of consequences is not to punish but to prompt an interest in learning to make better decisions. One of the consequences I described was withdrawal of her very costly tuition.

He responded, "Oh, I could never stop her tuition."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Because education is so important."

I laughed out loud. "You're right, but what kind of education?"

He had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained that nearly all of us understand the need for education, but what we're talking about is the education that leads to earning a living and functioning in the world at merely a survival level. We all take geometry, history, and so on, but after the school years how often do most of us ever encounter a need to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle or to know the date of the Council of Trent?

But how often do we engage in relationships? Every day. How often are we faced with choices that lead to personal happiness or misery? Every minute. And where is our education for that? Where are we learning about how to find love and joy? For most of us, that education is entirely lacking. There's nothing, which is a tragedy beyond description.

If we neglect our education in life and love, we miss the entire point of being alive. Yuck. If we raise children who are educated in math, reading, and science, but who don't know how to find happiness, what have we accomplished?

We must have the courage to face the truth about ourselves and create love and joy, not just survival. We must have the courage to give our children an education in life, which is far more important than teaching them geometry and history. This life education requires far more of us--in time, honesty, facing our fears, and more--but the rewards are also far greater.


Learn more here about how to love and teach your children.

September 16, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears--Oh My!!

Carla called me, trembling, and said she had seen a spider in her house the day before, and for more than twenty-four hours she had been too frightened to move. I suggested that in the short term there were some things she might do to limit her fear somewhat, but I added that these approaches wouldn't be getting to the real root of her problem.

"Oh, right," she said, "you're going to tell me that this is somehow connected to Real Love." Her skepticism--nearly to the point of derision--fairly dripped from the syllables she spat.

"Darlin'," I said, "everybody wants an answer that's easy. But we have to see the whole picture. What are we always afraid of? Pain. And the greatest cause of our pain is a lack of unconditional love. Always. Really. The effects of pain accumulate, so if you're already in pain from any source--physical or emotional--the effects of additional pain from any other source will be greater. If you're already in pain from not feeling loved--as almost everybody is--then any other pain will feel worse. And if you're in pain already, you'll be afraid of even the possibility of more pain, real or imagined."

Lions and tigers and bears.jpgIn the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy had just lost her home and her family, and she found herself thrust into a world where everything was confusing. As she and her companions journeyed to find the great wizard who might help Dorothy return to her home, she became more and more afraid. Walking in a dark forest, with ominous sounds on every side, she began to chant, "Lions and tigers and bears--Oh my!"

Prior to that moment, Dorothy had not been affected by a conscious fear of lions, tigers, or bears, nor had she seen any in the forest. But while she was already afraid of everything else that was happening--and had happened--these specific fears suddenly became quite real (even though, for heaven's sake, one of her companions was an actual lion).

The more fearful people become, the more the fears grow on their own. As they find Real Love, their overall pain and fear decrease, and then specific fears seem to just disappear, even though they're not obviously related to love. Just the other day I received the following from a woman who has been practicing Real Love for a year or so:

"I can't count the ways Real Love has worked in my life, sometimes in surprising ways. I used to be afraid of so many things. One example: I used to get really creeped out about any kind of rodent. Couldn't even think about them. But just the other day my daughter asked about getting pet rats, and I discovered that I could actually make the decision not to be afraid of them. And now we have two darling rats in a cage in the next room. I thought my fear of rats was involuntary, but it was really a choice. Amazing."

I could have told Carla that the actual risks of spiders was small, that the most dangerous spider in the United States--the black widow--hasn't killed a single person in over ten years. I could have told her to call an exterminator out to the house. In the short term, there's a small chance that information might have helped, but the real problem--her overall level of pain and fear--would have remained.

This is not to say that all fears are irrational. Spiders and rats can bite, but the genuine potential for such events is tiny. Our fears, on the other hand, consistently cripple us. As we fill our lives with love, our pain disappears. Our fears of everything--including lions, tigers, bears, spiders, and rats--begin to evaporate.

September 19, 2011

Do it Now--Those Opportunities that Slip Away

Years ago I was about to leave a building when I saw an old friend on the other side of the foyer. I was in a bit of a hurry and thought of several reasons not to talk to him. I had other things to do. He had not seen me and would not know that our paths had converge so closely. Stopping to talk was simply not convenient.

But I just had a feeling that I should talk to him, so I walked over, took a seat beside him, and talked with him for quite a while. I told him how much I valued our friendship, Two men talking 2.jpg and we very much enjoyed our time together. It was one of those intimate and deeply rewarding moments in life.

A few days later he died, and I spoke at his funeral about what a sweet experience our friendship had been for me. How glad I was that I didn't ignore that impression to talk with him days before.

The important opportunities in our lives are often quite inconspicuous. They may present for only a moment or two. They're easy to miss, and missing them is easy to excuse. But they can be life changing. Look for them. Don't feel guilty or discouraged when you miss them, just keep looking--diligently but not obsessively, which detracts from our feeling of peace. Some of these opportunities are not to do something--not to intrude, not to criticize, not to be impatient--and we need to watch for these as well.

The more we look for these opportunities, the better we'll handle them, and we'll become better equipped to see even more of them.


Learn more here about the effect of all these opportunities and decisions.

September 21, 2011

Choices--An Example

The following blog was written by Jonathan Baer

Recently, as I spoke with a couple, Sarah said that her husband, Todd, was not helping her with the recycling.

"I AM helping," Todd said. "She just doesn't like the way I do it." recycling.jpg

They argued back and forth about who did what and when--as well as who did not do what and when--for a couple of minutes. Finally, I interrupted. "You two have had this argument before?"

They nodded, so I continued. "Has it ever ended in a way you both liked? Even once?"

"Not really, no," Sarah said.

"Would you like it to go differently? Would you like to be happy instead of miserable?"

They both nodded again.

"We could talk forever about what you both don't like. But you've already tried that. Instead how about if we talk about what would actually work? You're both trying to convince each other what should be happening. In a loving relationship, though--which you claim you want--each person freely offers what he or she is willing to do. Otherwise, there's endless manipulating, expectations, disappointment, and anger. Sarah, most of the contention seems to be around what you want Todd to do, so let's begin with that. Todd, what part of the recycling are you freely willing to do? What tasks, for example? Or how much time are you willing to spend?"

"Maybe five minutes a week," Todd said.

"Sarah, is that enough?" I asked.

"No. If he only does five minutes, he won't be doing his share."

"See what I mean?" Todd said. "Whatever I do, it's not enough."

"As I said, you two have had this argument enough times," I said. "There's no more need to talk about what you don't like. Let's talk about what you're both willing to give freely."

"You know," Todd said, "come to think of it, I don't want to have anything at all to do with the recycling. No matter what I do, it's wrong or not enough. She even yells at me for putting trash in the wrong container. It's not worth it. I don't want to spend any time at all recycling, but when you first asked I was afraid to say that."

"So, am I just supposed to give up on recycling?" asked Sarah. "Then Todd will be getting exactly what he wants. What about what I want?"

"Sarah, tell me exactly what you really want here."

"I want Todd to do his share of the recycling."

"And THAT is where you're making your mistake. You believe that you want Todd to share in the recycling, but the truth is that it's not really a desire. You're actually demanding that he do the recycling with you. You're trying to control him, which you prove with the enormous disappointment and anger you feel when he doesn't do what you want."

"So how is the recycling supposed to get done?"

"Oh, this is very easy once you let go of controlling Todd. He doesn't want to do any of the recycling--which he has a right to decide--so if you want recycling to happen, I can only see two possibilities: First, you could do it all yourself."

"What?! Why should I do it all?"

"I'm not suggesting that you should. I'm just saying that your doing it all is one choice."

"And what's the other one?"

"You can choose to do as much of the recycling as you wish. You just said you didn't want to do all of it, so you could choose to do part of it. You could do all the recycling for the containers that only you open, for example, or you could do more. You could go through the trash and recycle whatever part of Todd's trash you feel like doing from day to day. In short, you get to do whatever you want."

"But then he doesn't have to do anything."

"Yep, and he doesn't have to."

"But aren't there some things people should do? I mean, recycling helps the planet, so why shouldn't Todd have to do it?"

"Recycling probably is beneficial, but only Todd can decide whether he wants to participate in it. Otherwise, you could force him to do anything you wanted, just because you labeled something good or helpful. That's how dictatorships run. Do you want a relationship or a dictatorship?"

"So he gets to do whatever he wants?"

"Sure, that's what makes us who we are. He doesn't get to make decisions that affect you without consulting you, but otherwise yes, he does get to do what he wants."

"But this recycling thing does affect me."

"Only because you make it affect you. You're not being forced to do anything. You can recycle however much you want and just ignore whatever is left. If you don't allow him to be himself, you won't have a relationship with him at all. If his failure to recycle is enough to end your relationship, fine, that's your choice, but if you want to keep this relationship, the only reasonable choice is to let him do what he wants."

We don't have the right to determine what other people should do. Sure, there are occasional exceptions, as with parents and law enforcement officers, for example, but on the whole, we have to allow people to be who they are. If we do that, our relationships with them are greatly enhanced.

September 23, 2011

Real Listening: It is NOT Complicated

Sharon called me and said, "All Justin can talk about is work and money: this deal, that deal, making money, losing money. It never stops."

"And then you're supposed to respond to each of the issues he brings up, right?" I asked.

"Yes. I listen and listen, and it doesn't seem to do any good."

"No, you're really not listening."

"Yes, I am. I listen for hours. Sometimes I can hardly stand it."

"Oh, I get that for hours you're in the same room as he is, but you're not really listening. man talking with woman.jpg You're not hearing what he's really saying, so he feels like he has to say it over and over again. In your defense, he doesn't know what he's really saying either."

"Okay, so what is he really saying?"

"He's saying that he's scared to death. All the time. You have to respond to his real message, or this will never change."

"So what exactly do I say?"

"Say this, exactly: 'Justin, you're talking about money again. And work. It's what you've done for years. I don't mind--I'll listen to you as long as it takes--but you're not seeing what's underneath it all. You're just afraid. So let's look at what you're afraid of, or it will keep you prisoner forever. Let's look at the worst that could happen--in your eyes--and then you'll know what you're really afraid of. You're afraid that you'll fail. You're afraid that we'll lose everything--the house, the vacations, whatever--and that we'll be bankrupt and will starve to death. And you're afraid that you'll look like a failure.'

"Now," I continued, "do you see that this is what he's really afraid of?"

"Yes, I do. I wouldn't have been able to say it that clearly, but that's it. So what do I say after that?"

"Tell him that we can't be free until we can face what we're most afraid of. Tell him that you don't care if all those things happen. What if they do? So what?! If you lose everything, you can live in a tiny apartment and learn to live on much less income. Why does he need to see this? Because when he realizes he can live with the worst that can happen, none of it can frighten him anymore. The problem isn't what he's afraid of. The problem is his fear. His fears have been paralyzing him, actually causing him to make worse decisions. He has to face the fears, so he can function. Without fear, he can then just take the next one step, instead of worrying about the next hundred steps."

"It sounds simple."

"It is simple. It takes a lot of faith--which is difficult in the beginning--but not being afraid is a far simpler and easier way to live. If he brings up his fears again later, you say all this again, but perhaps in a shorter version: 'Justin, you're giving in to your fears. Remember, we can lose everything and still be happy. Just keep taking the next one step.' Think you can do that?"

We cannot function in fear. We can't be happy, we can't make good decisions, and we feel hopeless. Do whatever it takes to get rid of your own fears--which means get all the Real Love you can--and do what you can to really listen to the fears of others.

About September 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Greg's Real Love Blog in September 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2011 is the previous archive.

October 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.