What Casper Just Taught Me About My Fear of Love
When I was little sometimes I watched the cartoon “Casper the Friendly Ghost.”
Of course, this particular ghost looked like a straight-up combo of the Baby Jesus (who got nailed to a cross for his troubles) and Cupid (who shoots people with arrows for a living)….which now makes me wonder why neither ghosts nor love scared me when I was ten.
Then I realized that, even after finding the antidote (and getting oh-so excited about it) I was still afraid of love. So then I decided maybe being afraid of love – like being afraid of snakes and other things with extra-long sharp poisonous fangs (real or virtual) – was smart and I shouldn’t try to get rid of my fear.
Then I woke up this morning and had a revelation.
My revelation was this – love is friendly. More specifically, love is my friend. In fact, every enduring cliche I’ve ever heard about love suggests this. “Love is the answer.” (Utopia song.) “Love makes the world go round.” (Theme from “Carnival.”) “All you need is love.” (The Beatles.) “Where there is love there is life.” (This last from Mahatma Gandhi – and he certainly seems like an authority on the subject – more of an authority than me, at least.)
I was specifically meditating on love this morning because I was having a specific – ergo frightening – experience of love. I woke up into a feeling of a newfound deep, profound love for a particular person in my life.
Interestingly, I wasn’t frightened of this feeling at first – just curious. This of course was because I had just woken up and hadn’t quite realized what the warm and friendly feeling was yet.
But then, as I woke up more and more, I realized it was “love” – and promptly got scared.
But then I realized – “Hey wait a minute! Until I labeled it “love” I was enjoying the PEACE of the feeling. I felt like I was immersed in a particularly wonderful, joyful meditation – calm, still, secure and safe. There was nothing to do – nowhere to go – no aspect of me or my life or the other person or their life that needed to change. All was well. And happy. And safe.
So then it occurred to me that perhaps the thing I am fearing about the love experience has nothing to do with the actual “love” part. Perhaps it is all the rest I am afraid of – not the love.
That was when I remembered “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” When I first watched the show I didn’t really understand what “ghosts” were. Casper looked friendly – the title of his show told me he was friendly – therefore I didn’t quite understand why it was even particularly necessary to let viewers know he was a “friendly ghost.” But then later when summer camp (an entirely different set of horrors), campfires and ghost stories began to enter the picture, I started to grasp why a “friendly” ghost might not be the norm – and why the designation might be both necessary and wise.
Then I realized that I think this may be what happened to me with love too. I got the “love” part confused with all the oh-so-not-loving parts that so often surround love – heartache, abandonment, harsh words, breakups, disappointment (usually because of unmet unrealistic expectations), disillusionment (usually because of feeling the need to set those unrealistic expectations in the first place) – none of that stuff is any fun or feels good.
Or loving for that matter.
But those experiences are also not “love.” They are not even about love. They are about attempting to avoid loss and pain (a survival instinct – no more nor less), cultural conditioning (“you deserve a partner who will/won’t…”), irresponsibility (“I just want a partner who can take care of me financially/emotionally/etc.”), greed (“I love his/her house/dog/child/bank account”), and…..drumroll please…..FEAR.
Fear. Fear masquerading as love is sooo convincing it seems to have convinced me it IS love!
Good job, fear. My bad.
But I am on to the switcheroo now. I get it. I am wise to my own confusion. And like one of my all-time favorite mentors, don Miguel Ruiz, reminds us again and again in his awesomely amazing book, “The Mastery of Love:”
You have practiced all of your life to be what you are, and you do it so well that you master what you believe you are. You master your own personality, your own beliefs; you master every action, every reaction. You practice for years and years, and you achieve the level of mastery to be what you believe you are. Once we can see that all of us are masters, we can see what kind of mastery we have.
I can now see that in addition to mastering the art of being afraid of love, I have also mastered the art of thinking that the fear I feel IS the love.
But no more. I now have the knowledge I need to work through my fear of love once and for all – separating out the fearful bits from the love bits until I can not only name each experience I am having accurately, but also respond appropriately to each facet in turn.
Or at least I hope I can do this. I agree with myself that it is an ambitious goal – but it is also a goal I am totally sold on pursuing….and mastering.
Today’s Takeaway: If you, like me, feel afraid of experiences of love, what do you think it is about the “love experience” that is frightening to you? If you don’t know what frightens you, what do you think might help you to answer this question for yourself? If you do know what is frightening to you, what is helping you to ease your fears?
Cutts, S. (2013). What Casper Just Taught Me About My Fear of Love. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 5, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2013/08/what-casper-just-taught-me-about-my-fear-of-love/