Get too close, and I’ll push you away. When you’re too far away, I’ll wish you were closer. This is me when it comes to new relationships. Have you ever felt that way? It’s confusing to anyone, let alone those who are afraid to be loved.
When I was a kid, I remember watching public service advertisements during my Saturday cartoons. Back in that day, we didn’t DVR anything, so there was no such thing as “fast-forwarding” through commercials. We had to watch them. The difference then was that most commercials were actually fun and interesting to watch and my impressional mind soaked the messages up like a sponge.
One of the most memorable PSAs back then featured my biggest heroes: GI Joe. Each animated clip featured a child-centric problem followed by a lesson to be learned. At the end of the clip, they would finish with the tagline: “Knowing is half the battle.” It was genius marketing to impressionable minds.
Some of my battles are still being waged
Recently, I’ve been digging into why I hold such deep trust issues. Just when I think I have cracked the code, I realize I’m farther from figuring out my most debilitating limitation. I have written about my trust issues in the past, and at the time, I thought it was just a matter of pushing through, and then doing the hard work. The problem is, it has nothing to do with trust at all.
I don’t have trust issues. I have love issues. Fear of being loved.
The events of our childhood are the roots to our tree of life.
However rotten a tree’s roots are, dictates how strong of a trunk, branches and leaves a tree can grow. A tree cannot grow tall unless its roots are healthy and robust. We are just like trees. For the most part, my roots are strong, but I still have a couple of bad ones holding me back. And it is those rotten ones that I must clean up before I can ever expect to grow taller than I am today.
When I started to deconstruct why I have such trust issues and why I have such a hard time forging meaningful relationships, I discovered my life long narrative: I’m afraid to be loved. This defeating narrative causes a lot of conflict within the thickest part of my soul. One moment, I am pushing people away, and the next, I wonder why they left. Only those who are patient and see something I don’t see in myself stick around. For those people, I am grateful.
The adult side of me needs to be surrounded by people who I want to love and love me, but the child side of me (my root) is scared to be taken advantage of through my love. So, I subconsciously dismiss their love and push them away.
I have a very distorted view of what being loved means.
I want to be loved, but I’m afraid to be loved.
When I was ten years old, I was molested by my father. And for the next 20 years that followed, I believed I was only capable of being loved by a man with selfish intentions and in some respects I think I still do. I gave in to him at every pass, aiming to keep his approval. He was the only one to hold my love, so I preserved the shame and sealed it up in a father-son relationship that was built entirely out of guilt.
As a 40-year-old man, I know that this love wasn’t legitimate at all. It was purely survival. But that 10-year-old boy living inside of me doesn’t understand that. He sees being loved to having to live in the shame and guilt of being abused, guarding dirty secrets and being a slave to narcissism. To be loved is too much work, it hurts too damn much.
At the very depth of my being, I fear that if I open myself up to anyone else, more of my innocence would be given away. Forging loving relationships is the only way to grow beyond who I am today, but every time I try, I instantly feel the pain of being loved. That rotten root from my childhood quickly starves any branch that I attempt to grow as an aging adult.
Now I know.
So, here I am. I understand why I fear being loved. I have found the rotten root of my tree of life. Where do I start healing it?
Our parents are the most profound influences in our lives; they are the ones who give us life. But they can also be the ones who can take it away with one incredibly hurtful action. Life without love is not a life at all. And while I do have some incredibly loving people in my life, my 10-year-old boy inside of me is still scared to let any of them sincerely and deeply love me.
So, GI Joe! You say that knowing is half the battle, how do I fight the rest? More importantly, how do I win?
Maybe I have to start by loving myself?