Is Your Intent to Be Safe or To Be Loving?By Dr. Margaret Paul
November 08, 2021
We often convince ourselves we are being loving when we are really trying to avoid facing our fears.
Knowing our true intent is sometimes a tricky thing.
For example, Tony knows that he has huge fears of being rejected or controlled by a woman. In all his relationships, he has consistently lost himself, finally leaving each time to get back some sense of himself. He is a very giving person, but tends to give himself up to avoid rejection, and then ends up feeling engulfed and controlled. So, Tony has decided that it is loving to himself to avoid relationships.
However, Tony is kidding himself if he thinks his intent is really to be loving to himself. In fact, his deeper intent is to protect himself against being rejected or controlled again. His deeper intent is to be safe from encountering his deepest fears. He rationalizes that he is being loving to himself, but underneath he is very lonely. His inner child wants connection, but his wounded self wants to avoid pain.
If Tony's intention were truly to be loving to himself, rather than to be safe, what would he do differently?
He would stop running away from relationships and start dealing with his fears and his controlling behavior. He would make loving himself more important than whether he gets rejected, so that he can stop giving himself up and stop trying to control to avoid rejection. In other words, he would make it okay to be rejected, and would learn to stop attaching rejection to his self-worth. He would learn to stop taking rejection personally, and practice accepting that when a woman rejects him, it's because of her own fears rather than because there is something intrinsically wrong with him. He would take on the responsibility of defining his own worth through his Inner Bonding practice. He would make his relationship with self and spirit his most important relationship, rather than making a woman his higher power. He would certainly not condemn his inner child to a life of loneliness out of his fears of rejection and engulfment.
Here are a couple other examples of how tricky the wounded self can be regarding intent.
Caroline spends a lot of time in her office, with her piles of magazines, newspaper clippings, and bills. She never really gets caught up. She tells herself that she is being loving to herself by taking the time she needs to be in her office, but what is really happening is that she has a huge fear of being controlled by her husband. Her office time is really a way of withdrawing rather than dealing with her fear. When anyone confronts her with her behavior, she gets very defensive, just like a practicing alcoholic does when confronted. Caroline wants to believe she is being loving to herself, when in reality her intent is to be safe from her fear of engulfment.
Greg works at home as a free-lance writer. He spends a lot of time watching TV and playing on the Internet, while bills, chores and work pile up. He tells himself that TV and the Internet are the ways he rewards himself for hard work - that he is being loving to himself when he "relaxes" in these ways. But what is really happening is that Greg is using these activities addictively, as ways of avoiding his fears of failure and his feelings of loneliness. Consciously, he believes he is being loving to himself, when his actual intent is to be safe from confronting his fears.
True inner safety does not come about from avoiding our fears.
Avoidance only breeds more fear, as the inner child feels alone with no loving adult to rely on. True inner safety is the result of confronting our fears and developing a spiritually connected loving adult to handle our fears of rejection, engulfment, loneliness, and failure.
The important thing here is to not rationalize, deny, and kid yourself into thinking that protecting yourself with controlling, addictive, and avoidant behavior is loving to yourself. Loving behavior is doing that which supports your highest good. Addictive, controlling, and avoidant behavior is never supportive of your highest good, even if it feels safe in the moment.
Be sure to ask yourself in any given situation: "Is this behavior loving to me, or am I just trying to be safe by avoiding my fears? Is this behavior really in my highest good, or am I in denial, convincing myself that that I'm being loving to myself?"
Becoming aware of our intent to be safe from pain is what gives us the choice to be loving to ourselves.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
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Your emotions are a great gift, letting you know when you are on track or off track in your thinking and behavior, or when you need to attend to what is happening with a person or situation. Today, practice learning what your painful emotions are telling you, rather than avoiding them with your various addictions.
By Dr. Margaret Paul