There’s a fear that drive us both to control others and to protect ourselves.
I think that in our unconscious, and sometimes conscious, depths, we all fear death.
We are mostly not aware of or in touch with real death — spiritual separation from God – or even physical death. Instead, we experience death in the here and now, in our pain and in our loss. And we fear that deep inside, we are dead, too.
For me (and I imagine for most women), I sense death primarily in relationships. I recall a few situations where I felt in relationship with others that I was no-one, that I might as well not exist. As I tried to get in touch with how I felt, I became aware that I feared being a big, fat zero. I feared that deep down, there as nothing.
I believe that my blogging friend Marcy effectively describes that sense of not mattering, of having even one’s feelings rendered moot – nothing more than an over-reaction to the color of Jell-O:
I dreamed I was in a mental hospital. I yearned to go back to Africa (I went one summer on a mission trip, and it was an interesting and significant trip psychologically)…. Just before I get to the doors they slide closed. I collapse sobbing, the orderlies “escort” me to a tv room and deposit me there, telling the other slackjawed patients that I was crying about the color of the Jell-O, in other words, that my crying was not important. (the comment is under Controlling? Who, Me?; a longer post about the dream is at http://prochaskas.wordpress.com/2005/06/14/rebels-and-rest/)
Larry Crabb (whose teachings have influenced many of my recent musings: see www.newwayministries.org) suggests that the core fear of a woman is a version of this nothingness. A woman’s deepest fear is that she will discover that deep down inside, “I am not beautiful. There is nothing in me worth pursuing.” And that fear leads women to protect themselves and control their worlds.
When I first heard this, I didn’t relate, having always been more tomboy than “girly-girl.” But as I listened to a CD of Larry’s teaching about this fear, I broke down in sobs, overcome by the knowledge that deep down I felt I was “worthless” – my version of not being beautiful.
Over the past few years of relational betrayals, horrific job situations, having to support our family (after my husband lost his job), and now, no job, I discovered that deep beneath, I felt like I deserved no better: “I am not worthy. I am repulsive. I am therefore getting the life I deserve.”
I also realized that I deeply feared I would discover (as others obviously had) that a hunchback of worthless dame dwelt in the basement of my soul. Should I boldly take a trip down those stairs, I would discover that in the end, I was nothing, nobody.
And to address that mostly unconscious fear (until very recently), I’ve relied on lifelong strategies of control and self-protection such as:
- My defensive reactions to apparent attacks from others – a series of strategies (like logical arguments, tears, counter-attacks, blame-shifting, taking the victim role, etc.) that I thought were ways to convince the other person that I wasn’t as bad as their attacks suggested, to control their view of me. Now I realize that I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t as worthless as I feared I was. I was defending the door to my soul’s basement so that I wouldn’t have to discover what dwelt beyond.
- My lifelong efforts (a form of control) to gain social acceptance – to fit in - at times giving in to that icky, graspy need to please others. And the almost crippling pain I felt when I experienced rejection: I must be as repulsive as I fear I am.
- My barriers to entry that protected me from any external probes which might reveal the lack of beauty beneath. Like talking fast and displaying my intellect. Like looking as if I have my act together, coming across as confident, while I scream beneath for any assurance that I am have SOME worth. Like revealing a lot (and seeming to be transparent) while holding back some of me for fear of rejection. After all, there’s nothing but ugliness under the surface.
Ok. So I fear that deep down inside, I am dead. I am no-one. I am not beautiful. I am not worthy. I am repulsive. And I’ve spent my entire life trying in vain to prove to myself I AM worthy using other people’s acceptance and my circumstances as the yardstick, when deep down, I just know I am not. And each little rejection or failure just proves it.
Wow. What do I do about this? How do I get off of this non-stop flight of fear, control, and protection? How do I start to trust God with my circumstances and open myself to others?
And how do I actually start to deeply believe the REAL truth that there is no repellant being in my soul’s basement, but a beautiful, worthwhile woman?
I think the answer is well-stated here:
Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7: 24b and 25
I’ll talk about some ways I’ve addressed the lies and the strategies in the next few posts.
Meantime: Do you relate? (Or am I the only crazy one!)