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Scared Separate

by David Truman

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Chapter 4: What's Really Killing Love

A reasonable doubt

How about realistic idealism?

Love's killer, exposed

Maladaptation and mis-emotions

Toxified experiences

Ego draws the worst conclusions

Discrimination would show you that ego's the problem

Fear of the depths

With ego, all solutions are unworkable

You can't share your bed with ego

Overthrow egotism wherever it lurks

Love builders, love breakers

Egoism: love it or leave it

Get thee behind me, ego!

Love's Greatest Foe

A reasonable doubt

Throughout history, human beings have survived best in extended families, tribes, and collective groups. Cooperating with others is the most stable and secure way to live -- or was. But just when we're really starting to need it, modern mentality has nearly extinguished cooperative living. The rise of rugged individualism and social dysfunction has put almost every close association on the endangered species list.

The average commune breaks up within a couple of years; marriages are falling apart right and left. The signs are everywhere that people are incapable of staying together in a spirit of love, harmony, and cooperation.

Given that, it's understandable why people would say, "Look, where is the security of depending on others? I'm better off depending on myself, thank you!"

It may seem like "unrealistic Utopian idealism" to recommend interdependence in today's world, when people have such a hard time getting along. And it may seem silly to recommend relationship, when many couples just beat each other up emotionally. It may even seem foolish to support business alliances, since they too fall apart so often.

I can understand that people would rather live alone than rely on their emotional fitness to get along with others, and other people's fitness to get along with them. Given the low level of emotional and psychological functionality that prevails today, that seems like the wiser choice.

Why, then, do I recommend interdependent living? Well, I do it for the same reason one might recommend exercise to people who are badly out of shape: it's needed. It's essential for well-being.

Just because a person can't do something now, doesn't mean they shouldn't develop the ability to do it. For most people, because of what they bring to relationships, and what they neglect to bring, the chances of success in intimacy, or cooperative living, are slim. But that can be corrected. And it should be corrected, because we still need what we need.

How about realistic idealism?

I will forever recommend lasting love and intimacy, loyalty and cooperation. Because that's the only way for human beings to live happily. But I want you to know, I'm not making a clarion call into stupidity and failure. I'm not asking people to repeat unworkable patterns in relationship, which will only end in heartbreak, disappointment, and despair. On the contrary, I'm encouraging people to create a real solution.

I know, from thirty years of working with people, that love can be fantastic -- and stay fantastic; that a community can live in harmony together, and withstand the tests of time and personal difficulties. I know that it's possible to depend on other human beings, for both practical and emotional support. And I know that that is a rich, rewarding way to live.

Some people will say, "Love sucks -- and enduring relationship is impossible." And likewise, some will say, "Communes are threatening and dangerous, and cooperative living can never succeed." And those things will be true -- for them. Bad things come true if you live in such a way as to make them come true.

But they're not true for me...

So the question is, what's the difference between most people and me? Why is it that love and cooperative living seem impossible for so many people, but are easy and inevitable for me? Good question! And it's not merely a philosophical question. Upon the answer hangs the possibility of fulfillment in relationship for every human being. So let's look beyond the surface and into the heart of the matter.

It's no use to say, "Some people are lucky in love," or, "Love never works for me." Better that we ask why -- really why. Better to find the answers, and use them to bring our personal world, and then the world as a whole, back to emotional health.

Love's killer, exposed

What person of integrity wouldn't be interested in trying to figure out what's gone wrong with human social relationships, and sincerely try to solve it? I'm certainly interested in that, and I've put a lot of time and study into it. Having examined a ton of evidence, I now know what's killing love. I've seen the killer in action, many times, and its name is ...Ego!

Ego is the number one enemy of love on this planet. It is the culprit that has brought to ruin all types of social arrangements between human beings. Ego is running wild in this world, almost entirely unchallenged; and it has created a climate in which every kind of social organization or relationship between human beings is going extinct.

Everyone knows egotism is a problem. No objective observer is unaware of the dangers of egotism in relationships. Ask anyone who knows a selfish woman. If they heard she had a new boyfriend, they wouldn't expect that relationship to succeed, and they would pity the hapless man. "Poor guy, he has no idea what he's getting into! Hopefully he'll take some time to get to know her before he marries her."

Her friends know better than to think she's about to be saved, even if she marries a saint! They know that Mr. Right or Prince Charming isn't going to ride in on his high horse and sweep her into marital bliss. Bliss is out of the question for anyone whose ego is too big.

The same cloud surrounds an egotistical guy, of course. Ego is no respecter of gender, race, class, creed, or religion. The truth is, as long as any person lives under the spell of egoism, all bets for lasting love are off.

Egoized relationships are hardly worth having. Ego permeates modern life. Messages of doubt and self-protection assail us from every corner. The advice people usually get as they enter into marriage, partnerships, communities, etc. is a millstone heavy enough to sink any dreams: "Can you really trust this person? How much do you know about him?" "I would be careful if I were you. Don't give your heart too easily." "What? You're joining a community! Are you mad? Look out for yourself!"

Now friends, please think with me: If people take that kind of message to heart, and carry those fearful attitudes into their marriage, friendship, romance, or community, they will destroy the relationship. They will argue for their space. They will maintain separation in millions of ways within the relationship. And they will end up hungry and underfed. They will end up bleeding and needing their partner, but not being able to succeed in love. That is where ego's advice leads.

In order to be worthwhile, any human arrangement must be an exception to the ego's rules. It has to contain much more trust than is recommended. Much more generosity of spirit. Much more forgiveness, and tolerance, and forbearance than what ego mentality would ever recommend. Because otherwise, it will surely fail.

Of course, many marriages last. But even if something lasts, that doesn't mean it's okay. Many cases of enduring love rely heavily on the enduring part. Very few relationships are truly loving, happy, and fulfilling. The rest are only passable, marginally viable -- only a shadow of what they could be without the toxic load of doubt and withholding.

When hearts are more open, when participation is more loving, more generous than what ego's rules allow, then a relationship will be truly heavenly. It will function as a beautiful love-generating station. But the potential for happiness and fulfillment simply cannot be realized in the semi-doubting, semi-withholding, semi-loving context generated by most couples. Only those rare couples who transcend the general climate of skepticism about marriage could possibly have a truly happy marriage.

Throw Away the Murder Weapons

Anyone who entrusts their relationships to egoistic thought and behaviors is bound for disappointment and failure. Ego has hundreds of ways to steer us in exactly the wrong direction. And I will name a few of the more important ones here. But first, a word about ego:

It's important to look carefully at what ego does, what effect it has. Ego's reign of terror rules this world because people are not checking whether its advice is actually working. It's a poor scientist who fails to check the result of the experiment. Ego says, "Do this and you'll be protected." But too many people follow that advice without looking to see whether they're better off afterwards, or not.

No harm in trying something. But, there is a great harm in getting stuck in an addictive pattern in which you repeat the same miserable behavior over and over, never seeing that it's not working.

This is the key to human suffering: uninspected mental beliefs that are being blindly applied every day, without deep thought as to the effectiveness of it. Addiction is rightly defined as "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." If I did some of it, should I do more of it? Well, what if it's actually destroying you? Then you're actively participating in your own destruction -- just like a heroin addict who won't stop taking drugs.

People keep following the ego's terrible advice because they're not paying good enough attention to the results. But they ought to! The advice is intended to kill love, intended to prevent the heart's fulfillment. Do you really want to support that intention?

Ego is like the person who hits bottom and starts digging. It is always figuring out a way to react to a situation that is exactly the opposite of what would help. Its advice is ridiculous -- but far too commonly followed. A person who accepts that advice is doomed, because it is designed to make the situation worse, or at least to keep it from getting better.

Maladaptation and mis-emotions

For example, you can count on ego to twist every emotion into an unconstructive form. For example, regret -- a perfectly healthy emotion at its root. But when a person feels regret, ego will quickly twist it into self-hatred. "I'm a shit. I knew it. I could never be any good." In ego's hands, an experience that could have been a valuable wake-up call, a catalyst for positive change, becomes something profoundly unconstructive and further demoralizing.

Toxified experiences

One of ego's most powerful strategies for invalidating heart values is to encourage you to pursue your dreams, while setting you up for failure.

For example, a guy in high school wants to date a girl. He decides to ask her out, but he thinks about it too long, and gets nervous. He's a total mess by the time he approaches her. Now, he's virtually guaranteed to blow it. Not surprisingly, she rejects him.

The poor guy walks away declaring, "I knew it. Nobody could love me. I'm absolutely unacceptable." His self-confidence is in the toilet, and he's further reinforced his conviction that he's a loser.

Look what happened: The heart's purpose was love; the ego's purpose was to prevent love. The boy's heart prompted him to act, but his ego so toxified his efforts as to make his rejection inevitable. Then ego got to say, "I told you so! You're no good. You'll never get the girl." The guy foolishly agreed. Then and there, ego won big.

If the boy would see that clinging to his negative self-image was the problem, he could let go of it, and create better luck next time. But, if he continues to follow ego's advice, he'll reinvest in insecurity and have even worse luck next time.

Ego draws the worst conclusions

Another way ego sets people up for failure is by rushing them into drawing oversimplified conclusions -- conclusions that make too few distinctions to allow for meaningful corrective action. Conclusions drawn in pain and in haste tend to be, shall we say, sketchy. A rough sketch lacks precision -- it leaves a lot out.

For instance, someone will say about a failed relationship, "Men (or women) suck."

Well, my dear Einstein, you were together with your most recent mate for how long? Five years? Now are you telling me that that's all you got out of your relationship experience, that men suck? That's it? What an irresponsible, sketchy, broad brush conclusion from a long, complex event! Is that the best you can learn?

Ego-styled conclusions abound. Frequently, people passionately declare conclusions like these:

Teachers suck

Communities suck

Marriage sucks.

God hates me.

People suck.

When you hear stuff like that, don't you want to ask: "I see! And who's writing your material -- Satan?"

That is absurd. It's so broad-brush; it doesn't make any distinctions. Men suck? All men? What about this or that other man? Marriage sucks? What about all these different marriages?

There is no doubt that some marriages suck. Indeed many suck. But do you dare ask why? In those cases where marriage sucks, why does it suck? Did you ever think of that?

"Marriage sucks because men are bad." Or, "Women are bad."

-- Oh god. How undiscerning can we get? All of experience just tumbles pell-mell into the big hopper of "life sucks"? Such a failure of thinking, of insight, of inspection!

Example: You've got car troubles. "My car won't start, and I don't know why."

"So, your car is permanently out of commission, right?

"You'd have to figure out exactly what was wrong with it to fix it, wouldn't you? So I guess you're going to be walking from here on, won't you?"

It's not smart to live with a problem and never fix it. And it's just as dumb to condemn everything because some things are no good.

Example: Preventative mastectomy? If you press them, sometimes people will say, "Well, SOME marriages are no good."

If you're not going to get married just because SOME marriages are no good, then here's another fad you might find interesting: preventative mastectomy. It started when one woman demanded -- and received -- a double mastectomy because she was afraid of getting breast cancer.

Now let's take inventory:

You got rid of relationship because love stinks.

You got rid of marriage because marriage sucks.

You got rid of teachers because teachers suck.

You got your breasts off your chest to prevent breast cancer.

Stop! Don't throw away everything that could make life good, based on "logic" like that!

You'd have to be willing to know some things to create a good marriage or choose a good teacher in a complex world, wouldn't you?

In fact, the sorry state of relationship and love in our society is largely a result of people having suffered/created hurtful experiences in ego-toxified love -- and on that basis, decided to run away from relationship, to protect themselves.

But no, they do not look at what went wrong, or ask the all-important, love-saving question: "What can I do differently next time? How can I REALLY protect the valuable possibility of real, wholehearted love in my life?" No, they just want more and more "protection."

But when they run away, they're not protecting themselves, or their dreams. They're not protecting their spirit -- they're protecting ego. They're letting love's killer roam free in their lives. And worse, they're feeding that monster.

Discrimination would show you that ego's the problem

Ego has a special motive for rushing us into hasty conclusions: More careful discernment would show you that ego itself is the problem with everything that's wrong in your life. That's exactly right: ego! Foggy, undiscerning thinking misses that glaring detail, and sends us chasing the problem and its solutions where neither one can be found.

"Life fails when we fail to make enough distinctions."
-- Werner Erhardt

Lack of discernment leads people to their ruin. By the time they've broad-brushed everything, there's nothing left to aspire for, to love, to have. Socrates said it: "An uninspected life is not worth living." And now we know why: because an uninspected life is doomed.

With undiscerning thinking, ego gets us to throw away entire contexts, entire needs, entire desires -- judging these things dangerous, bad, impossible. But you see, if a person took the trouble to bring more detail into their foggy picture, they would see that those discarded dreams are not impossible -- only ego makes them so. That's what discernment would always show. But again, ego fights hard against discernment, because ego doesn't want to be overthrown.

Fear of the depths

Another way ego attacks love is to scare people into staying in the shallows of life, where relationships are brief, mediocre, non-nutritive. Scared shallow! Tragically unsatisfying to the heart.

Ego is big on avoidance; it has a hard time facing anything. Generally, when there's a choice between moving in (moving deeper in to heart communion, emotional connection, love with another person), and moving on, ego wants to move on. Because it's afraid.

Shit and run. It also moves on because it is a failure. It is a failure in embracing, enjoying, and making use of its present life and relations. And it moves on in shame. It does not want to face what it has done, much less correct it.

This is a common pattern in many people's lives (both men and women): A man messes up in a relationship. He has mishandled his relationship enough to destroy its value and viability. So the relationship has become clouded and crowded with resentment, ill will, lack of affinity. He's unwelcome there, and he doesn't want to be there either. He's created an aversion, and he chooses to run away. Morally he lacks the necessary starch to deal with the messes he's left behind.

Driven by starvation. He's also running because he's starving to death. No ego-styled relationship generates enough love to meet the heart needs of its prisoners. So even while the relationships are happening, the heart's needs are not being met.

When it comes to love, the usual man gets almost nothing out of everything -- and then he moves on. You see, not only did he mess love up, but in the process, he didn't feed his partner enough to get the best out of the relationship, to get the true heart out of it. That heart, that love, that energy, that blessing is exactly what he desperately needs. So he moves on in search of what he could have had if he had moved in, into the depths of the relationship (instead of undervaluing it, underutilizing it, under-mining it).

The reality is, starving people get that way because they are not sufficiently open to love. An emotionally starving woman needs more love, but she is not open to it. She doesn't have the digestive capacity for real soul nutrition, because she's unwilling to feel, unwilling to love, unwilling to commit, unwilling to face everything, anything -- or herself, or anyone. So, by ego's design, as a result of fear, there's no nourishment in her life, That's why people like her are always seeking elsewhere -- for some new person, for some spiritual consolation, or some distracting form of entertainment ...something else.

Of course, not every story is so extreme, though it might be better if it were. Often, the relationship is crippled, but the people keep limping along. And they live in a condition of unsatisfying but complacent mediocrity. That's truly the worst fate of all.

Mediocrity is the lowest. I'd be the first to agree that negative or mediocre relationships should be avoided like the plague. It's obvious to any sane person that a condition of mediocrity is a far, far cry from anything the heart could be happy with. And everyone knows that it would be better to be in deep crisis than deep mediocrity. Because at least in deep crisis there's a chance for change. Mediocrity defends misery against change with the shield of complacency. Mediocrity is one of the most spiritually impervious states of being.

Fortunately, the heart never sleeps. Therefore, even from deep in the bowels of the best-defended prison of mediocrity, the heart cries. How could it fail to do so? You have your ego-influenced philosophy, all right, but how do you explain to your heart the fact that you don't have enough love in your life, enough depth of relationship? How do you explain to your heart that there's no place for you to rest your head?

Do you dare admit that you made this hollow bed you're lying in, because you were too fearful to do the natural thing, the true thing: to love truly, generously, for real. In that situation, what you can honestly say, if you dare, is that you made a big mistake -- the mistake of allowing ego mentality and ego values to control and create your life.

With ego, all solutions are unworkable

All of ego's strategies are unworkable solutions. The only workable solution combines ego-transcendence and real love, which are both absolutely essential and indispensable for the success of any relationship. All other solutions, no matter how good they sound, are unworkable. And that's obvious, if you just look at how badly they've proven themselves to work.

It's simply impossible to have a successful relationship until egoism itself is eradicated -- or at least reduced to manageable, love-compatible levels.

You can't share your bed with ego

Until then, there you are in your marital bed, the three of you: you, your mate, and your other constant companion ...an elephant. Ego. A huge, three thousand-pound beast, and it's lying there, between you. You might be in the mood for a little romance, so you're going to try to sneak around this elephant to your mate's side of the bed. But don't let that elephant roll over on ya! It will crush you like a bug.

That's why the concept of sneaking around that elephant -- the ego -- is ridiculous. There's no such thing as "getting around selfishness." When the ego makes its move on a couple, it leaves them flat as a pancake. Better put the elephant out.

Overthrow egotism wherever it lurks

It's easy to spot an elephant in your bed, but ego is not always so obvious. More often it hides under the cover of the most mundane, common attitudes and behaviors.

We recognize the terrible social and personal problems caused by gross manifestations of egotism -- like anger, extreme jealousy, addictive attachment, neurotic aversion, insecurity, narcissism, etc. But ego can be a huge problem even in the most ordinary, "well-adjusted" life. There, it manifests in ways that are socially acceptable, even fashionable, but nonetheless deadly to the human heart and soul.

For example, consider a reasonably cooperative team of real estate agents working together. They don't steal from each other; they don't even steal from their customers. They are successful professionals, and upstanding citizens. And yet, each of them is involved in a self-centered, self-seeking existence that is profoundly lacking in higher commitment or larger purpose. They each see their cooperation as a win-win situation, an alliance from which they all benefit. But if a circumstance arose where one of them had to make a sacrifice for the others, it probably wouldn't happen.

The same could be said of a couple that has a pleasant sexual relationship. It's a win-win situation; but it's self-centered, and because of that, it contains the seeds of its own destruction. What if someday they can't both have it their way? Or, what if someone else comes along who seems more attractive to one of them? If they're both in it to "win," their relationship will inevitably lose out.

Egoism needs to be rooted out no matter where it's found. And it is found almost everywhere, so everywhere's exactly where it needs to be rooted out for life to be truly enlightened, illumined, effective, and even, I dare say, good. Keep an eye out for ego symptoms like these: Self-protectiveness. Stinginess. Hyper-control. Pride. Superficiality. Complacency. Smugness. Avoidance. Etc. You can feel it: that's ego.

How to Make Life Safe for Love

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, love has great upside potentials. In marriage, community, friendship, romance, or any kind of relationship. People can be strengthened, and lifted up, and therefore have more to give the whole world. But while it is inarguably true that two or more people who have the right stuff can build wonders together out of their love, people who ignore/deplore love's requirements will surely create nightmares instead.

I know what you know: that most intimacies are doomed. That's why I don't recommend just any old intimacy, any old relationship. I recommend intimacy that has what it takes to succeed in relationship:

Walk away from EGO, and love TRULY.

Relationships are a necessity of life. But if our relationships are disappointing and abortive, all we have to show for it is more misery. Heartbreaks that leave terrible scars on both people involved.

So many naïve and hopeful people build their castles out of sand. They enter into marriage, business partnership, community, etc. without taking any precautions to stop ego from washing their dreams away.

So, even as I passionately recommend human relationships, I'm aware that success in human relationship has requirements -- and that not all people will see fit to meet them. And, consequently, not all relationships will be truly happy or wholesome: many will be disastrous. Let's face it: You get what you pay for.

Love builders, love breakers

So, it's really important to ask: how are we going to achieve happy relationships, the kind worth having? If such a wonderful result is to happen, what would cause it?

Is a happy marriage the result of simply getting married? Is the capacity for deep friendship a result of reading this and that book about love, or about self-improvement? Obviously not. Is viability in love the result of personal power seminars, empowerments, initiations, or therapies? Clearly not. If those things worked, there would be far fewer divorces, and far more happy marriages, lasting friendships, and thriving communities.

Love -- giving love, and being love -- is the real cause of relationship success.

Selfish love is a contradiction in terms. The trouble is, almost everyone in this world thinks of love as something to get. Selfish orientations toward love are a big problem today.

Clearly, when optimism about relationship is low, people need encouragement to even give love a go. Many well-intentioned helpers promote love and relationship as a way to "get what you want" out of life: "Dismiss your destructive fear that everyone's going to betray you, and think about the fact that you could be fulfilled by love." Such advice certainly provides motivation. But at the same time, it appeals to selfishness, to greed, to ego. Selfish motives. And, as you know, selfishness kills love. It will undo the very love it's pursuing, or prevent that love from realizing its upside potentials.

Killing two bird-brains with one stone. Love is in peril as long as we still have a man-eating, relationship-defeating tiger in the woods: egoism. That tiger is ready and able to take your first-born, your second-born. As long as it's at large, about the only thing relationship is good for is tiger food. Tiger bait. You and your husband. You and your wife. Your relationship.

So relationship is not a magical solution; it could be a target for disaster. It is, as long as there's a tiger out there. Until you shoot it dead, it's on the loose, and it's after you, and everything you hold dear.

Egoism: love it or leave it

In spite of the vast popularity of ego values, most people know that egoism is truly the main problem of their existence. You know it for sure. You know that egoism is the real cause of most pain and suffering; the downfall of relationships and cooperative involvements of all kinds. Since you recognize that, why not leave egoism behind?

Wise are those who walk the path of SINCE . . .

• SINCE you see the damage that ego creates every day, leave it.

• SINCE you deplore ego in others, don't hold onto it in yourself.

• SINCE you see the harm it does you when you are in an egotistical disposition, walk away from egoism, the thing that causes all the pain.

• SINCE you hate egoism, because you see all the hell it creates, leave it.

Those are the DO's. Now for the DON'Ts . . .

• DON'T complain about ego's effects on others and on life and then stick with it in yourself anyway.

• DON'T hate ego and yet stay loyal to it, like the woman who stays with a husband who beats her; or the man who feeds a really bad addiction even though it's doing him in.

• DON'T be a hypocrite. Leave safely behind what ruins your life and the lives of others. Even if you have to be the first on your block to do it, be a good example for others to follow.

Get thee behind me, ego!

A famous baseball player, while playing in the World Series, was nearly sidelined due to a very bad case of hemorrhoids. But he was not to be deterred. So, when the press inquired anxiously about his health, he replied, "My troubles are behind me now!"

And yes, if you would have it be so, your troubles are behind you now! Know that, and let it be so. Have that be the essential thrust of your "therapy," your growth program, your spirituality, your love, your life, your everything. Because, believe me, putting ego behind you is the only way to banish your woes, and make room for love, trust, intimacy, emotional/spiritual fulfillment -- real joy in your life.

So be it!


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Chapter 5: Healthy Dependence and Independence

by David Truman

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