LOOKING FOR LOVE: HIDING VS. SEEKING (Part 1 of 4)
Greetings and welcome to my post. The purpose of this post is to engage in conversation about how all of us do relationships. I believe that we are created for relationships and what gives us the most meaning in our lives is the significant relationships we have with people. When we have positive, growing, and happy relationships, then our lives become more meaningful. But the opposite can also happen when we have conflict, hate, and hurt in our most important relationships. Then life can become very stressful and depressing.
In this current post, I want to focus on what we are all looking for: Love. In 1987, “U2” penned these words in their song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
“I have climbed highest mountains; I have run through the fields, only to be with you. I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, only to be with you. But I still haven’t found what I’m look for.”
The focus of this song is a man who is desperately looking for love, and he is stating in his plea how much he has tried to find love but still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He is desperate but ends up unsatisfied.
Today, we can still claim the desperation and longing we all want: To love and be loved. When you are loved, you feel connected and plugged in. You feel and know that someone loves you, likes you, and desires to be with you. Someone has chosen you and enjoys you and when you feel that chosen love, you feel very satisfied and fulfilled. Your love tank is full.
HIDING FROM LOVE
Unfortunately, love is something that cannot be purchased. For example, what if we all said, “I want the best chocolate ice cream in my hometown.” That can be purchased and bought. But love cannot be purchased or bought. One cannot go down to the love store and buy love. If only it was this true and simple. We all would be lining up the blocks to purchase love.
But, we all need love. Like a car needs gas, our lives need love. Yes, I know, many of you would argue with me that you don’t need love. Some of you think you can live without love. But consider the character Tom Hanks played in the movie “Cast Away.” What kept him going was his love for his girlfriend and his love for his volleyball, Wilson. He was driven by love to keep living and to survive.
The challenge as I see it is this: do you look for love or do you hide from love. If you hide, do you know what your hiding style is? In one perspective, we all hide. We all at times can put up a mask and withdrawal from people or from the love someone is offering us. So what purpose do our hiding styles mean to us and why do we hide?
The main reason why we hide from love is due to the need to survive or the need to protect. Surviving and protecting becomes our main focus for coping versus our need for love. This need to survive is probably due to some emotional trauma we all experienced in the first twenty years of our lives. There are many forms of trauma we all have experienced from mild to major. Examples of mild trauma may have been someone disappointed you, let you down, or maybe you had repeated experiences of feeling ignored. Examples of major trauma may have been your parents went through a divorce, a parent was an alcoholic, various forms of physical or sexual abuse, a schoolmate or sibling being a bully to you, or a death you never grieved. When you experience emotional injury, fear, shame or disappointment, your first impulse is to hide this hurt.
Hurt is hurt, and pain is pain, weather it is minor or major. The question is this, What did we do when we felt hurt or pain, and who was there to help bring love, comfort and care to the places we needed healing? If one day you broke your wrist when you were ten, hopefully your parents took you to the doctor to fix your wrist. But when you were ten and some kids teased you at school, and you failed a test, and your parent yelled or punished you in a cruel or mean way, your need for love probably did not get fixed that day.
So, now as an adult you do not want to repeat your pattern of going into survival and just coping by yourself like when you were a child where you did not get the love and care you needed. You now say that you want to get love and receive love from another person for the purpose of not feeling so alone. When you are a child and you feel alone, it is hard to put a voice to it. But now as an adult, you go to church, to work, to bars, to various dating clubs, or online dating services voicing your desire for love, and this is good. You don’t want to be alone.
But now, when an adult hurts us, what we do is go back to what is familiar: hiding. We hide from what we need. And the only reason we hide is because someone has not taught us or life has not provided enough healing to the original trauma or pain from our past. What was hurt never got healed, and today we are looking for evidence that our pain will never get resolved, so we turn to hiding styles of isolation, survivor mode, and protection. Thus we falsely conclude that current love cannot heal past hurts, which is not true. We conclude by hiding that areas of our past, in which we were hurt, must stay in the past for the purpose of keeping it in isolation and concluding our past will always get repeated. That what is familiar will get repeated into the future.
But to hide is to stay in pain, and we remain unhappy and unsatisfied. To hide is to stay in isolation, to be alone, to withdraw and to view hiding as survival and protection. But this only keeps us imprisoned from the hope we need, which is love. When we hide our injuries, hurts and pain, we isolate ourselves from the love, grace and forgiveness of God and others, which is the very thing we need in order to heal and mature. So what served as needed protection and survival for us as a vulnerable hurting child now becomes a place of prison and isolation as an adult. This current isolation then becomes a place where we relive our past hurts over and over in the form of depression, anxiety, guilt, compulsive or addictive behavior, and dysfunctional relationships.
So, welcome to the club of hiding. But the good news is that we do not have to stay in hiding. Sure, hiding has served you well and hiding has become a place in which you cope. In part 2 of this post, I will share with you some of the ways we hide from the very things we all need. Please keep reading as my hope is to provide solutions to the reasons why we all hide.
Phil Kiehl, LMFT, M.Div.
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject. Share your comments and share this article with others. Thanks.