Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Ego and Core Fears

I used to think I was unlovable.  It was one of those core beliefs that impacted my thoughts and feelings on a daily basis, even though it remained just outside of my conscious awareness.  I was full of self doubt and was severely lacking in confidence.  I was extremely sensitive to any perceived sign of rejection.  I frequently felt depressed and I found it difficult to like myself.  One of the reasons I wanted to go into the mental health profession (but certainly not the only reason -- there were many) was to better understand myself.  Actually, maybe that's not entirely accurate.  I think I wanted to figure out what was "wrong" with me so I could "fix" it.  That was my mindset at the age of 18 when I started college.

Anyway, I spent years working to change my belief that I was unlovable.  Today, I am absolutely certain I am lovable.  In fact, I believe that every human being is innately lovable, although many of us erect barriers that make it difficult for others to get close enough to love us.  I discovered over time that being lovable has nothing to do with having another person love me.  To be lovable I had to learn to love myself.  (I know that sounds cliche and trust me, it's easier to say than it was to do).

Last week, I wrote about "core fears."  Core fears are those that threaten our "ego," or our sense of self.  Core fears revolve around losing those things we believe are central to our identities; to lose them (or so we believe) is to lose our very selves.  When someone triggers a core fear our egos feel threatened; whenever the ego feels threatened it immediately acts to defend itself.  You can tell a core fear has been triggered by how upset you become.  Often you will find that the intensity of your emotion is disproportional to the event that triggered it (i.e., you get extremely upset when someone says or does something to you that doesn't seem to be quite as terrible as you are making it out to be).  When a core fear has been triggered we typically react by blaming the other person involved.  It's not that we are simply blaming the other person to avoid accepting responsibility for our own misdeeds; rather, we truly believe that the other person has wronged us.  This, however, is just our ego deceiving us in an effort to protect us from facing whatever fear has been activated. 

Ironically, as I was typing last week's post on my blog (I'd written it earlier that week) my husband and I got into an argument.  We started out with the best of intentions.  We were doing a communication exercise to address something I'd done that upset him.  We reached a point in the exercise where he was prompted to request that I make a specific change in my behavior.  I was expecting him to ask me to stop doing the thing that I'd done that upset him in the first place (and I was prepared to make this change).  Instead, he asked me to change something else entirely.  He thought the behavior he'd asked me to change was the underlying problem.  I thought he was asking me to change something that is fundamental to who I am.  Sense of self threatened; activate ego defenses.

I stormed off and went back to my computer to finish typing my blog post.  Oh the irony; I was writing about the very thing that was happening at that moment.  I told myself to pay attention to the words as I was writing.  I told myself to sit with my feelings, to observe them and to observe the suffering caused by my ego's insistence on blaming my husband.  I told myself a lot of things but I was too upset to take my own advice.

Against my better judgment (which had taken a leave of absence at that point), I tried to talk to my husband.  It wasn't the best idea but in doing so, my core fear was exposed.  "I don't think you love me," I accused him.  "I don't think you care about me at all!"  There it was: my core fear of being unlovable.

Fortunately, we resolved the issue.  In fact, I think seeing my vulnerability exposed softened my husband and allowed him to see the hurt underneath my anger.

I want to end with a message to my core fear.  Here it is:

So we meet again, Ms. "I'm Unlovable."  I thought I was done with you.  Haven't you realized that I don't believe your lies anymore?  I AM LOVABLE!  Why are you still here, lurking in the shadows?  Well you're not in the shadows anymore!  You've shown yourself.  Maybe I was naive to think I'd gotten rid of you completely.  From now on I will be more vigilant.  You will never occupy the place in my life you once held and never again will I allow you to control me.  You caught me off guard once but it won't happen again.  Now I know you're here and I'll be watching your every move.


  1. Hi Melody -- Very interesting post! I relate to the part where you're writing about the very thing you're dealing with, but don't fully realize it. Isn't it ironic how the writing sometimes distances you from yourself? I struggle with this, but realize it's really a blessing. By your not realizing one thing, you're getting in touch with something else. Keep up the great work! And thanks for visiting One Man's Wonder! I hope you'll find enough of interest there to want to share it. Best wishes...

  2. Hi Melody, I really like your style of sharing your journey: the vulnerability - insights - to the new resolve. It's helpful because it's real and it shows a pathway forward. This idea of 'core fears' is new to me, but it resonates with my experience, that's for sure. One way I think I access and work with these is through mindfulness practice. Often when I sit down there is a powerful anxiety waiting for me, and when I am able to open to the anxiety there is a deep fear there, and I can be with that fear and it begins to soften.

  3. All in the way we react isn't it? You have friends, you are loved despite any flaws which everyone knows anyhow...

  4. married 17 years and currently seperated for 4 months. 2 children. i am a male 50 year old. domestic abuse witness and victim. father on mother. first instance was at 8 - 9 years old. my father pushed my mother down to my horror. i have witnessed black eyes and horrible screaming. have worked with therapy for 15 years or so. my esteem improved and i felt the need to continue in every effort to have my marriage succeed and be a benefit to myself and as a husband and future father.
    although the therapy helped i live with a broken ego / spirit. i avoid and avoided the revealing of my fear. i overcompensate and are very controlling. any sense of rejection, dismissed, avoided or issues not resolved eventually resorted to my powering through as if i was coaching a playoff football game. i completley aleinated myself with the anger used.
    i am so sorry for the pain i have caused and have heard the words of no hope from my wife. i am so sad. i realize the need to cure this ego defense. i am praying for Gods guidance and continue with counselling. I NEED TO STOP HIDING THIS BROKEN EGO. I CONTINUALLY FEEL THE NEED TO HIDE IT. I STILL OUTBURST AND FEEL THE PANGS OF ANGER IN SITUATIONS. THESE SITUATIONS ARE IMAGINED. I AM CONFIDENT OF IT YET MY EGO MAKE IT REAL. my fear. i need to discuss my fear. do you know of the most common fear of dv children. i constantly search and hope to be understood considering my love for others and willigness for self actualization. my family is everything. i have caused such hurt and pain. i will not waste time in trying to heal, uncover and fix core pain. i long to love and be at ease.


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