The Terror of Love
A sharing with Joseph Shore
Let Love replace terror in our hearts. Let us return in the mind to that time we chose fear and victimization, and let us choose again for the Love that we are.
Have you ever been afraid of Love? Perhaps you have experienced Love in someone’s presence and then backed away out of fear. Perhaps someone has loved you and you backed away from the experience. Why do we do that? It is our unspoken, dirty little secret that we are terrified of Love. We search for and believe we need it but we are terrified of finding it! Buried deep within the human psyche is the belief that Love is not trustworthy, that it could turn on us at any moment and become hate and punishment. What is the origin of this insanity? Why does love hurt so much? The child asks himself that when his parents abuse him. The abused child is caught in a contradiction. He came from heaven, knowing only love and wanting to share it with his parents. But the parents were terrified of love and could not learn from the child. Instead, they acted out their own fear of love by abusing the child. Whether the abuse is formally recognized or goes on in “normal” families, it would appear to destroy the child’s trust in love. Looking at the affects of clinical abuse can enhance the picture of the world-wide terror of love.
For almost two years, 1987 through June 1988, I was a Social Worker in New York City’s Department of Child Welfare, known as Special Services for Children. For the first year I was a Protective Diagnostic Caseworker investigating cases of abuse and neglect, and training foster parents. The second year I was an “Under-Care” Social Worker with St. Vincent’s Services for Children, a part of the city system of foster care. I had around twenty children on my case load who had been remanded to the custody of the Commissioner of Social Services because of abuse and/or neglect. My duties involved counseling the abusive parents; finding treatment programs for them to enable their child to be returned to them; monitoring their progress in such therapy and monitoring monthly or weekly visits with their children; finding the appropriate psychiatrist or psychologist to treat the abused child in my custody; writing psycho-social assessments to refer the children to that psychiatrist; working together with that psychiatrist or psychologist in the treatment of the children; and general substitute parenting activities towards the child.
“There is a great need for all involved with the problem of abuse to understand and empathize with the notion that those who suffer in this way do not have the average inner life. In any relationship, the abused/abusive person tends to return to and relive the world in which he/she was raised. This world is aptly referred to by the acronym WAR, or the World of Abnormal Rearing (quoting Helfer, R.: Developmental deficits which limit interpersonal skills, in The Battered Child, Ed. 4, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987). The abused person lives in an inner world of disordered attachments. He/She is compelled to repeat behavior over and over again unless someone not caught in the pattern intervenes with understanding and empathy to help them work through these attachments and leave them behind. Freud would have called this ‘repetition compulsion,’ repeating an inner dilemma externally rather than being able to work in through within. It is an attempt to master the inner problem through getting rid of what is felt as unbearable feelings. It has the force of an addiction, in the sense that it is an automatic return to the bad-parent-bad-child emotional interaction internalized during childhood…In the inner world of the abused/abuser at the moment of abuse, the child is only seen as a part of the parental inner world, I.e., the personification of the accusatory parent that calls for revengeful behavior, or the guilty, inadequate, enraged self that is deserving of punishment…Instead of seeing their child as a separate individual, they perceive him as part of their own inner interactive bad-parent-bad-child image. His presentation of self as needy, excited, curious, hungry, hurt, or active may be transformed in their perceptions, and the child is a pawn in the inner battle. In the child, we see there are external signs of this inner pawnship. These are behaviours developed to ensure survival in an environment perceived as an evil necessity. They are usually extreme behaviors in contrast to the more moderate responses of children in good enough surroundings. The child may appear: (1) Excessively shy, compliant, and fearful; (2) Aggressive, unpredictable, and provocative; (3) Stupid, dull and physically flaccid due to turning inward away from a nonunderstanding environment where spontaneity is dangerous and failure means punishment…However necessary these behaviors may be to ensure survival, they are antithetical to the exercise of human skills essential to optimal development…Without the chance to develop these skills, the abused child grows up externally but still functions as a survivor in a totalitarian universe. He can often get by until a mature developmental step is required, such as intimacy with another person and/or parenting a child. Then the inner world of disordered attachments rises again to the surface and the repetition compulsion begins again” (Ann Williamson Bird, MSN, RN, CS, “The Child Within: The Cycle of Abuse,” in Missing/Abused, edited by Vincent Fontana, M.D., Fall 1987, Volume 3, No.3).
Psychological Maltreatment of Children and Youth, edited by Marla Brassard, Robert Germain, and Stuart N. Hart (New York: Pergamon Books, 1987,). refers to the Minnesota Mother-Child Interaction Project (by Egeland and Erickson). Psychologist Elizabeth Navarre is quoted in this volume as saying “The Minnesota Mother-Child Interaction Project..is the only longitudinal study known to this author that carefully divides its sample on the basis of types of abuse and neglect and provides an appropriate control group”(. p. 49).
Within this study (The Minnesota Mother-Child Interaction Project) I note specifically that “children whose mothers were hostile, rejecting, and verbally abusive looked much the same as the children in the physical abuse group. In general these children were angry and non-compliant” (Ibid., p. 114). The study noted that “at 42 months in a problem-solving task alone, these children were hyperactive and distractible, presented a considerable amount of negative affect and demonstrated poor self control and low self-esteem” (Ibid. p. 114).
The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect and the American Humane Association has developed more specific definitions of psychological maltreatment for the purpose of gathering data to clarify the incidence of maltreatment nationally.” Among the categories identified are “verbal and emotional assault” (Ibid. p. 5). “It defines emotional abuse as ‘active, intentional berating, disparaging or other abusive behaviour toward the child which impacts upon the emotional well-being of the child” (Ibid. p. 5).
When we look at A Course in Miracles we see a sophisticated model system of psychology as well as a spiritual system that goes far beyond clinical psychology. From the point of view of the Course, we all carry around inside of us scars from our terror of love and our fear that love is untrustworthy. The clinical cases only show us what we all feel in a primal way.
Even if you think you had a good childhood and escaped this circle, you still have this primal terror of love. Where does it come from? We know It comes down to us through myths that are deeply a part of the social/religious structure of our society. But the Course takes us all the way back to those myths and offers us a new myth which has the power within it to lead us out of the terror of love. First let us look at the deceptive myth we have all believed. It is found in the Bible, in Genesis, as the myth of creation. We are told that an all-wise, all-loving, all-knowing god named Yahweh or Jehovah, created the world in six days, out of nothing, through the “Poof” method. “Poof” and it was there. He created man out of nothing too and created woman from a rib of the man. He put them into a garden of paradise. He walked with them in the garden. (Yahweh is apparently a man for he has feet.) He told them they could do anything they wanted except they were not to eat from the tree of knowledge in the middle of the garden. His creations from nothing are said to be innocent and naked. But Eve gets tempted by a talking snake and eats of the forbidden fruit and manipulates Adam to eat of it. Yahweh has obviously never taken a course in child rearing or he would have made a safe place for his children rather than exposing them to temptation. What foolish parent would tell his toddlers, “Now you can play with anything in this room but you must never stick your fingers in the wall electrical sockets?” He knows that what is forbidden will draw a toddler right to it, so he puts up electrical guards on the sockets and doesn’t say a word about them. It certainly seems that this Yahweh fellow is setting up his kids for a fall. After all, what is a snake doing in a nursery anyway? Yahweh needs to be reported to social services! He allows a snake in the nursery, a talking snake at that. What toddler would not be confused by a talking snake? So they eat the apple or pomegranate and everything changes. Yahweh turns into a monster. He shows his real colors. Instead of being unconditional love he does the most horrible thing that can be done to a child. He changes into a punishing monster. He kicks Adam and Eve out of paradise, seals the door so they can never get back in, sends them out into the world with all this guilt and punishes them further by taking away sufficiency, so they will always experience lack. Adam now has to find a job and work by the sweat of his brow. Eve is condemned to the pain of childbirth. They are both released into a world of pain, sorrow, limitation, sin and death, and they carry this Terror of Love with them, along with their original guilt for making daddy so mad that he abused them!!!!! This myth is the formal expression of the primal Terror of Love we all experience. The Bible, then, is the formal book designed to enhance these lies. Whether you ever went to a church or are a devout atheist you carry these lies around with you. The myth has come to you in society and child rearing.
Now the Course in Miracles comes into all this mess and offers a new myth of creation that can lead the mind away from dysfunctional old Yahweh and his lies of sin, guilt, death, and the Terror of Love. This kind of a “myth” is a mental device which is used to point the mind in a different direction. Like all spiritual myths it says that reality is “sort of like this.” The myth is needed as a mental device to approach ourselves and the world differently.
In the Course’s view of reality there is a world of Oneness, Heaven, Mind, God and His One Son, which is the sum of all His extensions of His Love. This is a world of Mind and total oneness. The Course’s myth of world creation says that there crept into the Son’s Mind, the tiny mad idea that He could be different from His Father. Since this could not really happen, it was like a dream the Son fell into. But once he appeared to fall into it, he was an observer, and just as quickly two thoughts came to his mind. One thought, the Course calls the ‘ego,’ said “you have done something terrible. You have really hurt your Father. You should be ashamed, and furthermore, God is not going to let you get away with this. The wages of sin is death.” The other thought that came to the separated mind of the son was “this never happened. Nothing was done. Wake up.” This is the voice of the Holy Spirit, his memory of Truth. The Course calls the council of the ego, the “wrong mind,” and the council of the Holy Spirit, the “right mind.” But the son believed in the ego’s version and experienced guilt. So the separated son now believing he is the ego, runs out of his mind and creates a universe to hide in by projecting the guilt he experiences on to this universe. As he enters this universe he splits into zillions and zillions of pieces, each a hologram of the whole mind, now associated with the ego. But as he projects himself into this illusory universe, he forgets what he has done and who he really is. He creates bodies as places to hide from God and protect his dreamy desire to be an individual, separated, distinct from his Father, and each of these bodies believes in the ego’s lie that the son is now a sinner, guilty and afraid. So he is now in the world thinking he is a body, thinking his senses give him a true picture of reality. But he also carried with him into the dream a faint memory of who he really is. The ego is the wrong mind that he has chosen but the right mind of the Holy Spirit has been carried into the dream too, and it tells the son, “Forgive those who seem to hurt you in this world. Nothing has happened. It is just a dream.” Little by little the separated hologram son begins to listen to his right mind (or not) and forgive. As he does he begins to remember that he is a mind and not a body. Since he is a hologram and carries the whole within him he can go back in the mind where the original mistake took place, the choosing of the ego’s thought system, and he can choose again, this time for his right-minded Holy Spirit. When all of the Sonship has returned to the Holy Spirit, God Himself will reach down and bring us back up to Him. But actually since the Son has been dreaming, it is more like He nudges the Son and says, “Wake up.” Then we are back where we have never left, in a Heaven of Oneness with God and His One Son, the extension of all His Love.
You see the original Terror of Love in our minds is the illusion that comes from the original illusion that the Son could break off from his Father and be something different than the Love He is. We still believe the Ego’s lie that we have hurt God and that God’s Love can turn to wrath against us. That Terror of Love’s mutability into abuse keeps us on guard against experiencing the love that is our natural inheritance. The liberation comes when we can laugh at the tiny mad idea and see that it never in truth happened. Even old Yahweh we can laugh at as a cartoon creature we created from our guilty minds. And so the little lies we were told in childhood we can forgive and let them pass away as so many wisps of vapor. Love is trustworthy and full of wisdom. You need have no terror of what you in truth are. Now are you free of the ancient terror. Now is your brother set free and you with him to experience the Love you searched for so long in a terror that had you both bound in chains.
Now you need look no longer at your little self as something so worth protecting that you would sacrifice your Oneness with God to save it.
Let me personalize that. Now I have no need to keep the little identity of Joseph Shore forever as a defense against Love. Now I can lay down the defense of the body as something I made to replace the Love of God that I am. Now I am so free I stand before the Gates of Heaven with Jesus, reaching out to all my brothers who are climbing back up Jacob’s Ladder. So soon God’s Hand will reach down and lift His son back to his ancient place in Heaven where He must forever be, and we will be Home at last, where we have never left.