THE COUNSELOR'S CORNER: The fear of loving

By Fred Cavaiani

Narcissistic personality disorders are defined as "a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism." People who are narcissistic often demean and make fun of anyone who has a different viewpoint than they do. They attack the character of the other person and seldom if ever hold an open and honest discussion with someone else. In whatever discussion happens between a narcissist and someone else everything relates back to the person of the narcissist. Nothing objective gets discussed because it is all about the other person.

Each of us will engage in some form of narcissistic behavior in our lives. It is part of the human situation. But a healthy person can recognize these unattractive traits when they appear. The genuine narcissist cannot see or admit these traits within him or herself. To live in contact with a narcissist is to become consistently and continually emotionally wounded. The narcissist is profoundly afraid of loving someone else because to love is put our ego aside for the benefit of someone else.

The fear of loving happens to everyone. When we genuinely put our egos aside to help someone else there is first a fear, then a positive feeling results in seeing the pain of another person alleviated by our kind actions. The caring person can confront this fear and hesitation to love. When I can admit my fear I can overcome it and allow Love to take over. The great people throughout the ages were able to do this. The positive changes in every culture first start with loving persons who faced their fear of letting things go so they could love and bring goodness to other people.

Loving people do not first preoccupy themselves with how much they have or identify themselves with how wealthy they are. Caring and compassionate people first want to share their care and compassion with others. The fear of Love has been consistently challenged by daily quiet times of self-reflection and a genuine encounter with God in meditation and prayer that is slow, reflective and receptive. The compassionate, caring person is not interested in investing energy in condemning and judging others but in blessing and caring for others.

Each of us is narcissistic at times. This narcissism takes a strong hold on us if we seldom find time for quiet. It holds us firmly if we seldom reach out to someone on a daily basis in some compassionate and caring action, be it a smile, an awareness of the presence of another person or the need for others to feel loved and blessed by us. When we withhold love, we regress into selfishness. When we take the risk of listening to the pain and needs other people we expand our own awareness of life. We begin to experience the meaning of positive relationships. We become aware that all of us are on the same journey in life: to discover true peace and happiness.

When we condemn and judge others in a demeaning manner we build a wall around ourselves. It is a wall which only causes us to become more self-centered. We then become more critical and miserable when people do things differently. We believe that people must see everything in the same way we see things.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, and a most celebrated writer of the past forty years stated so well: "What is the relation of contemplation to action? Simply this. He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressivenesss, his ego-centered ambitions, his delusions about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas. There is nothing more tragic in the modern world than the misuse of power and action."

Power and action will so often become misused when there is an absence of love and an absence of contemplation/reflection with God. Love and silence help me to become more compassionate and wise. Judgments and resentments push me in the direction of denial and deceit both about myself and with myself and both about the goodness of others and the goodness that is still present within me. I cannot find my own goodness if I cannot admit my own flaws. I will not know me if I keep condemning you. The enemy is never what bad things other people are doing to me. It is always what bad things I am doing to other people.

The biggest fear to overcome in my life is the fear of loving you and the fear of loving me maturely and appropriately. The easy way out is to neglect bringing kindness to everyone. It is also to neglect my own emotional and spiritual life. When I do this nothing will bring me peace. When I stop neglecting being loving to others and to myself I start back on a journey of positive change which can bring goodness to everyone. Genuine leaders and genuine positive change makers are men and women of absolute integrity and consistent caring compassion toward all. Provoking anger in others doesn't create change. It creates war and animosity and causes people to be on edge for the rest of their lives. Loving and compassionate people relax people and create an environment of peace and compassion, hope and optimism. Loving and compassionate people help us to look for the good everywhere and let go of fear.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage & family therapist and psychotherapist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan he is also on staff at Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, MI. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, May 10, 2016