“Attachment is the great fabricator of allusions; reality can be obtained only by someone who is detached.”
— Simone Weil (1909–1943)
This article presents a simple idea: that safe identity—true peace of soul—is only obtainable when we reach a sufficient level of detachment from fear. Only in becoming detached from our fear can we go on to truly enjoy the wondrousness of reality. And this is what life—the abundant, eternal life of Jesus—is all about: living reality such that we are wedded to truth despite its personal costs.
It’s a courageous life.
Before we can venture on in the study of safe identity—detachment from fear—which leads to the capacity to live in reality, we need to explore fear.
A Study of the Sources of Fear
There are two sources of fear: fear of intimacy and fear of being abandoned (or of being dismissed). This is really an exposé of Attachment Theory 101. Its thesis is very simple:
If we’re attached to intimacy, we fear being dismissed. If, on the other hand, we’re attached to being dismissive, we fear intimacy. Most of us have a blend of both, but typically one more than the other.
So our core fears surround two things: a fear of intimacy and/or the fear of abandonment.
We can liken the goal of reconciling these two sources of fear to leaving home without concern and returning home with gladness. Both leaving home and returning home are hence safe ideas.
Unblocking the Passage to Safe Identity
Fear is the thing the blocks clear passage to safe identity—that sense-of-self which can enjoy peace, have access to joy, that thrives on hope, and is able to love.
In living the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) we have wrangled with our fear and reconciled ourselves to sufficient control—with God’s abiding help—over it. This is achievable, but only within the context of dealing with our twofold fear of intimacy and of being rejected.
It is common to fear one more than the other. If we are particularly anxious by nature we fear being dismissed (the fear of abandonment), but if we are perhaps considered aloof (unapproachable or standoffish) we fear intimacy.
Unblocking the passage to safe identity is becoming aware what we fear most and finding ways to reconcile our fears.
When we fear abandonment (being rejected) our challenge is to reconcile ourselves to the truth when it does appear we are being rejected, when in fact we may not be. We are sensitive to rejection and perhaps oversensitive. Our opportunity is to become less sensitive; to enjoy more distance without its presenting anxiety.
When we fear intimacy our challenge is to desire relationships and to get intentionally closer to people more. The opportunity is to take risks in getting closer to people and situations, without fear that we will lose our autonomous control.
Enjoying safe identity—the peace of soul and safe-sense-of-self—is about enjoying reality unencumbered by fear. Two fears need to be challenged: the fear of intimacy and the fear for abandonment. We are challenged more by one than the other.
Enjoying safe identity is truly about harnessing our fears of intimacy and abandonment. When we enjoy close relationships and don’t feel prone to being rejected by those relationships, safe identity is ours at last.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.