Letters To Seneca – Letter 20

Dear Seneca,

To receive love and attention is one of the most sought-after feelings we social beings seek. Different people are better at receiving it than others and a few people become dependent on the attention.

For me, it’s a struggle to fully accept that attention and love. Especially, when it’s an explicitly prepared action known by me.

Currently, I’m in NYC due to a surprise birthday trip planned by my amazing wife. She’s tailored the experience just to my liking, which is an amazing gesture, but I find myself thinking what can we do to ensure she’s happy? This behavior is disguised as selflessness, but if you go a bit deeper it turns out to be a form of selfishness. 🤔

There’s a fear of attention that I’m trying to avoid by redirecting attention to those that are close to me. I can only speculate at the moment as to “why” this is my default behavior, but they speculate together.

  • Loss: An obvious fear would be the fear of losing those that matter most in my life. The story I tell myself is that if I treat them with all the love and attention I can, then if they disappear from my life, I know deep down I tried to keep them. This attachment to others and the fear of losing them is not good. People come and go, life happens, and it’s up to us to embrace the uncertainty of life. The only thing we have control over is our perception of the world around us.
  • Exposure: An non-obvious fear (in my mind) is being vulnerable in front of others. Even though I’ve taught myself to be more vulnerable throughout life, I still have walls up. These walls stop me from exposing myself to the world, even to those that I love the most. This deep-seated fear and behavior will take years of conscious effort to overcome.

These fears create default behaviors intended to protect my ego. If we go full circle back to the main point we can now see that the selflessness of redirecting attention to others is a protective mechanism I’ve built to selfishly guard my own ego.