A Mask Was Stifling Me

Freeman, Lucy


  • Lucy Freeman talks about her trouble and how psychoanalysis and faith helped her to feel good about herself again.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Lucy Freeman, who writes of mental health and social welfare subjects for the New York Times, is a young journalist whose able reporting in this, and other, fields has won her wide acclaim. Listen now as she shares with us her creed.
I believe that everyone wants to love and be loved and that happiness stems from a facing and acceptance of self that allows you to give and receive love.
Some think of love as a passionate, hungry, dramatic feeling, all-consuming in intensity and desire. As I see it, this is, rather,
immature love; it is a demand on others, not a giving of oneself. Mature love, the love that brings happiness, flows out of an inner fullness, and accepts, understands, and is tender toward the other person. It does not ask to be served, but only where it may serve.
Six years ago, I could hardly breathe because of acute sinus. My stomach was always upset and full of queasiness, and I had trouble sleeping, even though I felt exhausted all the time. In desperation, after doctors who treated the physical symptoms failed to ease the pain, I tried psychoanalysis. I was lucky to find a wise, compassionate man who showed me what it meant to be able to trust myself and others.
The physical ills are gone, but more than that, I have at long last started to acquire a philosophy of living. I had never possessed one. I had lived on dogma and dicta which I had accepted unquestioningly through the years, even though I believed little of it, because I feared to question. But by being unable to live naturally and at peace with myself, I was flying in the face of nature. She was punishing me with illness and, at the same time, informing me all was not well, just in case I wanted to do something about it.
In order to change, I needed help in facing myself. For me, it was not easy to "know thyself." All my life I had accepted the lesser of the two evils and run away from self, because truth was more dangerous. Once I thought that to survive, I had to put on a mask and
forget what lay underneath. But masks are false protections, and the inner part of me refused to go unheard forever. It caught up eventually, and unless it was to master me, I had to face such feelings as fear, anger, envy, hatred, jealousy, and excessive need for attention. When I realized I could not have done anything else except what I did, I was able to like myself more and be able to like others, not for what they could give me but for what I could give to them.
The Bible shows the way to easy, happy living in many of its pages. It advises, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Those who expect the most are apt to receive the least. I had expected much and was filled with fury because nothing in the outside world
relieved my emptiness and despair. Nothing did either, until I could face the anger and fury, the emptiness and despair, and slowly start to know such new feelings as compassion, conviction, control, calm. I learned too of reason--that judicious combination of thought and feeling that enables me to take more responsibility for myself and others.
For me, there is much hard work ahead to achieve greater happiness. Yet, the very struggle I have put into achieving a measure of it, makes happiness that much more dear.
Those are the beliefs of Lucy Freeman, New York Times reporter and author of "Fight Against Fears." She realizes that to see the world around her in true perspective, she must first take a long, clear look at herself.