Fear, love and relationships
Fear can be a trickster that comes in many different guises, sometimes dressed as anxiety, sometimes as anger, shame, obsession, self righteousness, control, depression; in fact anything that stops us being present and connected in the here and now.
Most fears are to do with our need to belong, like our fear of rejection, loss, shame and so on. These fears are mostly not related to any real immediate danger. They are of something that might happen, not of something that is actually happening in the here and now. How often do we allow our own fears, prejudices and insecurities to take over and sabotage our presence and connection with the people we love?
We often believe that our feelings are a true depiction of reality. If we feel fear we therefore conclude that something must be dangerous or wrong. This is not true. If we give in to our reactivity, then fear takes over - we become it, act it out, become invested in defending our position, attack, defend and move further and further away from connection. We prioritise being right over being connected.
Whilst common, these defences against fear are rarely useful as they keep us separated and contracted, focussed on an imaginary future or a familiar past that is not related to what is actually happening in our life right now – and sadly, this is especially so when we feel love for someone… Fear will always rear its head in close relationships.
The problem is not fear itself but the way we deal with it. We behave as though fear was not meant to happen. We are terrified of it and do what we can to avoid it. Our investment in ridding our lives of fear brings out its stubborn and resistant qualities. By maintaining the illusion of an easy life, devoid of fear and pain, we cause ourselves enormous suffering. Our attachment to the idea of uncomplicated relationships, straightforward careers, never ending happiness is ever present. Paradoxically the more we reject fear, the more it will dominate our lives.
We invest so much energy in elaborate ways of defending against our vulnerability (criticising, blaming, control, affairs, pornography, work). We may even turn to psychotherapy and counselling in the hope of eliminating fear from our lives.
How do we break out of this negative spiral? I see the role of psychotherapy and counselling as a process of acquainting fear, learning how to compassionately relate to it as ‘only fear’ and creating enough space for love to emerge. As Robin Shohet puts it: ‘Once fear is brought into connection, what emerges is love.’
So if we want to meet love, we have to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the present moment with another, without trying to fix, change or shape anything. This giving up of control will undoubtedly open us to our deep vulnerability, and it is in our shared human vulnerability that we are truly open to meet the other in a moment of deep connection. This is what makes love transformational.
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