LOVE and FEAR Love can't be expressed when full of fear BY : Troy Murphy | May 2012
What is love? Words seem trivial when challenged to express powerful emotions. The complexity of feelings can’t be fully expressed with a word. As grand as the word love is, and as much as the word inspires, when a simple word is used as a requirement for intimate relationships, the simplicity lacks specific guidance. A friend once told me—after another failed relationship—I am only guilty of loving too much. Another friend moaned, “If he just loved me then it would be alright!” Can love alone save a relationship? And if love does, what exactly is love? Is love a feeling, or is love a pattern of behaviors? What happens to love when we are angry, disappointed or sorrowful? If love is a pattern of behavior does it allow for occasional deviations?
Interactions in close relationships are very complex, demanding vulnerability, respect and skill. Emotional lives are at stake and frightened we stumble our way through connection often unaware of how to act, feel, or connect. Until we have answers to the difficult questions, we may never achieve the intimacy we seek. If we believe that love is the single ingredient for success but are unsure how this magical ingredient works, we may blame lack of love for failure and continue to make the same blunders in future attempts for connection.
Psychologist Aaron Beck wrote in his best-selling book, Love is Never Enough:
“Love does not in itself create the substance of the relationship—the personal qualities and skills that are crucial for a happy relationship: commitment, sensitivity, generosity, consideration, loyalty, responsibility, trustworthiness. Mates need to compromise, cooperate and follow through with their join decisions. They have to be resilient, accepting and forgiving. They need to be tolerant of each other’s flaws, mistakes, and peculiarities. As these “virtues” are cultivated over time, the marriage develops and matures.”
Fearing loss of love frightens the courageous and devastates the needy. The fear challenges self-confidence and destroys security. The belief not reality is the driving force. I can be loved but believe I’m not and suffer accordingly. There usually is a correlation between the belief and the action. When someone is loving and kind we are more likely to believe we are loved. But sometimes our fears obscure the facts, and spook our souls. Either love is expressed in ways we don’t understand or intense insecurities continually disrupt the expression of love. The belief—not love—feeds the fear.
Love can’t be learned from a book; words lack the power. Love is felt and experienced. By being loved—and recognizing it, we gain insight into the concept of love. When love is not experienced in childhood, we struggle in adulthood, not fully comprehending what we seek. An impoverished childhood limits adult experiences of love. Without an early foundation, we simply judge love by how we feel. Since relationships magnify both positive and negative feelings, knowing whether or not we are loved may remain unanswered, our insecurities constantly searching the moment for love but continually suffering the nagging of doubt.
Abandonment fears, resurrected from childhood, are magnified in romance. We feel confident and successful in a professional setting but once the new relationship begins, inner chaos is unleashed. Loneliness pushes towards relationships; but the relationships repeatedly disrupt our productive lives. Biologically driven to others but emotionally incapable of connecting, we face a painful paradox. Healthy relationships combine emotional and financial resources, providing security and plans for the future—but the benefits of connection suffer when fear dominates. Instead of drawing emotional strength, fear incites emotional disruption. Because of the ever-present fear, thoughts and behaviors morph to protect. The relationship sparks fear of the inevitable abandonment. Joys are dulled by anxiety of the pain lurking in the shadows of the future.
Instead of enjoying the warmth of being loved the insecure lover’s mind is constantly prowling for evidence of the upcoming pain, as if fore-knowledge will prevent the abandonment. Personal shame of being unlovable—acknowledged or not—dictates acceptance of loving behaviors. In shame, we can’t grasp the concept of being loved; love is, instead, believed to be captured and forced through manipulations. Some fears are normal. A modest amount of jealousy motivates relation building behaviors. But intense fears transform normal drives into something sinister and destructive. When behaviors manipulate and restrict, they are motivated by fear; not love. If we cannot recognize the difference between fear and love, we will never skillfully navigate the complexity of connection.
Love is trust; not doubt.
Love encourages growth. It encourages individualism. Love does not manipulate, control, or discourage. When two people love each other, they aren’t afraid to ask for what they want or skillfully share how they feel; but they also understand a partner is not a servant to placate difficult feelings. As mutual trust and respect grow between partners, the relationship provides security, comfort, and companionship. No relationship will solve all personal struggles or relieve all discomfort. Our emotional maps will continue functioning independent of the relationship. If we previously experienced unpredictable emotions, we will still be challenged with them—most relationships magnify emotions not relieve them. We still must develop personal skills to manage emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. If we don’t, the emotions will damage the relationship.
Love and fear do not exist in the same person at the same time. We all experience both love and fear; but at different times. Certain events trigger fear. We fear circumstances that have power to hurt. Sensitivity to pasts magnifies our attentiveness to similar pains in the future. We should not ignore fear, or chastise ourselves for feeling the fear. But examine the cause, and evaluate the trigger.
Compassionately embracing fears accomplishes more cruelly banishing them. Childhood fears are deeply etched into our souls; they don’t disappear through ignoring them. We can, however, slow down, calmly step back, and identify fearful reactions and work on replacing them with love. We must remind ourselves that fear interferes with assessments. Simply recognizing the fear, we create space for alternate theories—my partner doesn’t hate me, she was just distracted. When we recognize personal sensitivities, we can explore deeper causes. As we accept the complexity of causes behind emotions, we can more appropriately address present issues, reducing fears and creating intimacy. As fear decreases and intimacy increases, a new secure environment promotes growth for both partners. ~Troy Murphy