Fear and love. Did you know they are companions?
Did you know that love is fear’s silent partner? Meaning, if we embrace our fears with tender compassion, love surfaces immediately and strengthens us to live with courage.
When I was younger, I was ruled by fear. Fear of being abandoned, mostly. This fear had seeds in my childhood and was a powerful influence in how I approached and participated in my first marriage.
Because of this fear and a deep sense of unworthiness, I developed very unhealthy patterns in my first marriage. Everything I did was to prevent being abandoned.
What that looked like for me was lots of accommodation, people-pleasing, hiding my own feelings and opinions, never making any requests of my partner, and being “perfect”.
I had no sense of myself. I was only what my partner wanted in the moment.
My life turned around when I met an amazing therapist, who was a fierce, strong, amazingly kind woman. She taught me that in allowing the fear to control my life, I was not really living at all.
She helped me realize that unless I addressed this fear, I would never truly receive the kind of love of was so desperately seeking. Unless I embraced the fear with a new awareness, love would not be able to surface freely and become a guiding companion on my own journey.
With this therapist, I learned that in my effort to avoid being abandoned by another, I was abandoning myself over and over and over again.
I tossed myself aside like I was a piece of garbage. I denied myself like I was not even living. I contorted myself to please another until I no longer could recognize myself. I was truly lost.
It was difficult work. Scary. Painful. Full of unexpressed grief.
My first lesson in exploring my own fear was that love is always present, waiting so very patiently. And this allowed me to open in a different way to my fear.
Instead of resisting, judging, and hating myself for feeling so afraid, I learned to accept the fear. I learned to respond with loving compassion to myself and my feelings of fear.
Helping to kick this process off was the love I received from others, those who encouraged, supported and believed in me: my aunt and uncle, my sister and brother, my therapist.
Tara Brach says, “You cannot deal with fear unless you have someway of remembering love. Love is what will let that space of fear be truly nurturing. When we are caught in fear, we must find and remember a sense of loving presence.”
And this is what I found to be true: when we are in the midst of fear, we must also remember that love is the silent companion just waiting to be invited to help us on our journey. Help us understand our own fear, help us to heal, help us to transform the fear into love.
When we allow ourselves to embrace the fear, and not judge it, or push it away, it becomes more possible to access the comfort, strength, and guidance love offers us.
It’s the process of “opening to” rather than “contracting” or “closing against” that allows fear, grief and pain to become our teachers. And love is what enables the process of opening.
In these kinds of transformations, we find the tender, resilient human being within us that is so, so worthy of love. We learn that love starts within ourselves.
This means that our first order of business is to accept the fact that we often do to ourselves, what we fear another will do. We abandon ourselves. We must recognize and accept this while we also compassionately forgive ourselves.
As my true self began to surface, I learned how to let go of perfectionism. How to stop starving myself (literally and figuratively). How to express my voice. How to make requests. How to understand the difference between loving another and sacrificing oneself.
And it was only then that I could love another in the truest sense of the word. I was no longer ruled by my fear of being abandoned. I was free. Free to be myself. Free to love myself. Free to love another with a wide, open heart.
So if any of this seems familiar to you as you read this, if this sounds like your marriage or your intimate relationship, if you feel empty because you have abandoned yourself to keep your partner happy, then it’s time.
Time to reclaim your life.
Time to compassionately accept the fear.
Time to find the love waiting for you beyond the fear.
Time to allow love to teach you just how worthy, beautiful, loving and loved you truly and deeply, are.
Peace in the journey,