Each day, as we grow older, we are challenged to live as the person we would like to be. This is not always easy when we are stressed or we are hurt or let down. And also we can, at times, choose selfishness rather than genuine care for others. And what I increasingly notice is how much of our behaviour has it roots in fear.
The places where these fears are most often activated is in relationships with others. Frequently we instinctively act in defensive ways to protect our hearts. Relationships have the capacity to trigger our deepest fears, which often reflect patterns established in our childhood. I notice this when a strong emotional reaction is triggered, and automatic, deeply believed – often fearful – thoughts dominate, which are very easy to take as the truth. Normally my first move is to maximize distance in order to protect myself and act as if the other person is a threat to the security of my deepest self. Relationships open our hearts and expose our needs. Sometimes we clearly feel that is not safe. And when that happens we all follow some strategy to escape feeling the fears that silently run our life.
However, the truth about relationships is that they reflect closely our relationship with ourselves and reveal a lot about the clarity or confusion in our inner life. In fact our relationships with others can never be better than the relationship we have with ourselves. We often project on to the other what is going on inside ourselves, often what we are unable to manage properly, and this is at the root of our fears, and the reason they are so strong. Thus we can blame the other for confusion which is actually inside ourselves.
I have noticed this often in myself recently. Therefore I am now trying, when strong fears are triggered, to turn towards them and let them in, looking on them as a ‘what’ instead of as ‘me’. Instead of running story lines of anger and blame, I try and just stay with the original feeling of hurt. Even if the fear triggered is strong, if I manage to do this soon afterwards, I notice the fear loses its power quickly and a more open response can emerge. The fear can thus becomes a teacher, hopefully leading to understanding rather than paralyzing.
Fear tells us to stop, to stay within the boundary of our protected cocoon-world. Yet when we feel fear, if we take even one small step toward it rather than yielding to our habitual pulling away, we move one step closer to the vast mind that lies beyond. When we feel fear instead of saying ‘I’m afraid,’ thus reinforcing our identification with our fear as who we are, we can simply say, ‘Fear is present.’ Thus fear’s power gradually dissipates, and we begin to free ourselves from it. When we simply experience fear just as it is — without our opinions, judgments, and reactions — fear is not nearly so frightening.
Ezra Bayda, Saying Yes to Life (Even the Hard Parts)