As we’ve probably heard by now, love is the greatest power there is. Every spiritual teaching or philosophy, along with every religious scholar and psychology professor, proclaims this truth: Love is the one and only power. If you’ve got it, you are mighty, strong and safe. Without it, you are separate, scared and poor. Sounds simple enough. Yet this knowledge doesn’t really help us unless we’ve discovered where—deep down inside—we can’t love or won’t love. Why is it that we resist loving? Why do we have fear of loving? Unless we sort out the answer to this question, no eternal truth about love can possibly help us.

If we’ve already made some progress on our search for inner knowing, we’ve probably already run headlong—after considerable digging and exploring—into our fear of loving. Becoming aware of such a fear is quintessential for taking further steps. It’s not enough to have a theoretical understanding that such a fear of loving exists; we have to actually experience this fear. For people who don’t yet wish to know themselves, such an awareness will not yet exist.

Our inner child makes us want to reign supreme over the very ones who are supposed to love us, which would effectively turn them into our submissive little slaves.
Our inner child makes us want to reign supreme over the very ones who are supposed to love us, which would effectively turn them into our submissive little slaves.

But even for those of us who have become aware of this inner conflict, we may not yet fully comprehend the why of it. Why am I so afraid of loving? Let’s explore some of the facets of this perplexing phenomenon, a topic we’ll return to in future teachings when we illuminate this very basic problem from other angles.

Let’s start with this: Those who cannot love are immature. And when we are immature, we are not living in reality. To live a life based on unreality, then, must lead to conflict and unhappiness, for where there is untruth there is ignorance and darkness.

Maturity, as such, means essentially having the ability to love.

Alas, we all hold fragmented aspects within ourselves that are trapped in childhood states. And these child parts require an unlimited amount of love. For these child fragments are one-sided, unreasonable, demanding, and lacking in understanding, as all immature creatures are. Its laundry list of impossible wants includes: to be loved by everyone, to be loved 100%, to be instantly satisfied, and to be loved in spite of our selfish, unreasonable ways. This, in a nutshell, is why we are afraid of loving.

Since this child inside us demands complete surrender from others, thinking surely this would mean being loved, how can the child help but resist surrendering? Our inner child makes us want to reign supreme over the very ones who are supposed to love us, which would effectively turn them into our submissive little slaves.

Sometimes, it turns out, we become the ones who are submissive emotional slaves. This happens when we feel we absolutely must have love, acceptance or agreement from a specific person, but we’re also aware we might not get it. Fearing rejection and defeat, it may seem that such submissive behavior is our only chance. And since, on a superficial level some of our submissive behavior may resemble true love, it’s easy for us to deceive ourselves—especially when we’re mired in such a dismal, desperate state—into believing that when we submit, we truly love.

In other words, we often unconsciously craft our own inner idea of what love is, which vaguely resembles what’s taught in some religions and philosophies. To us, it seems that when we submit we are not being selfish and we are offering some kind of sacrifice. It seems the other person is now the center of our world. While there is some truth to this, it’s not true in essence. In truth, we remain our center.

Our desire is to convince the other to love us, according to our childish concept of what love is. They are supposed to worship us, follow our every whim, give up their own self-direction and allow the child in us to rule. And yes, this is the same child in us who cries inwardly any time its wishes are not met.

Is it any wonder we’re afraid to love, when all these unconscious demands are hiding out in our psyche? And since our concepts equating love with slavish submission are unconscious, they are so much more powerful than our conscious beliefs. Ergo, we do not wish to love. For we don’t wish to follow another’s will. We don’t wish to give up our own autonomy, submitting to someone else’s rule.

It’s only when we can recognize our own childish distorted ideas about love that we can start to see the childish demands of another for what they are. And only then will we stop being influenced by them, no longer feeling obligated to give in, or guilty if we do not. That’s when we’ll start to see that perhaps another kind of love can be given, one that is more detached and less needy and demanding.

Also, once we discover the unfair demands of the child inside us, we can begin to reason with it. We will realize that we have a misunderstanding about love that is seriously different from real love. Once we see this, we won’t be so afraid to love. We’ll realize that loving doesn’t mean we give up our dignity or self-government; loving does not mean lack of freedom.

If we stop making childish demand, little by little we’ll learn to love maturely. And then we can expect the same in return. There is no danger in loving this way. We remain free and do not become enslaved. It’s really as simple and logical as that. When we give up our childish ideas of how we think others should love us, we will no longer fear loving them.

Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears

A gradual process

Learning to love is a gradual process of growing and maturing. We will not instantly enjoy the majestic, all-encompassing love our soul is striving for. For the child in us only knows extremes. This creates a giant conflict in our soul of yearning for great love and simultaneously hiding from it. We’re either in the heights of love—We’ve reached the final goal!—or we have nothing.

The more we try to thwart the healthy instincts of the striving side, the stronger it’s going to clamor to be heard. This creates a vague inner feeling of discontent, like we’re missing something but can’t quite put our finger on it. One part of our psyche will end up sabotaging the rightful demands of the other part. And since we fall short of reaching our desire, we withdraw altogether. This is caused by the either/or tendencies of the immature parts of ourselves, as well as by our flare for the dramatic. If I can’t have what I want, then I don’t want anything! Here come the crocodile tears.

As we become more mature, we’ll come to realize that we can only attain true fulfillment of love by starting out on the lower rungs of the ladder. Maybe we should start by letting other people feel about us as they wish. If we can offer this kind of authentic “permission,” we will be on our way to giving up our demands without feeling hostile. We’ll discover it’s possible to truly like and respect others, even if they don’t bend to our will. This may not sound like much. We might even think this doesn’t apply to us. But are we sure? Really and truly?

When things go wrong, that’s the time to test our emotions. As we evaluate our feelings, we might discover the child in us is working overtime. But now we have new tools for addressing what’s happening. When we can give up our subtle forcing current, we will feel an entirely new kind of emotional reaction inside. We will feel as though a tremendous burden has been lifted from us.

The next step will be to let go of any remaining hostility, once we’ve become aware of it through our process of inner healing work. When this occurs, we’ll find a new respect and liking for anyone who did not grant us their “unconditional surrender,” which is what we unconsciously wanted and were not happy about when we didn’t get it. It will feel like a tight band dissolving within. Now we can set others free, liking and respecting them as people, but without needing to possess their love or their admiration.

Friends, this probably won’t look like much from the outside. But this is a decisive step that in reality is more dramatic than something we can see. It will launch us on our way up the relationship ladder toward heights that can one day be ours. But we must not skip this initial undramatic and seemingly trivial step. Without this step, we can never reach our final goal. At the same time, we’re not yet ready to stand on the top rung.

When we’re just starting to make our way up the ladder, we’re not yet able to forget ourselves completely. We’ve still got some vanity and a certain amount of selfishness we need to contend with. Let’s not get discouraged because we can’t pole vault all the way to the top. Our goal is to learn about our emotions through the painstaking steps of careful analysis, letting them mature gradually, organically.

It doesn’t work to skip steps. If we are patient with ourselves, our goals of loving are attainable. But first, before we can love others, we need to learn to like and respect them, even when we don’t get what we want. And to do that, we must first figure out where, deep inside, we really haven’t done that at all.

Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears
We’ need to stop building castles in the sky that obstruct our view of what’s really happening. If we want to rely on our intuition, we’re going to need to see what is real.
We’ need to stop building castles in the sky that obstruct our view of what’s really happening. If we want to rely on our intuition, we’re going to need to see what is real.

Developing intuition

How do we tell the difference between real, ideal love and sham love—the wrong, weak submissiveness—that poses as love? They can look so deceptively similar! For it’s that sham love that scares us, not the real thing.

For starters, we have to find for ourselves where and how we stray from the straight and narrow, through our unspoken demands and unrealistic expectations. It will not be enough to sense real love just by reading about it. This is true for everyone, no exceptions.

As long as the child in us keeps subtly pushing to get its way, trying to emotionally and unconsciously force others to submit, we are lost in wishful thinking. We will build unreal castles in our minds that may not even be in a place we want to live. We construct these unreal situations that are hazardous to inhabit, and then we turn a blind eye to how we are doing this. And of course we don’t see what we are doing because we don’t want to. And then we wonder why we can’t rely on our own judgment or intuition.

Our psyches are not fools. Our psyche knows perfectly well that our radar is off, that we’re not reading people as they really are in relation to us, or the situation as a whole the way it really is. But we don’t want to see the truth. So, not surprisingly, we aren’t able to trust our judgment. Beyond that, we don’t trust that the other person is going to live up to our expectations. Our unrealistic expectations, that is.

This is what we use to justify not loving. For how can we love someone we can’t trust? In truth, in order to trust someone, we have to be able to see if that person or situation calls for it. Maybe we’d be better served to simply offer respect and affection, and leave it at that.

It’s only by giving up a little bit of what we want—unconsciously, most of the time—that we will be able to see what is. That’s the way to see reality. With this new set of lenses, we can now begin to discern intelligently and follow our intuition. We will start to have respect for ourselves and our ability to give up something we want, without becoming hostile about it. With our new clarity, we will be able to deal with situations in our lives like adults.

This is how we learn to trust: trust ourselves, trust our judgment and trust other people. Without the windstorm of our forcing current, we won’t overestimate others, but instead observe them and feel what is true. This is a far cry better than our usual habit of believing only what we want to be true.

Once we’ve practiced this kind of “trust fall” for a while, loving won’t feel like such a danger. Until then, we’ll remain deliberately blind. For our immature parts will continue to think that by willing something, we make it so. As such, our choices will continue to be untrustworthy. That’s what makes us shy away from loving even more, all the while sticking our heads in the clouds pretending there is no danger to us in being loved.

Our goal is to become objective in the way we evaluate others, and to learn to let go with grace. All we’re letting go of is our self-willed forcing currents that can never serve our highest good. This will allow us to learn how to respect someone, even if they thwart our will. We’ll stop building castles in the sky that obstruct our view of what’s really happening.

For when we do that, we’re not only ignoring reality, we’re rejecting it. But if we want to be able to rely on our intuition, we’re going to need to see what is real, right in front of our face. When we can do this—see with mature eyes—we will be able to trust ourselves.

This is what it looks like to accept reality, accepting that Earth life isn’t perfect. This is how we learn to cope with life and make the best of it. Our work is to take the general concept that “life isn’t perfect” and put it to practical use in some aspect of ourselves. Sometimes people aren’t going to like us, and we have to accept this apparent imperfection in our reality. This is a safer way to walk in the world that will unwind the vicious circles we’ve been creating with our demand that everyone must feel about us as we wish.

Intuition is not for chumps. It’s the highest sense perception that we humans can reach. But we’ll never reach it as long as the hidden child in us goes undetected and running wild. To be clear, as long as we remain human, our intuition will never be 100% perfect. Yet simply by being aware of this reality—by being willing to say, “I’m not entirely sure, I could be wrong here”—we become willing to learn from our mistakes. And suddenly our ignorance becomes harmless.

Having the concise, conscious thought, “I don’t know,” is powerful. Within it lies the potential to eventually learn, see and know. But our intuition will never become a wall we can blindly lean on with 100% certainty and total confidence. And that’s why it’s so valuable. That’s why we must work to open it up as best we can, while staying humble enough to realize we can’t know everything.

When we consult our own intuition, without any forcing current or wishful thinking to muddy the water, we will sense certain potentials, and we’ll also sense certain limitations. Beyond that, life is a question mark. With such a framing approach, we promote an attitude of openness and readiness to watch life and the people in it. Developing this kind of perception will bear a lot of fruit for us. Plus, it’s a sign of maturity. Because only the immature must have immediate answers. It’s the inner child who needs to nail down everything, not leaving any room for unanswered questions or doubt.

Through our willingness to hang out in open spaces—to live with unanswered questions—we’ll develop the courage needed to be in reality, to accept what is. This will lead to more self-respect, better intuition, greater discernment and improved awareness. Then we’ll be able to trust and we’ll do so wisely. Best of all, when the right situation is at hand, we’ll have no fear of loving.

See how this is all tied together with one string?

Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears

Prayer and patience

We have these lofty ideas of what it looks like to love. We like to imagine only the highest, most perfect kind. But this ignores the reality that there are many stages of love that lead up to this. Love comes in many varieties. But in the ignorance of our immaturity, we’ll avoid the kind of love we’re actually capable of giving right now, and then miss it altogether when something similar is offered to us.

So how should we proceed? After all, we may know perfectly well that our emotions aren’t working quite right, and we might truly desire to change, but then what? How do we go about re-educating these young inner parts and growing ourselves up?

First, our desire for change shouldn’t come with a truckload of pressure. It doesn’t work to rush. Rather, we need to adopt a calmness about all this, because emotions, quite frankly, are not quick to change.

What we need to discover is where, how and why our emotions are not in truth. We also need to become aware of where we’re confused. What exactly are our unanswered inner questions? And last but not least, we have to let go of our resistance to seeing ourselves as we really and truly are, right now. We have to become willing to be honest with ourselves.

Prayer, if we understand how to properly use it, works in a similar way. When we pray, we can ask for help to face ourselves, and to understand our current problems. Our prayers should not be for huge, unattainable goals, but rather that we can see what’s happening in our seemingly small daily disharmonies. This is the path forward for gaining deeper insight into ourselves.

And where should we be directing these prayers? Not up into the sky. No, we want to aim our prayers toward our own unconscious. For this is where God lives: deep down inside of us. By directing our prayers at the divine spark within, we are also reaching the parts of ourselves that are most hidden from our conscious awareness.

Our goal is to strengthen the parts of our psyche that are healthy, while at the same time weakening the unhealthy childish parts that are resistant. So our prayers should deal with what we wish to uncover, asking to see where we have strayed from the truth due to our lack of understanding. As we sit with a calm and quiet mind, we can let go of any urgency or tension. Keep in mind, change and growth can only come when we go slow and steady.

Patience we are taught, after all, is a virtue. Of course, as people often do, we may try to make a virtue out of a fault. So sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re being patient when in fact we’re just not making an effort. Or we might be impatient and we tell ourselves we’re just being active or energetic. The challenge is to figure out what’s really going on.

So why does impatience hinder us and the fulfillment of our ambitions? Because it’s yet another form of immaturity. It’s that little child inside us who wants everything, our way, right now. It’s the child who cannot wait. The problem is that the child lives in the now, but does so in the wrong way. It has no sense of a tomorrow, so it thinks that whatever doesn’t happen immediately will never happen.

If we’re mature, however, we can wait. A mature person can understand that if our desired goal doesn’t get accomplished right now, there must be some reason for the delay. Some of those reasons might reside in the self, and if that’s the case we can use the waiting time constructively, searching for them and eliminating them. Whatever time we have to spend waiting can be used to gain the insight, ability or understanding we’ve been lacking. In this way, patience truly can work to our advantage.

True patience comes with genuine discernment. Perhaps in one instance it’s best to just wait. At another time, it could be better to take action. However it goes, know this: When we are deep in our inner work, we’re going to need to have patience. For concentrated inner healing does not instantly relate to outer manifestation. At times, we may need to act even as we are inwardly being patient. At other times we may need to be outwardly inactive while maintaining an inner state of patience.

How exactly are we defining patience here? To be patient means to know that we can’t always have exactly what we want when we want it. It doesn’t feel hindered by the tension and anxiety in our soul. For when we are feeling impatient, we also feel an inner pressure and tension and anxiety, all of which are based on feeling inadequate. There’s a sense that “I won’t be able to do this,” whatever “this” might be. That’s what it feels like to be impatient.

Patience then can only exist in a mature person who feels secure and who knows their limitations. At the same time, we must know our potential and trust ourselves. So when we aim for greater maturity, we’ll receive many additional assets, including patience.

Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears

The unconscious

If we ignore these teachings about the power of what lies hidden in our unconscious, we will continue to be baffled by the problems in our lives. But if we attempt to work with these teachings at only a superficial level, we’re apt to become frustrated, as life keeps producing one painful episode after another. As a result, our sense of inadequacy will grow instead of go away.

So where exactly is the dividing line between the conscious and the unconscious mind? And what regulates what stays down and what comes up? In fact, there’s no strict line between the two parts. What we’ll notice when we begin to do our work of self-discovery however is that we expected to uncover things that were completely unknown to us. But then, when we do find a new recognition, it has a familiar feel to it. We’ll see something in a new light and we will have a new understanding about its significance, but it won’t feel entirely new. It’s just that until now, we kept looking away from it. But it was always there.

It was caught somewhere in a no-man’s land between our conscious thoughts and our unconscious notions, where there’s a fading transition, if you will. Perhaps we can imagine our whole psyche or mind as a big round ball. The more self-development work we have done on ourselves—i.e., the more evolved we have become—the clearer this sphere will be, with no haze or fog.

For a less developed person, a large portion of their ball will be fogged in. In that case, the part that functions on a conscious level will be the smaller area inside the ball. When we raise our level of consciousness, what we’re really doing is lifting more of ourselves out of the fog. Over time, the haze will recede, and we’ll have more clarity as we become more and more conscious.

The universe we need to explore is inside us. And since we are a truly a universe onto ourselves, the only way for us to reach universal consciousness is through this process of self-finding, which is what lifts us out of the fog. We won’t be able to gain such consciousness by learning things with our brains alone.

Make no mistake, our brains are valuable tools for doing the work of self-finding, and that’s what we must do if we want the fog to clear. But our deeper work of self-discovery is the doorway we must pass through to find unity. Our self-knowing will be the common denominator that will unite everything: all sciences and every religion. Until then, all our human knowledge and achievements will keep operating in separate silos.

Over time, as humanity has developed and awakening has continued, we are learning more and more to perceive our inner universe, with all its infinite possibilities. This is what has allowed us to open up our understanding of the larger universe and all its laws, spiritual as well as material. Just as outside, inside us is a logical world that operates according to just laws. Only when we sense this truth can we also truly sense God and God’s creation.

Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears
Truth is flexible. And this flexibility appears to us as a threat. Our wanting the safety of a stone wall to lean on is what caused religions to distort beautiful teachings into dogma.
Truth is flexible. And this flexibility appears to us as a threat. Our wanting the safety of a stone wall to lean on is what caused religions to distort beautiful teachings into dogma.

Fear, truth & flexibility

So much of what holds us back is our fear of the unknown. But the unknown will become known to us if we are willing to navigate the treacherous terrain of our own inner landscape. This means, we’re going to have to take this task of self-searching very seriously. It’s not enough to read these words. They can do no more than provide us with the incentive to begin. We must actually experience the presence of our immature emotions in action. When we do this, the unknown will become known to us. Even the parts that continue to be unknown to us won’t be able to frighten us any more, once we admit, “I don’t know.” That small shift will make an enormous difference.

As we become familiar with this process, we will stop seeing self-responsibility and self-government as a “must” that our inner child rejects. We’ll no longer run away from the apparent danger of facing the unknown. Instead it will be a privilege and a freedom to see ourselves in truth.

It’s our fear of the unknown that makes us distort true concepts into their fixed opposite. But truth, by its very nature, is flexible. It cannot be fixed. Nothing that is true can be rigid or static. It’s always fluid. And this flexibility appears to us as a threat. We want the pseudo-safety of a stone wall we can lean on. This tendency, in fact, is what caused religions to distort beautiful teachings into dogma.

Rigidity has a way of satisfying our irrational, unfounded fears. We think that if something is fixed, that makes it safe, and that what’s flexible is unsafe. But truth, like anything else that is alive, is a living thing that must be flexible. As a result, people fear truth. We fear light. We fear life. The idea that flexibility is unsafe is one of the greatest illusions of this world.

When we reach the point where we no longer fear self-responsibility because we’ve lost our self-contempt and our mistrust in ourselves, then we will no longer fear living in a flexible universe. We won’t need rigid rules that we can cling to. Flexible laws won’t feel like a danger to us. It’s the child in us who doesn’t dare assume self-responsibility that wants inflexible laws to follow.

Our fear of the unknown rises up from our insecurities: Will I be able to cope? Is my judgment adequate? Will I have the right reactions? Am I going to make a mistake? Dare I make a mistake? In other words, our deepest fear of the unknown is really about not knowing ourselves. As we get to know all of ourselves, we will lose this fear, along with fear of self-responsibility. And then we’ll no longer fear the truth of the flexible spiritual laws that guide the universe. Better yet, we’ll no longer fear life, which is incredibly flexible, like, all the time.

In the last analysis, by its very nature, flexibility is unchangeable. That’s life.

Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears

Are all fears bad?

By now, we’ve used the word “fear” a bunch of times, and we’ve talked about “irrational fears.” Does this mean there is such a thing as a “rational fear?” Yes, there is. For if we are in some kind of danger, our reaction to fear will be healthy. It acts like a signal, giving us a heads up that we need to do something to save ourselves from danger. In this situation, our fear is constructive, not destructive. Without such an inner red alert, we would be destroyed. But that is decidedly different from the unhealthy destructive fears that populate our psyche and which we’ve been talking about here.

This is connected with our instincts. How is it we come to mismanage our natural instincts when it comes to fear? It comes down to a question of trust in the self. If there are distorted ideas and emotions in our unconscious that cause us to thwart our instincts, we won’t trust them. What can happen is that we realize our fears have been unjustified. And so we stop heeding them altogether, even though there may have been a good reason to listen to them.

Consequently, we will find ourselves even more consumed by fear, now not knowing when we can trust our instincts or intuition, and when we should not. But after we resolve our unfounded reasons for being fear-ridden, when fear does come up we will have the maturity to question it thoughtfully, instead of doing what we’ve always done: bury it.

We may also have heard the word “fear” used in connection with God. For example, we read in Scripture that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This “fear of God” also has absolutely nothing in common with healthy protective fear. All references in the Bible to fear of God are due to translation errors. But it’s not entirely an accident that such mistakes were made.

The deeper reason for this error has to do with a combination of the God-image and our fear of the unknown. On one hand, we think we need a strong authority who will uphold fixed rules because then we won’t have to take on any self-responsibility. But on the other hand, this creates an unhealthy fear, which is what unavoidably happens when we don’t attain maturity and self-responsibility. Whether we fear life, ourselves, other people or an avenging God, it all amounts to the same thing.

In addition to this, there is a simple misunderstanding going on here regarding certain times in the Bible. In short, back then the word “fear” meant something different. Today, we might best describe its meaning as “honor” or “respect.” And the respect to be paid to the highest intelligence, love and wisdom there is goes beyond words. Were we to be in the presence of such unlimited greatness, any being would stand in awe, but not in fear. For such a wonder surpasses all understanding. That sentiment is what the word “fear” was attempting to convey, but fell far short.

“Be blessed, all of you, my dear ones. May you find the way to maturity and love by finding where, how, and why you do not love now. May you find the courage to free yourself of this unnecessary burden of fearing love and life. Go in peace, my dearest friends, be in God.”

–The Pathwork Guide
Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears
Blinded by Fear: Insights From the Pathwork® Guide on How to Face Our Fears

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Read Original Pathwork Lecture #72: The Fear of Loving