I’ve often heard people say that the two opposing forces that define the world and the human struggle are not good and evil, but love and fear. This isn’t a Buddhist teaching, just something people say. While this view may be a bit simplistic I think there is some real truth in it, and it is a teaching that came to mind several times while watching Ezra Bayda’s talk, “Working with Fear” from his ongoing Tricycle Retreat “Relationships, Love, and Spiritual Practice.”

In his talk Ezra explains,

What is the bottom line underneath all of our emotional upsets in relationships? If you think about it, the answer is always going to be fear. Anger, hurt, resentment, all of it. Lets look at some examples. What are the things that we are afraid of? Rejection. Being unworthy of love. For some people they are afraid of intimacy itself. Some people are afraid of losing control in a relationship or of being controlled. Some are afraid of being alone. All of these fears play a huge role in the difficulties that come up in relationships. The real point is: do you know your own fears?

One slant on practice is, when you get stuck in your relationship, along with looking at your expectations, try to really see what fear is present. A really simple question you can ask is, “What is the Fear?” What am I afraid of? Usually we don’t ask this question. If we’re angry we’re just angry and we think that’s the sum total of it. But 99% of the time when we’re angry what’s really going on is that we’re afraid. 

In response to this teaching a participant writes,

Thank you so much for these teachings, I feel like I am gaining great benefit from the different practices you present when relating to other people in my life.

My question is, it seems like the relationship I have the most difficulty with is actually the internal relationship with my own mind rather than to other people. Would you say that these same practices you are presenting are equally effective when dealing with internal relationships?

To which Ezra replies,

Yes, we can use the same practices in the internal relationship with our own mind—clearly seeing our expectations of ourselves, and the self-judgments that arise out of our expectations; as well, seeing our own fears and learning to approach them with the curiosity of “what is this?” mind. We should never underestimate the need for loving kindness in relating to ourselves.


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Image via anitakhart