Fear is a very powerful motivator. It can prompt us to react like almost nothing else can. It can be a life saver or a life killer. When real danger exists, it gives us the adrenaline boost necessary to get out of harms way. But when the danger is only perceived, it can cause us to do things that might actually put us in riskier situations.
Depending on the situation and our temperament, our response to fear will be to fight, run or freeze.
This is particularly true in relationships:
- My fear of being alone keeps me in a bad relationship.
- My fear of not being able to support myself keeps me in an abusive relationship
- My fear of being rejected causes me to not speak up when necessary.
- My fear of being ignored causes me to start conflicts to get noticed.
- My fear of being controlled keeps me from being emotionally close to my spouse and experiencing mutual love.
Why do I say the danger is only perceived in the above examples? In all the scenarios, the fear is probably untested. It is entirely possible I might find another relationship, job, get a good result from speaking up or asking for what I need, or be loved without feeling trapped by it.
This last scenario is particularly evident in many relationships. My fear of being emotionally abandoned may cause me to try to exert control over my partner, who then reacts by moving farther away from me in an attempt to maintain some kind of autonomy. This of course only amplifies my fear, causing me to try to exert more control by pursuing with more intensity.
My fear of being controlled or engulfed may cause me to interpret legitimate needs or requests from my partner as an attempt to control or manage me and I resist, leaving my partner feeling alone and not cared for. Their repeated attempts to get the need met will only reinforce my belief that I must be very vigilant to maintain distance.
The solution? I must take a good look backwards, particularly toward my family of origin, and assess whether I am acting out insecurities from my past. If I can identify where these fears came from, I will have a better shot at managing them rationally.
2 Timothy 1:7 — For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.