Disentangling Love From Fear

In conjunction with A Course in Miracles, I am reading Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Here she considers the claim in ACIM that “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all encompassing can have no opposite”. From this, Williamson gleans that “only love is real” and that fear is, essentially, a hallucination (Williamson).

I read this bit just before falling asleep last night. Then, around 3:45am I woke up and checked my email to find a breaking news update about the 2-year-old boy missing in Orlando after he was attacked by an alligator. These circumstances are absolutely heart-wrenching, and my thoughts and prayers are with the family of this little boy.

I am not sure if this reaction is common amongst parents, but any time I hear of tragedy involving a small child, my thoughts immediately turn to my own 2-year-old daughter. From my experience, the love we have for our children is often accompanied by fear- fear of injury, sickness or loss. I think this stems from our biological instinct to protect them at all costs, which results in a kind of attachment unparalleled by any other relationship.

So last night, as I lay in bed feeling an intense love and fierce sense of protectiveness for my own child, I thought back to Williamson’s point. Was I able to feel pure love for my daughter in that moment without the element of worry? Or are the two emotions somehow opposite sides of the very same coin? How can we disentangle fear from love when the two seem so inextricably linked?

John Nash, the Nobel-Prize winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, believed that he was receiving messages from alien life forms recruiting him to help save the world. Upon visiting Nash in the mental hospital, Harvard professor George Mackey asked him how he could possibly devote himself to the reason and logic involved with mathematics while also entertaining such hallucinations. Nash responds, “because…the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously” (Nasar, A Beautiful Mind).

Does it not often feel the same way with regard to love and fear? If fear is the alien hallucination and love is mathematics, it seems we are often faced with Nash’s very same predicament. Both fear and love seem to originate from the same source. They both seem natural. If Williamson’s reading of ACIM is correct, then we are all just, well, mental patients who cannot clearly differentiate between the two. One is madness and the other is sanity. But it seems so sane to worry about the health and safety of own children by virtue of our incredible, infinite all encompassing love for them!

This one throws me for a loop every time I try to deal with it, because, in some ways, I want to feel the fear. To worry about my child feels sort of instinctive and fulfilling. It makes me feel like a mother and a protector. In fact, I could even go so far as to say it enhances my love. So what gives, here? Is this something to combat or accept? Or, (the option that seems more likely to me) am I meant to reorient the way I perceive fear in a way that makes it less burdensome and more beautiful somehow?

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5 thoughts on “Disentangling Love From Fear

  1. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is quoted as saying “be not anxious” or “do not worry”. I can’t tell you how many times in my 30 years of traveling the Christian path that that verse brought me much shame. I worry. I fear. I encounter anxiety. All human beings experience this in some regard.

    Last August I took a Koine Greek intensive and this passage was one were given to translate from the Greek text into English. It was here that I realized I had misunderstood the verse to mean that fear and worry are wrong or bad. But in Greek, Jesus doesn’t say “do not worry”… He says, essentially, stop worrying. He is speaking to all of us here in our natural, instinctive fear. And He’s saying to not let our experience of fear cut us off from the rest of our human experience. Instinctual fear keeps us alive, when our rational brains fail to recognize a threat. Fear ensures our survival. But it can also overtake our lives if we invest our energy into worrying about what is essentially outside of our control.

    So, yeah. Those are my thoughts on your post. I’m right there with you on refusing to reject the value of some fear, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In my opinion, to worry about your child IS instinctive. It’s a deep-rooted biological response connected to our innate need to perpetuate our species. Evolution has taken us deeper, however. And that need to protect to perpetuate is also linked to deep love. Or maybe it’s the other way around. We feel deep love in order to also feel the fierce need to protect? I like Williamson’s work – she’s got a quote I keep pinned by my desk, the one that goes, “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” This is the good stuff. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And protectiveness and not smothering! I think I struggled with this the very most. Thank you for reading!

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