Everything we do is motivated by one of two things: seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. It's not entirely black and white since sometimes it's a mix of both, but usually one or the other is the dominant factor. Some of us tend to be more motivated by pleasure and others more motivated by pain.
Our actions are always motivated by how we expect to feel, and this basically comes down to pleasure versus pain. Yet the two go hand-in-hand: many of the most pleasurable experiences in life involve the risk of pain.
Another way of looking at this is love versus fear. We're either acting out of love, or we're acting out of fear. Perhaps it's a combination of the two. Often we're not even aware of the underlying motivation but if we look closely we can see that it's usually one or the other.
Acting out of love means being vulnerable and since this exposes us to the risk of painful rejection we often don't want to risk it. It seems easier and feels safer to be defensive and act out of fear. But when we do this we miss out on loving and being loved. Our willingness to risk being vulnerable determines how much love we get. Similarly with pleasure and pain, our ability to experience pleasure is directly related to the confidence we have in our ability to experience pain.
I was recently chatting with a friend of mine who was struggling with being loving and vulnerable, although he didn't quite see this at first. Let's call him Jim. The conversation went something like this:
Jim: I have a problem with Gratitude that is really troubling me and no one seems to be able to solve.
Me: what's the problem?
Jim: its a conundrum that few people seems to have.
the more grateful I am for people in my life that I love the more fearful I become of loosing them.
to me gratitude=fear and vulnerability
gratitude is love and the more love the more the fear of loss of love
Me: yes. I can relate. to truly love is to be vulnerable.
do you avoid loving others for fear of losing them?
Jim: YES YES YES
that is a big part of my problem
you hit the nail on the head
Me: sheesh... thanks.
Jim: what can I do ?
Me: sounds like you're afraid of being hurt
you think you won't cope if you lose someone you love
stop telling yourself that it's a disaster to get hurt
Jim: you are just hitting home runs
you got it in a nutshell
Jim: why do I think that?
or feel it so strongly?
Maybe I have a trauma because that actually happened to me before
Me: Essentially, yes. At some point in the past you probably had experiences where emotions overwhelmed you, so you freaked out. You became afraid of your own feelings.
It's ok to feel hurt when you lose something important to you.
Jim: So what do I do now?
What is the road to healing ?
Me: Everything we do is either motivated by love, or fear. So in any situation, ask yourself what you would do if you were motivated by love, and what you would do if motivated by fear. Pick the love option as often as you can.
You just need more experience being vulnerable, so you can learn that it's OK.
Jim: I want to act on your suggestions
I think they are excellent
Jim: I am in touch with my feelings more than you know.
Me: Yeah, but perhaps you could share them more with people you care about.
Jim: People I care about don't want to know my feelings - it frightens them
Me: Find people who do
Jim: You are right
Acting out of fear means that we miss out on love. Often we've been conditioned to avoid being vulnerable with the very people who are closest to us, because we've been hurt in the past. I know I have. The more vulnerable we've prepared to be, the more love we get to experience. Being vulnerable takes courage and builds confidence. We're at our most vulnerable when we share our deepest feelings. If you can't share your deepest feelings with the people around you, have a look at what's really going on.
When it comes to love versus fear, try choosing love more often.
Perhaps Jim is wrong about the people he cares about; I suspect they're just waiting for him to share his true self with them. Or maybe he's right and they're too closed so he needs to find other people who he can be real with first. Either way, living from fear means closing ourselves off to love; and that's no way to live.
So what about you. Do you avoid love for fear of getting hurt?