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"Love is the opposite of fear" ?

November 10, 2008

in Other, Spiritual Growth

What is love?”

“The total absence of fear,” said the Master.

“What is it we fear?”

“Love,” said the Master. (Anthony de Mello)

Do you all agree? Is Love is the opposite of fear?

Dozens of blogs and articles online say this. Personally I don’t think it’s that simple though. I think various emotions can exist inside us at the same time. But since the people who write this do have at least part of a point, I’m going to go into this subject by quoting a few.

Love is the total absence of fear. Love asks no questions. It’s natural state is one of extension and expansion, not comparison and measurement.
Jampolsky, Gerald G.

The underlying assumption is that love and fear are the basis of all other emotions. In the words of
Frank Sant’Agata

Love and fear are the only emotions we as human entities are able to express. All the others are just sub-categorical emotions. For example, on love’s side there is joy, peacefulness, happiness, forgiveness, and a host of others. On the other hand, fear reflects: hate, depression, guilt, inadequacy, discontentment, prejudice, anger, attack, and so on.

Biologically this is true to some extent. Fear and anger are both biologically expressed with only one hormone: adrenaline. The response to adrenaline is either fight (anger) or flight (fear). This duality is pretty basic. It is in fact so basic that it has been used in the enneagram as the motivating power in six out of the nine personality types. Three have fear as the main motivating power and three have anger as the motivating power. In the enneagram the three personality types left have sadness or sorrow as the motivating power.

I’m bringing the enneagram into this because it is a way of talking about the personality that has more dimensions and is therefor closer to the truth of our lives as we experience it.

Back to the theme of today: love is the opposite of fear. Looked at biologically this would mean that love is the absence of adrenaline. This makes some sense. Fear certainly makes a lot of spiritual practice harder. Breathing for instance becomes hard when fear takes over. Focusing on the needs of someone else is harder when we are scared for our own lives, livelihood or whatever. In other words: fear makes love harder.

As JD says:

Fear is wired into the biochemistry of our bodies. Fear has been a necessary part of physical survival. Fear provided that extra amount of strength, speed, and agility to save our pre-history ancestor from being eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger. (The Fight or Flight Syndrome). Those same physiological reactions are present in our modern-day bodies which respond just as strongly to psychological fears as they do to physical fears.

The tiger was real – our psychological fears are not. Our bodies, not knowing the difference, treat them as one and the same. Thus, if we are to change our relationship with psychological fear, it is necessary to find the source of our fear and heal it.

I agree to some extent: our psychological fears are only partly realistic. The tiger was concrete. But since he could often be neither heard nor seen – fear was probably often there even when the tiger wasn’t. Similarly for ordinary healthy people fears are usually based on something. For instance, with the present economic difficulties many people are afraid for their jobs or their business. The foundation is real. However the outcome on the stock market is by now overdone I think. Most of the underlying uncertainties have been dealt with reasonably well by governments (in Europe especially). Once people become afraid – they infect each other.

I don’t think that kind of fear has anything to do with love. It’s not the opposite of love, but rather on a different level or something.

There are all kinds of things more related to fear than love. For instance Jiddu Krishnamurti explored the iidea that thought and time are the root of fear. For Sogyal Rinpoche “the ultimate fear” is “the fear of looking into ourselves.”

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