How to Create Your Own Relationship Karma

Your greatest fears in love may echo pain from your past, but you can let go of the defenses keeping you from happiness.

Excerpted from "What Is Love: A Simple Buddhist Guide to Romantic Happiness" by Taro Gold. Reprinted with permission from Lionstead Press.

A favorite Buddhist saying of mine is that in love, as in life, the things we fear most have already happened to us. Your greatest fear in love-losing your freedom or your individuality, being hurt, abandoned, controlled, betrayed, you name it-reveals the pain you have already suffered. There is also comfort in this thought, for you have already faced your worst fear. As long as you retain the wisdom gained from that experience and let go of the pain, then you need not repeat the past.

Unfortunately, your automatic, subconscious reactions to the fear of feeling the same hurt again may cause you to avoid getting too close to people. In that case, no matter how much you desire companionship, you will not find it to your satisfaction. Until you let go of the fear that binds you, you will continue to push away opportunities for happiness in love.

To break the cycle, you must recognize that your emotional defense mechanisms are attracting more pain than they deter. Herein you encounter a dilemma, for while you feel the need to relinquish the defenses that may be harming your relationships, you also feel the need to hold on to them. After all, those ingenious forms of emotional insulation are what helped you get through to this point.

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Buddhism encourages us to replace defensive, fear-based reactions with thoughtful, proactive responses. Reactions tend to be irresponsible and impulsive, whereas responses, as the word itself hints, are responsible and considered. Reactions are based upon fixed beliefs and expectations from prior experiences. Responses are based on the present moment and what that moment requires.

When I was growing up, my mother often said to me, "Fear is an illusion. It is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. When fear is based on past events rather than present-moment awareness, your reactions to it will invariably result in different outcomes than you hoped." Her words have proven true, particularly in the context of love.

If you are holding on to the pain of betrayal, for example, you may experience fear when your current mate even looks at another person. Your partner may be completely faithful, yet you still react with jealousy. Instead of drawing your mate closer to you, such fear-based reactions only serve to push him or her further away.

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