The track of love or the track of fear?

The track of love or the track of fear?

by don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills

Every human being has a personal dream of life, and that dream is completely different from anyone else’s dream. We dream according to all the beliefs that we have, and we modify our dream according to the way we judge, according to the way we are victimized. That is why dreams are never the same for any two people.

In a relationship, we can pretend to be the same, to think the same, to feel the same, to dream the same, but there is no way that can happen. There are two dreamers with two dreams. Every dreamer is going to dream in his own way. That is why we need to accept the differences that exist between two dreamers; we need to respect each other’s dream.

We can have thousands of relationships at the same time, but every relationship is between two persons and no more than two. According to the way the two people dream, they create the direction of that dream we call relationship. Every relationship we have — with Mom, with Dad, with brothers, with sisters, with friends — is unique because we dream a small dream together. Every relationship becomes a living being made by two dreamers.

Just as your body is made by cells, your dreams are made by emotions. There are two main sources of those emotions: One is fear, and all the emotions that come from fear; the other is love, and all the emotions that come from love. We experience both emotions, but the one that predominates in everyday people is fear. We can say that the normal kind of relationship in this world is based 95 percent on fear and 5 percent on love. Of course, this will change depending upon the people, but even if fear is 60 percent and love is 40 percent, still it is based on fear.

In order to understand these emotions, we can describe certain characteristics about love and fear that I call the “track of love” and “the track of fear.” These two tracks are merely points of reference to see how we are living our life. These divisions are for the logical mind to understand and to try to have some control of the choices we make. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of love and of fear.

Love has no obligations. Fear is full of obligations. In the track of fear, whatever we do is because we have to do it, and we expect other people to do something because they have to do it. We have the obligation, and as soon we have to, we resist it. The more resistance we have, the more we suffer. Sooner or later, we try to escape our obligations. On the other hand, love has no resistance. Whatever we do is because we want to do it. It becomes a pleasure; it’s like a game, and we have fun with it.

Love has no expectations. Fear is full of expectations. With fear we do things because we expect that we have to, and we expect that others are going to do the same. That is why fear hurts and love doesn’t hurt. We expect something and if it doesn’t happen, we feel hurt — it isn’t fair. We blame others for not fulfilling our expectations. When we love, we don’t have expectations; we do it because we want to, and if other people do it or not, it’s because they want to or not and it’s nothing personal. When we don’t expect something to happen, if nothing happens, it’s not important. We don’t feel hurt, because whatever happens is okay. That is why hardly anything hurts us when we are in love; we aren’t expecting that our lover will do something, and we have no obligations.

Love is based on respect. Fear doesn’t respect anything, including itself. If I feel sorry for you, it means I don’t respect you. You cannot make your own choices. When I have to make the choices for you, at that point I don’t respect you. If I don’t respect you, then I try to control you. Most of the time when we tell our children how to live their lives, it’s because we don’t respect them. We feel sorry for them, and we try to do for them what they should do for themselves. When I don’t respect myself, I feel sorry for myself, I feel I’m not good enough to make it in this world. How do you know when you don’t respect yourself? When you say, “Poor me, I’m not strong enough, I’m not intelligent enough, I’m not beautiful enough, I cannot make it.” Self-pity comes from disrespect.

Love is ruthless; it doesn’t feel sorry for anyone, but it does have compassion. Fear is full of pity; it feels sorry for everyone. You feel sorry for me when you don’t respect me, when you don’t think I am strong enough to make it. On the other hand, love respects. I love you; I know you can make it. I know you are strong enough, intelligent enough, good enough that you can make your own choices. I don’t have to make your choices for you. You can make it. If you fall, I can give you my hand, I can help you to stand up. I can say, “You can do it, go ahead.” That is compassion, but it is not the same as feeling sorry. Compassion comes from respect and from love; feeling sorry comes from a lack of respect and from fear.

Love is completely responsible. Fear avoids responsibility, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not responsible. Trying to avoid responsibility is one of the biggest mistakes we make because every action has a consequence. Everything we think, everything we do, has a consequence. If we make a choice, we have an outcome or a reaction. If we don’t make a choice, we have an outcome or a reaction. We are going to experience the consequence of our actions in one way or another. That is why every human is completely responsible for his actions, even if he doesn’t want to be. Other people can try to pay for your mistakes, but you will pay for your mistakes anyway, and then you pay double. When others try to be responsible for you, it only creates a bigger drama.

Love is always kind. Fear is always unkind. With fear we are full of obligations, full of expectations, with no respect, avoiding responsibility, and feeling sorry. How can we feel good when we are suffering from so much fear? We feel victimized by everything; we feel angry or sad or jealous or betrayed. Anger is nothing but fear with a mask. Sadness is fear with a mask. Jealousy is fear with a mask. With all those emotions that come from fear and create suffering, we can only pretend to be kind. We are not kind because we don’t feel good, we are not happy.

If you are in the track of love, you have no obligations, no expectations. You don’t feel sorry for yourself or for your partner. Everything is going well for you, and that is why that smile is always on your face. You are feeling good about yourself, and because you are happy, you are kind. Love is always kind, and that kindness makes you generous and opens all the doors. Love is generous. Fear is selfish; it is only about me. Selfishness closes all the doors.

Love is unconditional. Fear is full of conditions. In the track of fear, I love you if you let me control you, if you are good to me, if you fit into the image I make for you. I create an image of the way you should be, and because you are not and never will be the image, I judge you because of that, and find you guilty. Many times I even feel ashamed of you because you are not what I want you to be. If you don’t fit that image I create, you embarrass me, you annoy me, I have no patience at all with you. I am just pretending kindness.

In the track of love, there is no if; there are no conditions. I love you for no reason, with no justification. I love you the way you are, and you are free to be the way you are. If I don’t like the way you are, then I’d better be with someone who is the way I like her to be. We don’t have the right to change anyone else, and no one else has the right to change us. If we are going to change, it is because we want to change, because we don’t want to suffer any longer.

Most people live their entire lives in the track of fear. They are in a relationship because they feel they have to be. They are in a relationship where they have all those expectations about their partner and about themselves. In the track of fear they have so many conditions, expectations, and obligations that they create a lot of rules just to protect themselves against emotional pain, when the truth is that there shouldn’t be any rules. These rules affect the quality of the channels of communication between us, because when we are afraid, we lie.

If you have the expectation that I have to be a certain way, then I feel the obligation to be that way. The truth is I am not what you want me to be. When I am honest and I am what I am, you are already hurt, you are mad. Then I lie to you, because I am afraid of your judgment. I am afraid you are going to blame me, find me guilty, and punish me. And every time you remember, you punish me again and again and again for the same mistake.

In the track of love, there is justice. If you make a mistake, you pay only once for that mistake, and if you truly love yourself, you learn from that mistake. In the track of fear, there is no justice. You make yourself pay a thousand times for the same mistake. You make your partner or your friend pay a thousand times for the same mistake. This creates a sense of injustice and opens many emotional wounds. Then, of course, you set yourself up to fail. Humans have dramas for everything, even for something so simple and so little. We see these dramas in normal relationships in hell because couples are in the track of fear.

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In every relationship there are two halves of that relationship. One half is you, and the other half is your son, your daughter, your father, your mother, your friends, your partner. Of those halves, you are only responsible for your half; you are not responsible for the other half. It doesn’t matter how close you think you are, or how strongly you think you love, there is no way you can be responsible for what is inside another person’s head. You can never know what that person feels, what that person believes, all the assumptions she makes. You don’t know anything about that person. That is the truth, but what do we do? We try to be responsible for the other half, and that is why relationships in hell are based on fear, drama, and the war of control.

With the other half we can share, we can enjoy, we can create the most wonderful dream together. But the other half always has its own dream, its own will, and we can never control that dream no matter how hard we try. Then we have a choice: We can create a conflict and a war of control, or we can become a playmate and a team player. Playmates and team players play together, but not against each other. If you are playing tennis, you have a partner, you are a team, and you never go against each other — never. Even if you both play tennis differently, you have the same goal: to have fun together, to play together, to be playmates. If you see your partnership, your romantic relationship, as a team, everything will start to improve. In a relationship, as in a game, it’s not about winning or losing. You are playing because you want to have fun.

To master a relationship is all about you. The first step is to become aware, to know that everyone dreams his own dream. Once you know this, you can be responsible for your half of the relationship, which is you. If you know that you are only responsible for half of the relationship, you can easily control your half. It is not up to us to control the other half. If we respect, we know that our partner, or friend, or son, or mother, is completely responsible for his or her own half. If we respect the other half, there is always going to be peace in that relationship. There is no war.

Next, if you know what is love and what is fear, you become aware of the way you communicate your dream to others. The quality of your communication depends upon the choices you make in each moment, whether you tune your emotional body to love or to fear.

If you catch yourself in the track of fear, just by having that awareness, you can shift your attention into the track of love. Just by seeing where you are, just by changing your attention, everything around you will change.

Finally, if you are aware that no one else can make you happy, and that happiness is the result of love coming out of you, this becomes the greatest mastery of the Toltec, the Mastery of Love.

We can talk about love and write a thousand books about it, but love will be completely different for each of us because we have to experience love. Love is not about concepts; love is about action. Love in action can only produce happiness. Fear in action can only produce suffering.

The only way to master love is to practice love. You don’t need to justify your love, you don’t need to explain your love; you just need to practice your love. Practice creates the master.


Adapted from The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship (Chapter 4: “The Track of Love, The Track of Fear”). Copyright © 1999 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D. and Janet Mills. Reprinted by Permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, California.

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