There’s only love or fear. Anything that isn’t love is fear.
You’ve heard me and countless others say that a million times. Bet you’ve never stopped to think what it really means and it might be important that you do. So here goes...
What is fear? It started as being physically afraid. As humans, we are hardwired with a deep-rooted desire to stay alive and to be safe. That was essential to survival in the early days of human existence when there were very real threats like becoming a snack for some wild animal not to mention ferocious marauders, mysterious sickness, and frequent accidents. Just staying more or less in one piece was tough, and fear of those very real threats kept us vigilant and alive. Fear served us well.
Most of us no longer need to worry about whether we are on the menu for some wild beast so why does fear still rule so many lives, maybe even yours? Crazy as it sounds, that’s because our exceedingly sophisticated minds and bodies are still primitive when it comes to fear. When the feeling hits, the body/mind can’t distinguish between a wild animal licking its chops, a boss waving a pink slip, a lover walking out, or plain old feeling overwhelmed. A threat is a threat is a threat and our body/mind will react the same way regardless of the cause.
We still bring that sensation of panic in our bones to our everyday lives, even though most of our first world modern situations are not life-threatening. Perhaps because of that disconnect over what is truly gravely dangerous, when fight-or-flight kicks in we choose Door #3 – paralysis. We get so caught up worrying about what might happen, imagining every possible worst case scenario, that we are blinded to the answers right in front of us. We let fear of all the potential bad endings prevent us from taking steps towards our preferred outcome. We are drowning in “what ifs” when the shore is less than an arm’s length away if we would only turn in that direction. Instead, we keep floundering and splashing and shrieking in fear with our backs turned.
Even though we still experience fear as a physical event, all fear is not physical. Complaining, criticizing, fault-finding, worrying, blaming, procrastinating, thinking about what people think of you – all fear. Modern emotional fears have their roots in expectation, judgment, and unforgiveness. You set yourself up with expectations for yourself and others, you judge when things aren’t exactly as you expected, then you can’t forgive yourself or others because things didn’t turn out as expected. And sometimes you can’t forgive yourself for judging.
But what were you so afraid of that you couldn’t allow things to simply unfold? What did you fear would happen if you didn’t control everything and everyone 100%? Notice that the real threat isn’t being devoured. Most likely, the challenge is to your beliefs, not your body. What’s the worst that could happen? You could lose everything and hit rock bottom?
That happened to me a few years ago. In all innocence and sincerity, I had called on Kali Ma to clear my path of everything that was holding me back. Kali Ma is known as a fierce warrior and sometimes considered a goddess of destruction. In reality, what she will destroy is anything in your way, including the things and beliefs you have been clinging to. As a result of my request, I “lost” the marriage of my youth. My lifelong good health took a detour through cancer which “forced” me to put a trusted employee in charge of my business. He chose to embezzle, then took his life, ending any chance of reparation. Alone, broke, and scared out of my wits, there were only two choices – collapse or rise.
After a whopper of a pity party, I chose to rise. Good decision. The best. I am now blessed with the marriage of my heart and soul. I’m doing what I always felt called to do, and had long made all the usual excuses – when I have more time, more money, when the kids are grown. Not an original justification in the bunch!
In each case, I had been fearfully clinging to the imagined safety of my neat little box. My box wasn’t a happy place, but at least I was safe, right?
Wrong! Looking back, I realize I was really afraid of breathing on my own. That little box functioned like an artificial lung allowing me to deflect responsibility for my own life force. If I had only cozied up to the fear sooner, discovered what it really was about and what it was trying to show me....
But that’s hindsight and living in the past.
If fear is the opposite of love and love is what we seek, then isn’t fear just a thief stealing our peace and pleasure?
Well yes....and no. Turns out, fear is another misunderstood fact of life. Fear serves a real purpose in helping keep us from true danger. It is also a natural and helpful part of clearing your way to being your best self, pointing you towards areas that are limiting rather than helping so you can address them. Left unchecked and unheeded, however, it can and does become that thief.
It’s OK to admit that fear is a tangible thing. If you have fallen off your bike, it’s normal to be more cautious. If you were hit hard by the failing economy, it’s legitimate to think about maintaining your income, feeding your family, and keeping your home.
When does it cross over from being good information to being paralyzing terror? Look at your motivating factors.
Are you afraid to ride your bike again or are you giving another try with the new information you learned from your fall? Are you staying in a job you hate because it feels like a secure income? Don’t you think your employer senses that you don’t love it? Don’t you think it shows in your attitude and behavior? If that’s the case, can it really be secure? Who are you fooling?
“What would you do if you had nothing to fear?” is a popular question. What leap of faith would you take if you weren’t so busy talking yourself out of it, talking yourself into being afraid of it?
When I lost everything, I was terrified. My melt down looked at lot like Scarlet O’Hara crying to Rhett Butler, “Where will I go? What will I do?”
And that’s when “collapse or rise” kicked in. So I took inventory, figured out where I had been holding back, learned a ton of lessons, then began re-inventing with the benefit of new-found knowledge and courage.
Fear is sending you a message. It’s up to you to discern what that is. Is it warning you in protection or limiting you in false security? Is it pointing you in a better direction or are you fearfully putting obstacles in your own way? Has your body/mind mistakenly read the excitement of something new as something to be feared?
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you were to step outside your comfy little zone? You could fail. And then what?
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you never venture outside your comfy little zone? You could suffocate. And then what?
Will you let fear control your life or will you use fear as a wake up call to guide you and help you pay attention? The paradox of fear is that it can go either way. You choose.