Simply stated fear is nothing more than a belief in limitation.
When we’re afraid we are convinced that there isn’t enough. When we’re convinced there isn’t enough, we get afraid. Fear is the negation of confidence, of trust. The most interesting, and the most useful thing I know about fear is that it is the energetic opposite of love. Fear and love cannot occupy the same space in the same way that light and darkness cannot occupy the same space. Walk into a darkened room, flip the light switch, and darkness disappears. Where does it go? It really doesn’t go anywhere. It didn’t really exist, as a thing of its own, in the first place. It’s like a vacuum, a non-thing. Flipping the switch allowed light to come in and fill the vacuum with some thing. Since dark is nothing more than an absence of light, is fear, then, nothing more than an absence of love?
The bible says that perfect love casts out fear. Hmmm. What does that mean? Could it be that love casts out fear in the same way that light ‘casts out’ darkness? Could fear also be a non-thing and be easily replaced by something so simple as finding the love in the situation?
Love or Fear?
Name as many emotions as you can, both the good and bad, intense and calm, scary and beautiful, positive and negative, light and heavy. If you will take a moment to trace any given emotion back to its least common denominator you will notice that each emotion is rooted in either love or fear. The lighter/higher emotions have their roots in love. The heavier/darker emotions are rooted in fear. Two basic pulls. Polar opposites. When you are feeling sadness, anger, jealousy, anxious or any other ‘negative’ emotion, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of right now?” Common answers are things like fear of being rejected or replaced, that you are not good enough, that there isn’t enough to go around, or that you won’t be safe. When you are feeling happiness, joy, and excitement, ask yourself, “What am I feeling love for right now?” You may find that you are finding love in some mysterious places. Tracking emotions this way they can become a roadmap to your values. It requires some reflective listening.
You can probably feel the difference when you are experiencing love and when you are experiencing fear but let’s look at some identifiers. Very different feel to each one. Locating the emotions you are experiencing in the list below is a simple way to gauge if you are operating out of fear or out of love in any given moment.
- Love: is expansive, thinks abundance, heals, stays connected, soothes, releases, builds
- Fear: contracts, thinks scarcity, runs away, hurts, tears down, hides, retracts inward
There is a way to take the higher emotions such as peace, courage, compassion to the more negative emotions to cancel them out.
Try any combination of positive and negative emotions that work for you. Use the sentence:
I will bring ___________ (higher emotion) to _____________ (lower emotion). For example: “I will bring compassion to my anger.” Fears often just want attention, like a young child that is afraid. Embracing it with compassion, love, forgivenessor any number of positive emotions can neutralize it.
Is the perfect love that casts out fear the same as perfect faith? I’m not sure. But one thing I do know is that ‘abiding’, (which, by the way, I’m still managing to do–for the most part–even though it is the middle of March) is key. (For those of you just tuning in I determined that ‘Abiding‘ was my theme for 2011. For me a theme is far more powerful than a New Year’s resolution. You can read more about it here if you like.) When I am abiding I feel resourced (hmmm re-Sourced?) by a power larger than me who knows what the heck is going on in this crazy world. I come to the eye of the storm rather than remain on the peripheral where everything is spinning out of control.
Overcoming fear begins with thinking about what you’re thinking about.
Pay attention. A friend once said to me, “It’s your mind and you get to decide what lives there.” Always, always, always we must remember to question our thinking. The following steps are adapted from Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is.
- The first thing to question is the reality of the fear. Is it true, or are you just making it up, magnifying it, alowing it loom large in your own mind? Fear does that. It causes us to blow things way out of proportion. (“I’m going to die of radiation poisoning.” Is that true?)
- Ask yourself how the situation might be, or how you might feel if that fear didn’t exist. Most of our fears are imagined, never making it to reality at all. “I am afraid I will lose my home, my job, and end up living under a bridge.” Some version of that is a real fear for many divorcing people. But if you questioned the validity of that fear what might be possible? Just asking the question opens up a broader range of possibilities.
- And last, consider that the opposite might be true. “I will keep my home. I will keep my job. I won’t live under a bridge.” Or even a modified version: “Even if I don’t keep the same house I will make wherever I am into my home. If I lose my job I’ll find another one. I will live in a place that is my own.” Feel the difference?
Another key to managing fear is to live in the present moment.
The past may be riddled with disappointments and regrets just as your vague future looms scary and tenuous. But in this moment… right now as you sit and read these words… all is well. And now… in this moment also, things are still fine. And in this moment, too. Focusing on the present moment causes it to grow, expand, broaden. Taken one moment at a time life is pretty doable. Focusing on the past or the future strangles the present moment and wrings the peace right out of it. Eckhart Tolle (in his book, Power of Now) advises us to accept any situation we find ourselves in as though we had purposely chosen it. Why? Because in so doing we have the power to change it. If it isn’t ours we can’t change it, which means we are little more than powerless victims. Fear dominates powerlessness. Always, always, the powerful path is to take charge of whatever we can. We can’t change the past; the future isn’t here yet. This present moment is the only one in which we can act and if we don’t embrace it we will lose the opportunity.
Years ago I read about a prisoner of war who was confined to a cell of about 3×5 for many years. His point of power was to pace only 4 feet instead of using the full 5. He was determined that his captors would not dictate how far he could pace. He would determine that. He took charge in this very important part of his life. It kept him alive. We can do a lot to eliminate fear by replacing it with the light of ownership and action.
So, a recipe for dealing with fear:
- Think about what you are thinking about; write your own story with a positive spin
- Live in the present moment where peace resides
- Insert love and light by owning and taking action with whatever you can
- Realize that fear is a non-thing and only has the power that you prescribe to it
- Abide. Find the center of the storm in whatever way works for you, until you know that you know that someway, somehow, life is unfolding just as it should and you will have the resources for making the most of it.
Fear during divorce can extreme for it is fear upon fear. It is like a ghost that lurks about, jumping in from dark corners, pulling the rug out from under you when you least expect it. The very ground under your feet feels unstable. Just remember that the boogie man lives in the dark, that fear is a non-thing, and that what we tell ourselves is mostly made up anyway, so we can just as easily make it up in a way that has a happy ending. And yeah, I know, it’s easier said than done… but even one step brings more light.