Is your life ruled by love or by fear? Love and fear are opposite emotional attitudes that shape our life in very different ways. The psychoanalyst John McMurray describes the difference like this:
"The fear-determined have no sun in themselves and go about putting out the sun in other people. The love-determined have life in them, abundant life. They are the people who are really alive, of whom it can be said that they possess eternal life as a well within them perpetually."
Life is a lot more beautiful and vivid if it is determined by love and not by fear. I’m sure you can imagine that someone determined completely by love would be a kind of saint. In contrast, most of us ordinary human beings are determined by both forces, love and fear. However, in my experience, even a tiny shift towards love—and away from fear—can bring a lot more Happiness.
Here are 7 tips that you can move towards love and away from fear.
1. Cultivate gratitude
Gratitude makes us feel happier. If you remember to be grateful for the blessings of your life, you start to feel more connected to yourself and others. When you let go of niggles and embrace gratitude instead, love springs up.
2. Reality-test your fear
Sometimes fear can be like a cloud that keeps out the sunlight. Then everything feels huge and oppressive. A simple way to deal with fear is to test its reality. Write down three things that you are afraid of. Then look at each point and ask yourself, “Is this fear really grounded in reality?” I know that when I do this, I often find that my fears are unfounded. It’s like living in a shadow-land, peering into the future and expecting bad things to happen.
3. Take action
Fear is often born out of inaction. For example, if you get a sense that your health is impaired, but you don't check it out with a doctor, you may start to imagine that you are heading for a major health crisis. (I could fill a whole notebook with illnesses I once thought I had - but never actually got!) Once you've been to a doctor and reviewed the problems, the steps towards renewed health may seem much more manageable.
Taking action is the best antidote to fear. Once you start to address the issues one by one, fears shrink and may even disappear.
4. Cultivate friendships
Good friends are important because they teach us to love. It's often much easier to love a good friend than it is to love and forgive our partner. Friends are lasting companions in life. It’s good to talk with them when we feel afraid. They can give us a fresh perspective on what is troubling us.
5. Be generous
In the quote above, John McMurray points out that fear-determined people have no sun in themselves and "go about putting out the sun in other people." Fear makes us narrow-minded and we tend to put down others. Here is how I deal with that: when I notice I'm getting negative, I put a small pebble into one of my pockets. Each time I catch myself using a put-down, I quietly shift the pebble into the other pocket and say to myself kindly, "Well, maybe I can say that differently next time."
6. Practise kindness
Kindness is 'love-in-action'. It’s good to make a habit of it. The trick is to notice what people need. Here is an example: yesterday I was talking to a stall-holder at a farmers' market who fashions wooden spoons. He saw that I was carrying a bag of luscious, fresh corncobs. He said, "Oh, they look nice!" Then he sighed, "Oh well, by the time I've finished selling at my stand they’ll have all gone." I offered to get some for him. It was a small action but it made us both feel good. Try and spot one occasion each day when you can be of help.
7. Open your awareness
Fear tends to make us focus inwards. A way out of is to do the opposite and open your awareness to include everything around you. For example, if you notice anxious thoughts, open you mind and listen to sounds around you. Maybe you can hear birdsong, or traffic noise, or children playing. This has an instant calming effect and fear wanes.
If you follow these 7 tips, you'll move towards more love and less fear in your life. Soon you will notice an upsurge of Happiness and contentment, instead of fear and anxiety.
What is your experience of living with love or with fear? Maybe you could share your special way of inviting love into your life and saying "good-bye" to fear?