Let’s begin by differentiating two types of fear: fear that is helpful and fear that holds you back.
Helpful fear alerts you that you need to take action, for example, to protect yourself or someone or something that you love. This type of fear is an expression of inner guidance and not the type of fear that you need to overcome—you need to pay attention to it and do what it guides you to do. For example, fear of a tornado is important to alert you to find a safe place to ride out the storm.
A second type of fear is fear that holds you back. This consists of fears that exist mostly “in your mind.” These either aren’t based in what is actually happening now or they are based on what is happening, but they are “overblown” compared to actual circumstances. For example, fear of public speaking, fear of being honest in a relationship, fear of failure, or fear of success.
These fears usually have roots in past painful experiences that you carry with you and project onto what is currently happening. It’s common for this type of fear to feel irrationally big, because your mind imagines all sorts of negative possibilities that haven’t happened yet, but theoretically could happen. And your mind can come up with all sorts of “negative evidence” to support your fear.
There are many ways to deal with this second type of fear, from reasoning with yourself, to gradually de-sensitizing yourself by facing your fear a little at a time, to mental-emotional techniques that work to release the negative charge of past experiences. Many of these can be highly effective.
What I’d like to suggest today, is a very simple inner shift that could help you with this second type of fear—the shift to love.
O.K. that sounds a little “soft and mushy.” How could that work?
Well, you could do this in two steps. First, in the moment that you feel fear rising, pause to recognize and accept that reaction. This conscious pause inserts a mental stop in your fear reaction and opens the space for making a different choice. After you have recognized, accepted, and paused your fear reaction, shift your attention to love for what you are doing and who you are with.
For example, with public speaking you could shift into love for the information you have to share and love for the people you are sharing it with. Personally, I’ve been doing this for an interview I have this Thursday. Whenever I think of the interview and feel afraid, I shift into love for the insights I have to share and love for the person I will be talking with and the people who will be listening.
You may be surprised at how quickly you can shift your inner state from fear to love.
Why does this work?
I believe this works because shifting to love takes the focus off of yourself. And it does this through a specific quality of being—love. Love has a specific tangible quality to it—we all know love when we experience it. By “coming from love” you instantly shift your inner state and your relationship to whatever is happening and to whomever you are with.
If the skeptic in you thinks this sounds “a little soft,” you may be surprised at how courageous and effective love can be.