When I started thinking on this topic, I was struck how so much of our “spiritual” memes, articles and videos on this subject treat it as a philosophical or whimsical feel good approach with no real substance.
It’s true, there are, it appears to me, only two base emotions fear or love. Anger, anxiety, hate, intolerance and the like are projections of fear. Joy, compassion, empathy and the like are projections of love.
But how, as the memes and articles ask, do we choose love over fear? Is it a conscious decision? Is it intuition? Do we hold love and light in our hearts? How do you do that? And how does it manifest in actions in the real world?
The first key to understanding this concept is to come to terms with the reality of Fear. Or rather, the illusion of Fear. You may be asking yourself, how is it an illusion? It certainly feels real when my heart races, my stomach turns and my thoughts are scattered. Here is why it is an illusion: We create fear in our minds and therefore our bodies in expectation of something bad happening. We create a mind cycle of what ifs. The events haven’t happened yet but we are fearful that they will. That is the illusion – a reality of what could happen is already being manifested in our thoughts.
Love, on the other hand, is a reality. When we project compassion, empathy or simply smile genuinely at another human being we are experiencing love in action – it is happening in the now. No illusion, no what if. Just reality, just love, right now and in the moment.
But let’s not beat up on Fear and totally remove it from the equation – we need fear. Life is balance. We just don’t need fear to control and tip the balance. Fear is useful – it protects us from potentially dangerous situations. Without fear, we would all be picking up hot pans directly from the oven. And that brings me to another point – fear is programmed. The only way an illusion can be useful is for it to be programmed – we have to be trained to be fearful of things which could harm us. Not things that harm us, but COULD harm us. Fear is an ancient instinct to protect us from predators and other dangers.
The problem lies in it’s tendency to tip the balance when it come to matters of the emotions, communication and society. It doesn’t differentiate between physical danger and emotional distress. It just manifests as it was designed to do – by creating what ifs in our thinking in order to either run from or attack the perceived threat. Anger is a manifestation of fear of being hurt by someone. Intolerance is a manifestation of fear of someone who looks or thinks differently. Anxiety is a manifestation of fear of the unknown or future events.
So how do we deal with an unbalanced fear reaction? Whether it is in ourselves or others, it makes no difference – it is treated with the same approach… You got it… Love. Uuuugh, I hear you groan. That tells me nothing. But it does… Understanding is a manifestation of love. When we can understand that our reaction to a situation is fear based we can circumvent the what ifs – we can recognise the illusion and move on. It is the same with others – when someone reacts to you with anger, look beyond the anger and try to see the fear. You don’t necessarily have to point it out to them, but your words and actions can certainly allay and address the fear residing beneathe the anger. Take the heat out of the anger by addressing the root cause.
I’m reminded of an ancient african philosophy – Ubuntu. It literally means “I am, because of you”. In essence, by realising that every action we have affects and influences the lives of others, and in return our lives are equally affected, we can learn to appreciate the community spirit and family bonds. In one african community, this is practiced in a uniquely beautiful way. When an individual in the community has committed a crime or done harm, instead of a punishment, the wayward community member is brought into a circle of all the villagers and they take turns in telling the person what they value in the individual. This reminds them of their worth in the society and allays and addresses the fears of the individual who manifested the negative fear based response in the first place.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could practice a little Ubuntu in both ourselves and in others? Rather than submit to the fear based programming in our media and society, lets take a leaf out of our brothers and sisters book in Africa and practice Ubuntu in our society… After all, I am because of You…