There’s a belief – one that I personally have a huge affinity with – which says that every action, every feeling, every thought and every word comes from one of two places; love or fear.
The love feeling is the one that only ever wants what’s best for the entire Universe. It will talk to you in the sort of calm, loving voice you’d hear from a doting parent of best friend and it will always always have your best interests at heart, even on the days that what it says sounds completely impractical. It’s the voice of our gut or our intuition and always knows what’s right.
Fear though, fear is a totally different kettle of fish. It may sound angry or frustrated; it’s likely to make you feel anxious or sad or in some way small and is more likely to focus on the things you can’t do and the practical reasons for that; or on all of the reasons that you’re too much or not enough to be or do all that you want.
To put it bluntly, love is the angel on your shoulder and the one you want to follow; and fear is the devil on your shoulder that the vast majority of the world will tell you to ignore and all out boot out of your life.
Except that I’m starting to think that might not be such a good idea.
Because the more I travel down this path of life with my own angel and devil on my shoulders; and the more I interact on a deep level with clients and friends, the more and more I realise that the devil is as necessary as the angel, and that actually it’s about time we stopped ignoring it and started listening to it.
I know what you’re thinking right now, something along the lines of “Noooo….. <<insert name of very famous and important spiritual teacher here>> tells me I categorically shouldn’t pay any attention to my fear.”
Yeah, I know. I’ve been reading those books and taking those workshops for years too. Hell, I’ve even run some of those workshops in the past. And so I see where those people and theories are coming from.
But what I’ve learned in the days since then is that, far from pulling us away from our highest possible good, that voice of our fear can actually lead us to our greatest power… if only we’re willing to grit our teeth, wade into its scariness and read between the lines of what it’s telling us.
When our fear tells us we can’t do something it’s generally saying that for one of two reasons; either because it’s reinforcing something we’ve already been told over and over again in the past, or because it thinks that doing that thing will bring about something bad that we need to be protected from.
Of course those thoughts may be outdated, negative or just all out wrong; but still – the voice of our fear doesn’t come to us simply because it hates us and wants us to be miserable, it come to us because it genuinely believes that we need to stay small and not 100% happy to be kept safe.
So while I’m not for one second suggesting we should take on board everything our fear voice tells us, I do think it holds some amazing gold for us if we can be brave enough to stop and really listen to what it’s saying.
Doing that can be terrifying – after all who wants to listen to a voice that constantly makes you feel shitty. But by listening we can start to unpick that voice; what is it actually saying? Who does it sound like? Where have you heard those thoughts and beliefs before? What is it that you’re actually afraid of?
As any good gardener knows, if you’re going to tackle a big and unwanted weed then you need to deal with its roots; and since fears are like the weeds of our brain, then we need to understand and grab onto those roots in order to pull them out and get rid of them forever (or choose to work with the positive side of them to turn them into something beautiful and/or functional, like the ivy that began as a weed and is now holding up the fence in my back garden!).
Do the words of your fear voice come from something your mum used to say when you were a kid that you’ve internalised even though you don’t personally believe it for a second? Then how about instead of ignoring the voice that sounds like your mother you start to work on unpicking how much of her words you actually believe, and on changing those well established neural pathways to roads based on your own personal thoughts and beliefs on that subject?
When you’re afraid of public speaking is that actually because you don’t want to trip up and flash your pants en route to the stage (cringe…) or is it because you’re scared of not having the answers – of not having any answers – because that you feel that you aren’t enough?
When the fear voice tells you to sack off your plans for the gym after a bad day at the job you’re struggling with and eat another chocolate bar or three, is that because sugar is really what your body wants; or is it because if you can focus your mind on beating yourself up for eating too much sugar or on complaining about how your body looks and feels then you won’t instead be focused on the fact that you’re uncomfortable at work and might just need to make some significant and potentially big changes to that part of your life?
The voice of fear is part of being a human; and unless you are someone who spends every waking moment in pure joy and a state of conscious connection with the Divine you will almost certainly experience it and the feelings it brings up – anger, frustration, guilt, shame and so on and so forth.
And while a lot of people will tell you that the way to enlightenment is to ignore that voice entirely and cut it right out of your life, I’m afraid it’s another one where I feel like they’re only telling you part of the story. Because just like the weed in the back garden; ignoring it will only ever give it the opportunity to grow bigger, and you can’t even start to cut it out unless you’re willing to go in and investigate where it began first of all.
My favourite deck of Oracle (the Wisdom of Avalon deck by Colette Baron-Redi) cards includes a card called fear, and within the explanation of that card, the guidebook tells the reader to make an inventory of all of their fears, delve deeply into it and you might just find that the thing you’ve been afraid of is fear itself.
The first time I read that line it pretty much blew my mind. Because what if we did that? There’s an old Abraham Lincoln quote along the lines of destroying our enemies by making them our friends – what if we worked with our fear voice in order to make it our friend… or at least to give us a really great insight into who we actually are and how we best move forward?
What if we looked at fear not as something to be overcome and beaten into submission, but as something we can sit across the table from and talk to – adult to adult – in the hope of seeing ourselves and our struggles from a different perspective?
Maybe then it would stop feeling the need to shout at us quite so vehemently when we’re doing or thinking something it doesn’t like; and maybe we’d stop having quite such a bad reaction when it tries to point us in what it thinks is the right direction. Maybe we could negotiate more rationally instead.
And hey, just maybe by having those conversations and doing that work we’d come to realise that we needn’t be afraid after all – maybe we’d be able to see the practicalities that our love voice may have missed and to navigate a more grounded way through the situations that were bothering us instead; or at least to avoid tripping up and falling into the same traps again in future.
Of course this work can be deep – even dealing with surface level fears is scary because, you know, fear! So please make sure that any journalling or meditating you do around the subject of fear is in a safe space and with the knowledge that there’s somewhere for you to take this when you’re done.
And by all means seek out support when it comes to doing this work – if not with a friend or someone else close to you then with a trained professional whose role is to provide that safe environment and support you through this part of the journey. (For more on counselling and the other services I offer, click here.)