Love is not the Absence of Fear

IMG_2515Love is not the absence of fear. Like joy and sadness, love and fear are dualities that live in the same chamber of the heart. When we love another deeply, fear will rear its head. Designed to protect the vulnerable heart, fear is the sentry who guards the sacred entrances. The way past fear is not to engage in battle; that’s a war you’ll never win. The way to enter into love’s passageways is to call fear by name. We all need to be seen and heard, and fear is no exception.

When we call fear by name, we befriend it. And when we befriend it, it’s no longer the enemy, something to be avoided or conquered. Befriending fear means allowing love to make room for all of fear’s manifestations: doubt, disconnection, uncertainty, lack of attraction, irritation, lack of the feeling of love, fantasizing about the perfect partner or an ex. These are the ways we know our heart is closed. When we buy the belief that real love doesn’t include these manifestations of fear, we believe that something is wrong when these feelings arise. Nothing is wrong. These states of being are all part of love. When we widen our definition of love – literally expanding it out like a giant balloon to include these more uncomfortable and certainly less glamorous feelings (not what we culturally associate with romantic love) – we feel our heart expanding as well.

Befriending your fear means getting to know it, just like you would get to know a friend. When you befriend fear you learn that sometimes fear is a wall; other times it’s a curtain; still other times it’s a layer of silt across the soul. From the mindset of curious exploration, you would learn that your inner world is not a stark and defined place, as the ego would like to believe. It’s not comprised of sharp lines and definite answers that, once established, exist across time and space. The inner world is a mercurial, watercolor landscape where fear and love blend and collide and ultimately stand face to face so love can embrace fear in her soft wing and make a place for it at her long, wooden table.

When we deny fear, we perceive our partner and the world around us through fear eyes. Fear distorts perception. Or, rather, the denial of fear distorts perception. When we deny fear and banish it from our table, we see through eyes of lack: not enough love, not enough attraction, not enough humor, not enough conversation. There is no loveliness, no softness, no quality of allowing. It’s the ego’s world of harsh lines and its need for unilateral certainty. But when the wall or curtain rises up and you can say, “I’m feeling on edge. It’s not you,” the naming and the owning allow the barrier to melt.

And then a rush of essence. You see through clear eyes again. Your own essence appears like the river reeds in spring, and you see your lover as beauty on the banks. You see the intrinsic, unchangeable qualities of essence. You see his warmth and kindness flowing like a clear river. You see her honesty and passion unfold and bloom before your eyes, as if for the first time. It’s first love all over again, or perhaps for the first time.

It would be so nice to remain in this open-eyed, open-hearted state always; but then we wouldn’t be human. Being human includes closing up and shutting down. It includes retreat and withdrawal. It is almost defined by our separateness, as opposed to the oneness that apparently defines another realm. So as separate human beings, we will disconnect. But when we do so with consciousness – with a willingness to name those states as they arise – we return more quickly to the openhearted state we so long to inhabit, to live out our days on the green grass and butterfly wings of spring.

34 comments to Love is Not the Absence of Fear

  • Susie

    One of my favourite posts so far. And these things always seem to come when we turn a few corners 🙂 Thank you

  • Sasha

    Thank you for yet another soothing and yet at the same time eye-opening post, Sheryl!
    I have one question, however. For a while now I’ve been trying to accept the presence of fear into my heart and let it serve as an explanation for the way I feel. But lately I started questioning myself: “If it’s fear I’m feeling, *what* am I afraid of?” and I can’t seem to find an answer, no matter how hard I soul-search. Naturally, having no definite answer gives me anxiety and causes me to take my thoughts and emotions for their face-value.
    What do you think – should I keep exploring the underlying reasons for my fears/reservations? Is there a way to be sure that the reason for anxiety IS fear? Thank you so much!

    • My myself and I

      Fear is multi layered. So u may come up with one layer like ” fear of getting hurt” and then work with that for a while. It’s a lengthy process-perhaps life long. But you take it day ny day with a lot of compassion. Until we can get into the habit of doing the work and seeing the tiny shifts, we will continue to be prone to anxiety. Maybe you don’t have to think “what am I protecting myself from?” And just think “I’m scared and am going to take some deep breaths right now and talk/write this through with myself. Always remember it’s your journey and there are no right or wrong answers. We r all here for u.

  • Stephanie

    Sheryl,
    I just want to say, thank goodness for your blogs. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful they are. I also find it amazing how your blogs are always relevant to my life at that given time. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. It is so hard living in a time where every media outlet expresses false pretenses about how a relationship should be. It is so nice to have a place to go to where truth is shared. Thank you!
    Stephanie

  • Kristen

    This post came at the PERFECT time for me. I kept thinking that the fear i sometimes felt with my boyfriend wasn’t normal! Your blog is truly a life saver and it puts everything into perspective for me!
    It’s sad how society doesn’t portray the real parts of love and only shows the “glamour” parts of it!
    Love your blog and keep it up!
    -Kristen

  • Embie

    Sheryl,
    Your posts are so timely! The past few days I’ve been annoyed with my partner and couldn’t figure out why I kept fantasizing about an ex. I realized last night that it was fear – manifesting because of a trip to the emergency room with my partner earlier this week. I was able to name the fear (fear of losing him) and today woke up refreshed and renewed. It’s amazing how powerful fear can be and how easily it masks itself behind other feelings!

    • “It’s amazing how powerful fear can be and how easily it masks itself behind other feelings!”

      I, too, am constantly amazed by the power of fear.

  • so beautiful Sheryl. I believe the same can be said about motherhood. having fear of motherhood and sometimes disliking it etc does not mean you are not meant for it or that you don’t love your child or that you dislike being a parent altogether. being a mom brings about such a wide range of emotion and it’s overwhelming at times. I love the thought of just accepting all of the feelings instead of denying them. thank you

  • Simmia

    Sheryl,

    This piece could not have been published at a better time. Your course has helped me tremendously as I’ve gotten engaged and married in the past year. At the peak of my anxiety, just before my formal engagement, I came across your site and I was able to overcome anxiety and enjoy the day and feel normal and healthy up until the past few weeks as I plan to now make things more official and move in with my now husband, when my anxiety started coming out again. I also wasn’t sure for what reason, but it put me into a state of fear and mistrust of my husband. It was a terrible feeling and made worse because I didn’t have anything to go on, nothing had happened, it just occurred to me over the course of a week, that I needed to protect myself. Thank you so much for your insight and help! Reading this article and back through the e-course has calmed me again.

    Best,

    Simmia

  • Elizabeth

    Great reminder that my fear is not who I am, but something that lives within me and longs to be acknowledged and named. Coming back into the forum and going through the lessons in a second relationship where projection has taken over has helped me to see that it’s not him, and it’s not necessarily me either. It’s this deep, amorphous anxiety that is trying desperately to keep me from love.

    Thank you, Sheryl!

  • Irsa

    Thanks for your posts Sheryl!
    It’s so good to have some insight into one’s fears ..
    I’d like for you to please provide some insight into accidental emotional affairs.. Unfortunately I have suffered from one and it haunts my days even though my partner of 5 years and I have understood the cause and are working on it very well.. I love my partner a lot, and as much as I try not to think about my colleague, it keeps popping up in my head and it makes my heart stop with fear and I feel so guilty..

  • Sareen

    Sheryl,

    I just wanted to say I had some tough days but this just brought me back to reality. Your words are so amazing and comforting. I love these blog posts and can’t wait for the next one 🙂

  • Kelly

    Hi Sheryl,

    I love your site and everything you have to say. Finally, someone addressing these issues head on – with positivity and realistic expectations – instead of just throwing medication at it. I applaud everyone on this board for sticking through it and not just depending on substances. That’s a win in and of itself and says a lot about us all!

    My situation is similar – but differs in the majority of what you address. You seem to talk a lot about feelings towards partners changing. Mine are still there – it seems like I have an unshakable part of me, at my core somewhere, that knows – no matter what I’m feeling – that I very much love my husband (of 2 days). About 6 weeks ago, I sat up in the middle of the night in a panic from a nightmare. My first thought was, “oh my goodness, I’m going crazy and J won’t want to marry me now. This is going to ruin everything.” And that’s when I fell down the hole. I have had anxiety before – but NEVER to this height. I prefer to say, I’ve had worry. I’ve never had the trembling, the attacks, the relentless thoughts that I can’t quiet. I’d never been able to not manage my anxiety completely on my own.

    I believe that the first attack ignited a very real fear in me: not being able to get married. And when the intrusive thoughts and physical symptoms didn’t go away immediately, I began to feel frustrated and hopeless. One week I thought I had it in control, then I fell back down. And worse because I was so mad at myself that it hadn’t gone away.

    My panic was over the idea that I wouldn’t be able to get married. That I’d have a panic attack or throw in the towel from feeling so poorly. I would feel absolutely sick over not being able to do this. For 2 reasons: 1. I was engaged before and I broke it off (it was never a relationship that should have started, there was no core connection and I knew that all along, we didn’t even do any planning for a wedding because I knew it in my heart)so I was TERRIFIED I’d have 2 failed engagements and I could not live with that. 2. I love my fiance. I think I have learned what love is through him. We have been through some difficult times (nothing too bad – normal growing pains), but we have always come out stronger than ever. I know that’s worth fighting for.

    But yesterday, the day after we were married, I fell into the hole of “what if I made a mistake?! What if we have to get divorced now?!” and then I lost. It turned into “I must have made a mistake, how did this happen to me?!” But when I am in a calm place, I know that I love him and want to be with him.

    I think I am just scared of this huge transition, of the fact that there are no guarantees (of which I am big on – I love control and reassurance). It’s just so hard to distinguish the anxious feelings from the real ones. It’s a trap. But I am hopeful that I will come out the other side. I have started working hard at it, journaling, etc. But am weirdly afraid that I will be in that 5%. How do we get passed that? How do we know we’ve started step 1 of inner bonding?

    Looking forward to purchasing your eCourse tonight. Thanks for everything you do.

  • Jeanine Beller

    Wow Sheryl, what another AMAZING article that you have written! I denied fear for over 3 years, because of that there was no room to love & it was absolutely horrible. After all this my wall soften up & I could see through “clear eyes” again. my perception was no longer messing with me. & like you say in one of you’re blogs about being more in love with your husband than before, I have to agree. I never thought this would happen, but I’m more in love with my partner ( we’ll he’s my ex ) than ever before. It’s greater than an infatuation because it’s REAL & Its TRUE. You’re right about the part being human where we do go in disconnection. When that happens I do see the perception messes with me again but I do realize these are my “fear eyes” I know when I have “clear eyes” everything is real. Let me tell you it feels amazing. It was seriously like a miracle for me & it wouldn’t have happened if I let my fear wall down & when I found you work, Sheryl! You are truely amazing, you are a Godsend. I’ve said it a lot in the past but you are. Thank you so much again. I love your work & how you can help others who suffered with fear or are suffering with fear see through “clear eyes” again 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Rebecca

    Sheryl, what a beautiful message today.

    So many times my ego wants to cut and paste things I thought I knew about myself from years ago into my truth now- they don’t fit. It’s a revelation to hear “It’s not comprised of sharp lines and definite answers that, once established, exist across time and space. The inner world is a mercurial, watercolor landscape where fear and love blend and collide and ultimately stand face to face so love can embrace fear in her soft wing and make a place for it at her long, wooden table.”

    Such beautiful and empowering truths. Thank you for this today and for all your glorious work. xx

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    This post is just what I need I have been feeling on edge the last few days. I feel like I’m nearly there with being anxiety free. I’m approaching the finish line from my anxiety fear based journey. I still have a bit more to learn about my real feelings beneath the anxiety. I’m happy to say Sheryl that I have learnt how go open my heart in a vulnerable way. I know I’m human and it’s ok to feel the uncomfortable unwanted feelings. It dosent mean there is something wrong with me. Growing up I was affraid to feel. I’m the eldest of 3 and I always felt that I had to be the strong one. Winging and crying was not allowed in my family. So for me it’s tough to allow myself to feel vulnerable. I am a friendly and open minded person just allowing myself to feel sad has been such a challenge.
    Without your wisdom I wouldn’t be where I am now with my amazing husband. Xx

  • Phil

    Thank you for clarifying the roles of fear and love and how they might live together. Its amazing to search and find just the right message out there on the internet, I am grateful.

  • N.

    I…I cant believe that I’m writing this right now, to a stranger, but I understand that your email isnt open to questions, and I dont know if you’ll even see my comment and answer…but here it goes…I just feel desperate and so…afraid

    I’m only a teen girl. I have my whole life ahead of me, and yet, I feel so afraid…Where to I begin?

    I have a boyfriend. My first, together for a year. But out of the blue, I started having doubts and anxiety about him and our relationship…I’m just soooo scared, thats the best way I can describe it. He’s serious about me, but a part of me is afraid because I hear alll the time that teen relationships never last, so a part of me is like, whats the point, ya know? If we’re gonna end eventually…why still be with him? I get scared that maybe we’re just not meant to be? What if there is someone out there better for me? We’re young, so theres a possibility, but it just breaks my heart soooo much…

    Theres something in me that is screaming Run!! Abandon ship! This isn’t gonna work anyway, whats the point? I try to reason and make sense of what I feel, but on the inside I end up screaming and crying, “I’m scared! Im scared! I’m scared!”(literally) That’s all it boils down to. My fear…

    I get these negative thoughts in my head, towards my boyfriend and our relationship, and I go numb towards him for a while….it’s frightening.

    I dont wanna break up with him. But sometimes I think thats what I have to do…but the thought of it makes me cry sooo bad, I get out of breath, feel like im gonna die, get nauseous…almost like a panic attack, and I dont know how to stop it!

    I’m young, and I dont want this to ruin this relationship or any I may have in the future….I’m scared and I dont know what to do!(I havent told him about how im feeling, cus I dont want him to worry.)

    Any help would be appreciated Sheryl, truly and honestly…(I feel like crying now just trying to process what I’m feeling…) I probably rambled a little…or a lot…

    Thanks if you see this…

    • Macy

      Hi N., I am not experienced enough to answer your questions, but I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. I have had many of the feelings you are having and I am still with my boyfriend. We started dating when I was 13 years old…so I now how it feels to be young and wonder what else is out there.

      • N.

        Its a scary place to be in, isnt it? I dont know how long I’m gonna go through this, or if im strong enough to handle it…

        • Macy

          Yes it is really hard….I have gone through it for 5 years. You aren’t alone. But if the person infront of you is worth it…so is the hard work….I know what its like to be very scared to find the truth as well…I am very scared. Keep your head up, life wasn’t meant to be easy, it was meant to be worth it.

          • N.

            Thank you. 🙂

            I’ve been struggling with whether or not I should tell my bf about how I’ve been feeling, and the fear and anxiety I’ve been experiencing. I know he wont get mad at me, he’s very understanding, but I dont want to worry him and stress him out over this…

            Should I tell him do you think, or just keep it to myself and try to work on it(though I dont know where to start.) I want to tell him, but I dont know how…

  • Hannah

    Beautiful. You have no idea how much you’ve helped me through my engagement and growing up in general! Please continue on. More people should know about this wisdom!

  • Sarah

    Hi Sheryl
    I Woke up this morning with all these thoughts like every other morning for the past 3 months and as I started reading I started crying these words are so true and has made me feel a bit better. I am currently looking through the e-course I haven’t had a chance to go through it properly but from what I have seen it looks great and reading all the success stories is amazing your work is excellent 🙂

  • Ashley Chapman

    Hello Sheryl,

    How does this apply to someone who is emotionally unavailable. I started journaling a couple a weeks ago calling out my fears and naming my truths and all I can say is things have gotten worse. I feel like my fear has further gone inward. When I first started reading your articles I was like thats me head on but over time I kept reading your article and it didnt hit me like before.

    • If your partner is emotionally unavailable then you may be dealing with an issue that extends beyond relationship anxiety and the scope of this site.

  • Genae

    This blog post is so appropriate for what I am going through right now. Twelve years ago today, my fiance at the time ended our engagement. It destroyed me. I soothed myself with junk food and alcohol and gained over 50 pounds. Subconsciously I was trying to build a wall that nobody would want to try to climb. After seven years of celibacy, I lost the weight and started dating – if you want to call it that. To be blunt, I spent the next five years being either the other woman or the transitional woman for a man who would then leave me for someone who was more “girlfriend material”.

    Recently, though, I met a man who was single and who let me know in no uncertain terms that he liked me for me, not just the body. We have been together for about six weeks and I am scared to death. For the first few weeks, things were great. In the past week or so, though, I have been acting out: starting arguments, causing scenes, and contacting the unavailable men from my past. In short, I have been doing everything in my power to push him away. I realize that I am doing this out of fear. I am terrified that I will actually give him the power to break my heart, so I seem to be doing it for him. I don’t want to be this way. I really want to love and be loved. I am just so afraid that if that if I give someone my heart, that they won’t want it…that it will be thrown away like garbage. Acknowledging the fear is helpful, but I know that I need to do more work to make myself a whole person who is worthy of love. I am just not sure how to do it.

  • I am so glad you wrote this! I was doing fine; I’ve been doing fine. But today, after I came home from spending time with my boyfriend, I found a few old things my ex gave me and shut down. I became terrified and began thinking I don’t even like kissing him anymore. My ex caused me a great deal of harm by how he left me and that with many other things has given me the power of anxiety. Yay… Just look at what our minds can do to us, freak out when were transitioning into a new stage of our life.

  • Melissa

    Thank you Sheryl, it never fails how timely you can be. Its like for every feeling I get You have an answer and the timing is perfect. If I didnt find out about your work and come across all the helpful comments as well. I would be in this hole where I feel like I could never get up. You and my faiith in God has helped me tremendously and I wouldnt trade not going through really bad emotions and anxiety if I will never learn the things I know now :). I am so grateful, I am still a work in progress however, life is a Journey not a destination.. so im getting there again THANK YOU

  • Amaryllis

    Another beautiful piece of writing. Thank you Sheryl for always reminding us what we go through is perfectly normal. With our guidance I’ve finally come out of my cacoon; I can see my world clearly. I started consciously choosing my lovers rather than choosing based on superficial factors and I am now with a loving partner and have never been happier or more satisfied with a lover in my life. Since I consciously started acknowledging my fears I realize the root of all of my problems comes from an unresolved problem. Though I am still working through this issue, I feel so much better just by being able to identify the root of my fears. Thank you again for giving me the strength to name my fears and keep working on bettering myself.

  • Onedayatatime

    I have an app on my phone I go to every once in a while for daily sayings and sharing. Today it was “The worst prison would be a closed heart” – Pope John Paul ||. I immediately thought of you and your work. Your last paragraph is so reassuring because I can be so bogged down by the negative, the pain and the unhappiness in the world and wonder why I go up and down, wishing I could just stay positive and happy and joyous all the time. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see the hope and get stuck on “what is the purpose of life and pain and fear?” But I will be telling myself this in these dark times: this is part of being human and love and fear co-exist (got this word from a member!), the good and the dark feelings are part of the journey!

  • Isabella

    I have been doing a lot better, but lately I get very anxious over being friends with guys because I fear I will start to like them. Do you have any articles on that?