Love 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.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her e-courses and her website. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes, visit her website here.