Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.
Posted: May 01, 2014 by Jennie Hagen
As a practitioner of yoga, I’ve learned many pieces of yogi philosophy that speak to me both as a counselor and a human. One of the first things I learned that still sticks with me years later is this: The opposite of fear is love.
It’s one of those concepts that’s so simple, and yet can feel so complex. Fear is something we all deal with, and it can be very powerful. Here, I’ll present three real-life examples of fear that people deal with, and describe ways that love can counteract the impact fear has on our lives.
1. Fear of change can keep us stuck in an unhappy situation. Raise your hand if you’ve never been in this scenario. Yeah, me either. It’s almost a basic part of the human experience. The good news is that identifying this pattern can help us get out of it. Love can help us identify the pattern by giving us motivation to change. This can come from love for ourselves, or love for another. Either one helps inspire us to be better, as well as giving us a life raft to hang on to when things get really scary. If you can say “I love myself enough to not settle for something that makes me miserable,” you can hang on to that thought when things are bumpy. And things will probably get bumpy at some point, so it’s nice to have something to fall back on to get us through.
2. Fear of our own darkness can keep it hidden, which gives it power over us. Not sure what I mean by darkness? It’s that thought or memory hidden in the back of your mind that brings up uncomfortable emotions when you think about it. It’s that piece of information you would rather no one knew about that brings up feelings of shame. It’s that worst-case scenario that takes up residence in your mind or heart, and it feels like repressing it is the best way to deal with it. In my role as a counselor, I help people look at that darkness in a safe and meaningful way, to lessen its power. And the way we do that is through love. Having compassion for yourself, taking good care of yourself, and being gentle with yourself are all ways to approach the darkness with more love than fear. And the benefits of doing this are huge. When we are able to shine light on the darkness and begin to release it, we discover all the ways that we let it hold us back. Its power over us becomes lessened, and there’s a new incredible freedom to be found.
3. Fear of rejection or vulnerability can keep us isolated. Fear loves to keep us isolated – it does its best work when we’re alone with our thoughts and emotions. It accomplishes this by telling us things like “I shouldn’t bother other people with my problems” or “I should be able to figure this out on my own.” But the truth is that sharing vulnerability with a trusted person helps us see things in new ways, and can have astonishing healing power. Just being heard and understood creates a feeling of love that gives us freedom to see our problems in a new way, and reminds us that our happiness is worth fighting for. It can be a scary proposition to reach out for connection – whether from a trusted friend or a new counselor – but the rewards we reap make it worth the investment.
Jennie Hagen, LPC, LMHC, is a liscensed professional counselor in Portland, OR. You can find out more about her practice by visiting her website or her profile.
Tags: mood and feelings, anxiety, life transition
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