Psychologists believe there are two basic emotions humans experience—love and fear. All others fit underneath these tidy categories.
Driving through a winter snowstorm, I’m afraid other drivers might not stop and slide into me. My fear grips the steering wheel.
Sitting in the quiet at dawn with a cup of steamy coffee in my hands and my dog snoring at my feet, I am warmed by peace, comfort, and love.
When we become aware of which emotion—love or fear—we experience throughout the day, we’re then be able to center ourselves, perhaps flip our mindset from fear into love by a mere change in perspective.
As I maneuver my Jeep through icy winter streets, I shift from fear of other drivers to gratitude that I’m safe. I have a warm car, a loving family, a nice job. Despite the icy road conditions, my life is good. By refocusing my thoughts, I sigh the fear away.
When we face a life challenge or difficulty in a relationship, we often get trapped with fear by focusing on the “what ifs.” What if I fail? What if he or she leaves me? What if others see my flaws?
During the Great Depression, then President Franklin Roosevelt told the nation the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. He reminded Americans that if our fear is strong enough, it can immobilize us and leave us paralyzed.
For many of us, the only thing we have to fear is success. We’ve been long told we’re bad, we’re flawed. Even many of our faith traditions rub our noses in our imperfections—our sins. And while that might gift us with a good dose of humility, the “I’m bad and flawed” approach to life can often trap us with doubt about ourselves—another aspect of fear.
What if, instead, we focused on love and success? Would we then be able to change the negative tapes in our heads to a more truthful perspective, such as I’m a good person. I’m not perfect. I am, however, perfectly human. And when I set my mind to working out a troubled relationship or challenge by taking meaningful action steps, eventually life unfolds and things get better.
Don Clifton, the father of strengths psychology and the inventor of the Strength Finders assessment, said that by focusing on our strengths, not our weaknesses, we put our energy into developing our unique talents. We shift our attention away from fear and failure to success and love.
Clifton was a pioneer. His wisdom echoes the 12-Step motto, “If I focus on the problem, the problem increases. If I focus on the solution, the solution increases.”
For the next week, notice the inner shift between love and fear within yourself. When you fill with fear, name it, and then let it go by refocusing on what’s good about you, your life, and your ability to succeed with earnest effort. When you experience love, receive it as a gift, and lift it up to the Creator with gratitude.
Choose love, not fear.
—brian j plachta