— Yoko Ono from Ed and Deb Shapiro's book, The Way Ahead
Everyone knows fear. It can come in an instant and throw you into chaos, yet it can also save your life. Fear is a natural response to physical danger, but it can also be self-created, such as the fear of failure, being out of control, being different or being lonely. There is a fear of the future and of death. You may fear love because you fear being rejected; fear being generous because you fear you will not have enough; fear sharing your thoughts or feelings in case you appear wrong; and fear trusting because you are dominated by self-doubt and insecurity.
This self-generated fear is found in its acronym: F.E.A.R. or False Evidence Appearing Real. It appears real, even though it is a fear of the future and is not happening now. Therefore, it has no real substance, arising when the ego-self is threatened, which makes you cling to the known and familiar. Such fear creates untold worry, apprehension, nervous disorders and even paranoia.
The immediate effect of fear is to shut you down, and—in particular—to shut off the heart. Just for a moment, let your body take the stance of feeling fearful. What is your posture? Most people hunch their shoulders forward, fold their arms across their chests, or assume a similarly contracted position to shield the heart, fear having triggered the need to be on the defensive. In this self-protective place, the heart goes out of reach, and you cannot feel love or even friendliness. Try saying "I love you" with real meaning while your arms are firmly folded across your heart—hard to do!
As long as you push away, deny or ignore fear, it will hold you captive and keep you emotionally frozen, unable to move forward. In that place, you become untrusting of love and spontaneity; you get angry or hide. But where fear contracts and closes the heart—resisting love—love expands and opens the heart, embracing fear.
"There's a world of love and there's a world of fear, and it's standing right in front of you," said Bruce Springsteen in his 1992 interview with David Hepworth for Q Magazine. "And, very often, that fear feels a lot realer and certainly more urgent than the feeling of love. The night my son was born, I got close to a feeling of real, pure, unconditional love with all the walls down. All of a sudden, what was happening was so immense that it just stomped all the fear away. But I also understood why you are so frightened. When that world of love comes rushing in, a world of fear comes in with it. To open yourself up to one thing, you've got to embrace the other as well."
How to look at fear through the eyes of love