This article will ask you one question: What is your drive? The answer to this question is either love or fear. When all is said and done, the drive behind each of our choices falls somewhere on the spectrum of love or fear.
I will talk about what this means for us as humans capable of experiencing either state of being. I will also address how we can tell whether we are driven by love or by fear. It’s essential to be aware of what drives us, because being driven by love means success. Being driven by fear means failure.
The article will also get into a common condition people are experiencing today: dissociation. If we are to be fully aware of what drives us, it is necessary to reestablish our connection to our bodies. I will also discuss a few activities we can practice to heal ourselves from dissociation.
Let’s get to it! First things first.
Defining Love and Fear
This is quite the challenge; poets, artists, philosophers, theologians, and even scientists have all endeavoured to define love and fear, since forever. For the purposes of this article I’ll be adding another definition to the long extant list. It bears to mention that love and fear are states of being we experience, and are ultimately undefinable. That doesn’t mean we can’t try, though.
I experience love as acceptance. I experience fear as rejection.
When I love someone, I accept them as they are, without wanting or needing to change anything about them. A person whom I love feels this acceptance from my part and thus allows their unabashed, unfettered self to shine through in my presence. I have found through experience that the more I love someone, the less I judge them and the more space they have to be themselves. What else can love be if not the space a person needs to fearlessly be?
Love isn’t only acceptance, it is also action. When I love someone I act to express my love, in the form of touch or service. Human love can manifest itself in as many ways as there are humans, but all forms of love have common characteristics:
- Love always heals
- Love is unconditional (“Unconditional love” is a redundancy)
- Love is nonjudgmental
- Love is for ever (believe it or not)
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, these are the common characteristics of all love I’ve experienced.
Another way of defining love is as a recognition of unity. When you recognize your unity with someone or something, you only act through love. For example, when you and your romantic partner are unified then everything that’s good for your partner is good for you and vicecersa. Love makes relationships easy; even washing the dishes becomes easy, because you know that by doing the dishes you are serving your partner, which is good for them, so it’s good for you.
On to fear…
When I fear someone or something I reject them or it. I want to change things. I experience a threat, directed at me in some way, shape or form and I want to change myself or the environment in order to disarm the threat I perceive. The only path to fear is through judgment. When we experience something and we judge it as a source of harm, we fear it. This is a natural consequence of our biological natures; our bodies and brains are fragile, fear enables us to act to avoid injury and death. Fear is useful, but it’s not always pertinent, like the fear which arises from seeing a snake by your foot, only to realize it was just a rope. Many people go through life confusing ropes for snakes, which takes a big toll on the body and mind, as you will see.
Ultimately, all fear is born from our fear of death.
Take a moment to reflect on this. Why do people fear losing their jobs? Is it because, if they lose their job they wont be able to show up at the office anymore and see their boss’s lovely face? Probably not. Or is it because they’ll lose their income? Maybe. What does losing an income mean? It also means losing housing, clothing, food, water, healthcare and social status. And where does losing those things lead? Well, losing these things could very well lead to death. Death is the end of the game for us, at least in this reality. There is nothing more we can lose after death. That’s why our fear of death is the ultimate fear, the Foundational Fear. That’s also why losing our fear of death is the ultimate freedom. Like what happened to Evey Hammond in “V for Vendetta.”
But I digress…
So there you have it, these are my simple, amateurish, imperfect definitions of love and fear. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. From here we move on to the experiences of love and fear.
The Experience Of Love And Fear
It’s impossible to define love or fear. Love and fear are states of being we must experience personally.
So let’s experience them.
If you’re a living human and are reading this it means that you have experienced love. There is no way you haven’t. Humans can’t live without love; babies who don’t receive love in the form of touch don’t survive. That experiment, as sad as it is, has been done. The fact is, humans are built for love, without it we die. Love in any form promotes healing and well-being. The experience of love has a measurable effect on our physiology. And anything that has an effect on our physiology, we feel.
So, while you might not be able to describe love in words, you are aware of it. Because you’re human. Take a moment to recall the experience of love. Sit back for a bit and do this. Recall someone or something you love. What is your experience when you bring that person or animal’s image to your mind? How do your muscles feel? What’s your body temperature like? What do you feel?
You know what it is you’re feeling. It’s love! It can’t be put into words, but you know it to be love. Feel free to smile now.
The same indescribability goes for fear. You are aware of what fear is, even if you can’t put it in words. Take a moment to briefly recall a moment when you were genuinely afraid. Really, take a moment. What was the experience like? What were you afraid of? Was there a direct threat to your life when you experienced the fear? What was your heart doing? What was your breath doing? What was your mind doing?
You know what that experience is, too. It’s fear, baby! That fear is what kept your ancestors alive for the billions of years it took to get to you. It’s there for a reason, it’s information you can use.
So, if you took the time to experience love and fear just now you have a fresh reference for what lies ahead.
Why Your Drive Matters
Love is the most powerful drive there is. Fear is the weakest. This isn’t solely a poetic adage, basic physiology supports this.
The autonomic nervous system is in charge of regulating our unconscious bodily functions, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion, pupillary response, sexual arousal and urination. The autonomic nervous system is itself divided into two branches: the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system.
The human brain-body can exist in one of two states. It can either be in a “rest-and-digest” state, handled by the parasympathetic nervous system, or a “fight-flight-or-freeze” state, handled by the sympathetic system. Unsurprisingly, the former state corresponds to being in a state of love, and the former to one of fear.
When we are relaxed, safe, in love, our body and brain are engaged in rest and digestion. Our nerves are calm, our wounds heal, our food is digested and we’re ready for sex. Being in “rest-and-digest” mode allows us to learn, to express our creativity, to plan ahead and come up with novel solutions to our challenges. People learn best and create their best work when they are relaxed and healthy.
Conversely, when we are in the “fight-flight-or-freeze” state, our bodies and minds are on alert, prepared to face danger. Our immune system is inhibited, our breathing comes shallow and fast, our digestion is halted and our vision narrows (we literally get tunnel vision). We’re also in no mood for sexy time. This state is optimum for immediate survival, but terrible for long-term health and growth.
Are you starting to see why love is the best motivator?
When we act out of love we set ourselves up for sustainable success. We are open to the experience of life; we embrace the unknown, become capable of learning new things and of wielding our creativity to manifest our deepest desires. Acting from love also ensures people around us feel calm, at peace and valued, meaning we have friends to rely on for support when we need it.
Acting from love breeds success. Acting from love IS success. When we act out of love the success is in the doing, not the result. Consequently, our work is better, because we focus entirely on it, rather than on the results of the work.
Fear, on the other hand, is only useful for when we’re facing snakes, but how often does that happen? Rarely. When we’re in fear we close ourselves off, physically and mentally, our higher thinking goes out the window and we become impulsive. Fear was essential to our ancestors’ survival, and it still is for us, but we’ve engineered a world of overwhelming safety. Most of us no longer fall prey to wild animals. Accidents happen, but most people go through their days without experiencing accidents. Interhuman violence is at an all-time low. We live in our civilization’s safest era.
We can relax. We can let go of fear.
Letting go of fear and acting out of love is the surest way to success. In order to do that we need to be able to tell when we’re being motivated by love and when by fear, so we can change our choices accordingly.
How To Tell If You’re Motivated By Love Or By Fear
Now that you’ve cultivated the experience of love and fear, and you know why love is the strongest driver there is, we can talk about how to tell which of them is motivating your choices. It takes one thing: awareness.
Our technologically advanced civilization has come with many costs for us humans. One of those costs has been the dulling of our bodily awareness. Many modern-day humans, especially in the west, have lost touch with their bodies. This is evidenced by the rise of mind-body disorders, which modern, western medicine is tragically inept at healing.
Through various mechanisms, our civilization herds us into dissociation from our internal bodily states: constant unremitting sitting, television, noise and light pollution. Things are constantly clamoring for our attention; our devices are quite literally designed to pull our attention towards them through various vibrations, pings, bloops, peeps and toots. We have paid for our round-the-clock digital connectivity with our attention. But attention, like time, is a finite and precious resource, one we must guard if we hope to focus on the things which matter.
A great place to see dissociation taking place is in a gym. Go to any gym and you’ll see people dutifully pumping iron, running on treadmills or peddling on stationary bicycles. But most won’t just be doing their exercise. They’ll be listening to music, watching television, reading books; anything to take their attention away from what their doing. Anything to redirect their attention away from the discomfort of exercise.
This redirection of attention comes with a cost. The more we do something the better we get at it, this is a fundamental mechanism of brain function. The brain is ceaselessly looking for ways to save energy by automating activities, making them habits. The more we dissociate from our present experience, the more habitual our dissociation becomes. Ask any smoker how difficult it is to quit and you’ll learn how powerful our pull towards habitual behavior is.
If dissociation is a habit then even when we’re experiencing something wonderful, like love, our habit of dissociation prevents us from actually experiencing it.
We can’t have the good without the bad. If we choose to dull ourselves to the discomfort of life, we also numb ourselves to its pleasures. The more we dissociate, the less we live. The tragic joke is that as people rush to cram more activities into their schedules, the less present they are when the results of their hard work manifest themselves.
But there is a solution to dissociation.
Take Time To Reconnect With Your Body
If you want to be able to identify whether you’re motivated by fear or love you need to be attentive to your body’s signals. No one can tell you what drives you. It is something you must decide, through personal experience.
We are embodied beings; everything we experience is through our bodies. Only by giving our bodies attention can we figure out how each of our choices changes our inner experience; whether we act out of love or out of fear.
- Yoga (Six Degree Flow is great for this)
- Walking, without devices
What’s great about these activities is that they are accessible, almost anyone can participate in them. They’re also free, unless you want to pay for a yoga class (in that case I highly recommend Six Degree Flow). This goes to show that we all have the means to improve our connection with our bodies, and hence, connect deeply to life!
Reconnecting with our bodies after years, or decades, of habitual dissociation doesn’t happen overnight. There are therapists who can help customers build internal awareness. For people who are so extremely used to dissociation, like victims of sexual violence, then a therapist might be necessary in order to heal the trauma which prevents the flow of awareness.
The key is choosing what works for you. Now you have more options to choose from!
Go Forth And Act From Love
I hope you gained something from reading this article. I will write another one in the future about my experience with being motivated by fear and how things changed when I transitioned into love (hint: it was awesome).
The world is filled with people who are motivated by fear. Fear arises from believing we are separate from each other and the universe; only fearful people hurt others. Now is when we need people to step up and claim their love. People who act out of love are incapable of hurting others. On top of that, lovers are more effective at work and at play. As we collectively progress from a state of fear to one of love, problems which have plagued us for centuries like war and poverty will resolve themselves.
All we need to do is act out of love. We’re literally built for it. I invite your comments!
Get out there and love.
To your wealth and success.