Reason doesn’t really put love and fear at odds with each other—and neither does the dictionary.
Rather, when people think of the opposite of love, they probably think of dislike, disgust, or perhaps the most common of all, hate. And when they think of the opposite of fear, they think of courage, bravery, or (somewhat obviously) fearlessness.
However, there are many people that argue that love and fear are opposites. One notable example of this is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
The Two Primary Emotions
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist best known for her model of the five stages of grief in terminally-ill patients, had some profound thoughts about love and fear.
In her book Life Lessons, Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living, co-written with David Kessler, Kübler-Ross discusses some big ideas about love and fear. Love and fear are the two primary emotions in humans. Kübler-Ross argues that all other emotions exist under these two primary emotions: either an emotion comes from a place of fear or a place of love. These core emotions underlie every other emotion we have.
Love and fear are opposites.
Love breeds positive emotions like joy, peace, and satisfaction. Fear breeds negative emotions like anger, guilt, and sadness.
Love and fear cannot coexist.
As opposites, love and fear cannot be felt at the same time. As Kübler-Ross and Kessler say, “If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear. Can you think of a time when you’ve been in both love and fear? It’s impossible.”
You have to choose between love and fear.
Since you cannot feel both love and fear at the same time, you are going to have to actively choose one or the other. And since many of us would likely rather be in a place of love than a place of fear, we have to actively choose to be in that place, rather than allowing fear to take over.
Choosing love is important if you want to accomplish what you dream of.
What would your life be like if you weren’t afraid of anything, at all, ever? What risks would you take? Fear holds us back, and as Kübler-Ross and Kessler explain, many people don’t realize just how much they were being held back until they reach the end of their life—and by then, it might be too late to do anything about it.
Understanding these big ideas about love and fear can motivate us to work to stay in a place of love. Learning how to design your thoughts and your life to keep you in that place is important for anyone who wants to live a life of meaning and fulfillment.
Love vs. fear
Keeping these big ideas in mind, we can start to break down what it looks like to choose either love or fear in our daily lives. Here are some ways love versus fear manifests itself in the real world.
Fear destroys. Love creates.
When we’re afraid of something, we’re more likely to tear it down or throw it away. Coming from a place of love, however, encourages us to create, build, or add. If you’ve written a book that gets rejected by a publisher, you might be afraid to try again, and that manuscript could sit on a shelf forever. Conversely, if you truly love your work, you’re more likely to make some edits and try again.
Fear tightens. Love releases.
If you’re afraid of losing something, you might tighten your grip on it. If you truly love it, however, you’re willing to let it go if you need to. Parents learn this lesson as their children grow up and prepare to leave home. Tightening your “grip” on your children, out of fear, will be stressful for both the child and for you, but releasing them with love will help them feel encouraged and supported, and will bring you more peace as a parent.
Fear breeds domination. Love breeds cooperation.
When someone is afraid of losing control, it’s easy for them to become domineering. Love, on the other hand, breeds cooperation. Think of a couple in a relationship. Loving couples are more likely to work together to create a life and a home that both of them are happy with. But if one or both of the parties starts to live in fear, they may start acting dominant as a way of exerting control.
Fear hesitates. Love acts.
Fear often keeps us from doing things we otherwise really want to do. Love, on the other hand, pushes us toward those goals and encourages us to act in order to make our dreams a reality.
The biggest distinction
As we see it, the biggest distinction between love and fear is this:
Love is positive. It is proactive. It looks at the goal and says, “Yes, we can do that. Let’s get going.” It involves love of the goal, love of yourself, and love of the steps you’ll need to take to get you there. You move toward the goal, ready and willing to face whatever challenges pop up along the way.
Fear is negative. It is reactive. It looks at the goal and says, “No, we can’t do that. Let’s get away.” When you’re fearful, you fear that your goal isn’t achievable, that you aren’t capable, or that your plan couldn’t possibly get you to where you want to go. So, instead of moving toward the goal, you move away from it. You’re unwilling to even try to face those challenges, so you convince yourself that the goal isn’t worth fighting for.
Learning to love
With all that said, how can we learn to live our lives in a place of love? How can we develop the optimism and positivity that love requires?
- Begin with the end in mind. What does a “loving” version of you look like? Try asking yourself: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Uncovering the answer to this question can help you discover powerful motivation.
- Be aware of your fear. What fearful thoughts do you have right now? How often do you have them? Are they triggered by anything in particular? Understanding your fears will only help as you work to dispel them.
- Design your thoughts. Your thoughts have power. Love or fear stem from your thoughts. If you can help yourself think thoughts that bring you to a place of love, you’ll find yourself in that place.
- Use positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are a great tool for anyone who is trying to think more positively about themselves or the world around them. If you want to learn more about writing effective positive affirmations for yourself, read this.
There’s a reason people have been studying human emotion for centuries: it can seem like a pretty complicated topic. But if we boil it down to the basics—to love and fear—and we realize what living in a place of love can do for our lives, then we can start to unravel the mysteries of human thought and emotion, and start to create a better life for ourselves.
If you’re ready to start designing a life of love instead of fear, start by learning about our Egg framework and taking our free assessment. We’ll show you where to start, and we’ll guide you on your journey forward with personalized coaching.
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