2014-02-14

Put your heart into it

Today marks a day on which many people celebrate Valentine's Day, the current incarnation of "Lupercalia" (The Wolf Festival). I'm still blissfully ignorant as to whether anyone uses the bloody flesh of a goat in their Valentine's Day celebrations, but I do know that society does put a focus on matters of the heart today. (Read my Wolf Festival article, if you're confused about my goat reference.)

Love is a prominent element in human culture. Our bodily systems physiologically reward us by and for the exchange of love. In fact, the neurological system that is keyed to that deep-set physiological response is the limbic system; the same system I find myself absolutely fascinated with in my studies of fear.

Fear and Love are tied very closely physiologically and they both have rippling effects on many other aspects of our lives. In my other psychology-related articles, I've talked about how fear can affect the mind and how we can begin to benefit from our attempts to "experience the challenge" by stepping outside our comfort zone. The comfort zone exists in love as well; in fact, it is love within that defines the boundaries of our comfort zone.

Love manifests itself in the form of many emotions: caring, comfort, empathy, intimacy, safety, security, sharing, and most of all trust. If you invert those emotions, you'll see some that are recognizable as a manifestation of fear or a subset of it: aggravation, danger, doubt, hate, neglect, selfishness, and vulnerability.

Managing and overcoming fear is a significant challenge and a commendable effort and process. Building a loving relationship also presents a similar emotional challenge. Reflecting on my discussion of challenge, you'll remember that I've established that each person's challenges, their fears, are their own. Some people may be challenged by different things than others, but that makes them no more or less significant to the individual facing them.

As we journey through our lives, hopefully savoring every bit of its deliciousness, we have opportunities to face our fears and to find ways to embrace love.
"The best proof of love is trust." -- Dr. Joyce Brothers
Love is not limited to a form shared only between you and a romantic partner. Love is the bond that unites us with those aspects of our life that we value most: people, places, hobbies, pets, our world, everything. Most of all, love is a bond we should build within ourselves. By freeing ourselves from fear and exposing our vulnerability, we are exercising trust. We are giving ourselves and others an opportunity to choose freely what bond they would like to form with us. In so doing, we open our hearts and minds to truly experiencing love.

It takes courage to open your heart and expose your vulnerability and fear, whether those fears are of an experience (heights, depths, enclosed spaces), creatures (spiders, dogs, horses), or relationships (friends, companions, ourselves). Sometimes things won't go the way you hope and you might feel a bit of panic, as you experience the unexpected outcome. However, if we hide away behind our fears, we will never discover the possibilities that await us beyond them. We limit our life and shrink our comfort zone when we give up trust and forfeit our freedom to fear. I invite you to take on the challenge of trust today. Journey inward to discover what love you have locked behind the bars of fear. And, as with any life-fulfilling endeavor, put your heart into it.

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