How To Bring Back The Love On Valentine’s Day
Today is Valentine’s Day, a global day of celebration for love. Although for many people, whether they get a big bunch of flowers, chocolates or fancy dinners or not, feeling love simply won’t happen today.
There’s one big barrier to feeling love….FEAR. Having spent a lot of my life in some state of fear or anxiety I know all too well that the feelings of fear and love cannot co-exist simultaneously. We may feel one, or the other, but not both at the same time. We can have the most wonderful partner in our life but if we are in a state of fear or anxiety, then love will be absent and a feeling of disconnect will take over.
It’s a remarkable design of the body to protect us from dangerous situations. Our body’s primary objective over everything else is survival. If we are faced with a marauding tribe or a sabre tooth higher on the open plains, our body would immediately shift into sympathetic nervous system state. This would change the brain functionality from the frontal lobe of creativity and intuition into the survival mode of reptilian brain. Our breathing would change, our pulse would beat faster and our blood sugar levels would increase. But more importantly, our biochemistry would change. Our body will start pumping cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine into the blood and cut out any release of melatonin, serotonin and oxytocin. Oxytocin is the biochemical responsible for generating the sensations of love, empathy and kindness. When faced with a dangerous situation that may require you to fight or flee, the sensations of kindness, empathy and love are not going to be very useful at this point so for efficiency, the body shuts down any release of these biochemicals.
This is all well and good on the wild plains 10,000 years ago however in our nice comfortable and safe environment of modern day society, this extreme stress response doesn’t have the same requirements. I’m noticing ever increasing levels of anxiety, overwhelm and stress in the world today. With this will come reduced levels of empathy, love and kindness. This is a big price to pay, for a society without love empathy and kindness is not a society I’d like to contemplate too much.
There is a distinct correlation to feeling fear and egotism, ie. our attention being centred directly on ourselves. Anxiety and fear is all about the ‘I’, the ego. It’s extreme narcissism and when you are in that state of anxiety and panic, it’s very difficult to switch over to feeling love and kindness for others. In that state the ego demands all of our attention and everyone else’s needs get ignored. We shift from feeling part of a community, with the ability to feel connectedness with others, to being self-centred and self-obsessed. Anxiety and fear wreak havoc on our relationships, depriving the vessel of it’s most essential ingredient for it to flourish….LOVE. If even someone is showing us levels of love, in this state we are unable to feel it or acknowledge it.
There is a way to change this and it’s not by trying to feel love. That simply won’t work. Something has to happen before love enters the picture. We have to shift out of the sympathetic nervous system state to reduce fear and anxiety, so that oxytocin can be produced and love can prevail. If we want happy healthy loving relationships then we have to eradicate fear first. Sounds simple I know, however it does require some steps which I have listed here that can help reduce fear and anxiety in the body.
1. Twice a day meditation. When we quiet the mind, we move the body out of the hyper stimulated state of sympathetic nervous system state and into parasympathetic nervous system where the reversal of SNS occurs. The body spontaneously will produce more serotonin, melatonin and oxytocin in that quiet state. The challenge is that when we are stressed and anxious, sitting still in meditation can be quite difficult which leads me to the next step
2. Physical exercise. Work out, get up a sweat and burn off some of the cortisol! Sitting in a chair all day or slothing on the sofa aint going to cut it…you have to release those biochemicals that are expecting you to run from danger or fight your way out of it.
3. Re-wire your brain. Sounds like a complex process but really it means change the way you think. Our minds can default to fear based thoughts vey easily…mine certainly has a tendency to do this and so I’ve spent many years working on recoding my mind to think differently. Anxiety and fear is our mind distorting our currently reality and creating a fantasy world of future scenarios that aren’t real. So observing the mind and catching it before it leaps forward in to fear based fantasy land is key to being calm. As Eckhart Tolle says: “All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.”
4. Connect with Being. This comes back to point one. In deep meditation we surrender our individual status and transcend all forms and phenomenon. WE become one with presence and pure awareness. We simply are. Amness. Being. Self. No story, no drama, no future, no past. In Being we become one with unconditional love. We discover we are love. It shines out of us. The ego or small self fades and what fades with it are all of its fear based sensations and thoughts. As Anita Moorjani said in her book ‘Dying To Be Me’: “I knew that was really the only purpose of life: to be the love that we are.”
Love is our essence and fear will hijack it from you. It’s like a thief that sneaks in and steals it from you and from your relationships. To reconnect to our lovingness, we have to remove fear first. Less fear more love. That sounds like a much nicer world doesn’t it? Happy Valentine’s Day!
Tom is a meditation teacher, author, corporate speaker and personal coach. He provides group coaching through his Zen Academy for Transformational Leadership. To find out more about joining this global community click here.