Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

When You Don't Choose Love You Choose Fear

--by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler (Jan 18, 2010)

If we could literally reach into you and remove all your fears – every one of them – how different would your life be? Think about it. If nothing stopped you from following your dreams, your life would probably be very different. This is what the dying learn. Dying makes our worst fears come forward to be faced directly. It helps us see the different life that is possible, and in that vision, takes the rest of our fears away.

Unfortunately, by the time the fear is gone most of us are too sick or too old to do those things we would have done before, had we not been afraid. […] Thus, one lesson becomes clear: we must transcend our fears while we can still do those things we dream of.

To transcend fear though, we must move somewhere else emotionally; we must move into love.

Happiness, anxiety, joy, resentment -- we have many words for the many emotions we experience in our lifetimes. But deep down, at our cores, there are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt.

It's true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it's more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They're opposites. 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.

We have to make a decision to be in one place or the other. There is no neutrality in this. If you don't actively choose love, you will find yourself in a place of either fear or one of its component feelings. Every moment offers the choice to choose one or the other. And we must continually make these choices, especially in difficult circumstances when our commitment to love, instead of fear, is challenged.

Having chosen love, doesn't mean you will never fear again. In fact it means that many of your fears will come up to finally be healed. This is an ongoing process. Remember that you will become fearful after you've chosen love, just as we become hungry after we eat. We must continually choose love in order to nourish our souls and drive away fear, just as we eat to nourish our bodies and drive away hunger.

--Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler from "Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living"

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On Jan 19, 2010 Brandi wrote:

The questions posed in the reading is, "Can you think of a time that you felt both been in love and fear?"

I wanted to say yes immediately, simply because my love has caused so much fear in my life. But then I realized that fear and love, even if closely linked, happen at two distinct moments. When I do operate out of love and let it stay in my heart, I operate with great strength and faith and a knowledge that I am connected to something bigger. I don't just believe in this connection. I feel it. Fear may come directly after, but it is a seperate moment.

I may begin to fear this faith that I have found, or this connection that I feel because it doesn't seem to be concrete. I can't physically show it to other people. I can't prove that I know my heart/body/soul are on the right track. But that fear comes from the logical part of my brain. The one who keeps thinking to make sure I am safe and in control.

So, no fear doesn't exist at the same time as love, but if we doubt it, doubt that we deserve it, doubt that we should be allowed to spread it or share it, doubt that we are capable of feeling are sharing it, fear sets in.

Once when I was freaking out over the Christian notions of sins during a meditation, I heard a voice say "Fear is the only true sin. It is the only thing that separates you from god, and your true self. Everything that we have categorized as sinful has it's roots planted in fear."


On Jan 19, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

I can hear Pancho say BAMMMM!

This is a lovely piece that hits the nail on the head. I understood "love" not in a mushy, intimate sense, but in a universal, connected sense, where my sense of "I" encompasses much more than my own well-being.

Just today, my sociology professor was sharing some wisdom with me. He said that as babies, we have no sense of "I." We have to be repeatedly indoctrinated through our interactions with others in order to develop this sense. We derive our sense of "I" only in relation with others. And therefore, this "I" can be very different with different people.

With love, it seems to me, that we are reversing this indoctrination, and going back to the bliss of a baby. After much analysis, it seems only sensible to want to believe that which leads to good experiences. We don't even have to be blind about this - we could bet on love, and see for ourselves what experiences and transformations follow to decide if we want to love more, or less.

But this love cannot be the kind that binds. In the book "Notes to Myself," Hugh Prather has these gems on love:

"Wanting to be loved, to be lovable, is not really a desire for how I want to be, but for how I want others to be."

'Love is the vision that can see all as one and one as all." "Love shows me where all minds and essences unite." "How do I get love? I have it. I must drop my definitions of love. Love is not saying nice things to people or smiling or doing good deeds. Love is love. Don't strive for love, be it." "All my life I have made it complicated, but it is so simple. I love when I love. And when I love, I am my self."

My advisor once shared this story. At a thesis defence, he had a student who was terribly afraid of his questioning. Just before the exam began, with great intention and love, my advisor told him that he had passed the exam as far as the advisor was concerned. From that point on, the student was able to free himself from his fears - he was touched by something much higher than judgment, that he did an outstanding job in the exam.

Love is such a practical tool in our toolbox and it is astonishing that this four letter word does not make it into any business school class! We transform ourselves when we love, and therefore, as we have changed, our world has changed.

With love for everyone who make Wednesdays happen...

On Jan 20, 2010 SWAPAN KR.HALDAR wrote:
 "we must continually choose love in order to nurish our soul and drive awaya  fear,just as we eat to nurish our bodies and drive awaya hunger"
it is true that we eat to drive awaya the hunger but we eat when we feel hungry,we do not keep a choice to eat continually to keep the hunger awaya,we do not generate a craving for eating continually to overcome the hunger.
love is natural,sponteneous and unconditional.a flower is blooming,a bird is singinging ,a stream is flowing all are natural, unconditional and we can't keep a choice on them for their continuity.keeping a continuous choice on love and object of love may lead to craving and be a cause for fear.people commit sucide when someone's hero fail in their the love become horror and creats an underline action of fear in mind and love can be compare with "haven is an inward experience, an experience in consciousness".
similarly, all the souls exprience fear, no soul can be escaped from choice fear can't be kept awaya or we may be trapped in to the deepness of fear by more one should have  goodness to experience or observe the fear consciously.thus fear, the negative energy is converted to a positive force, love.

On Jan 21, 2010 shivaram wrote:

absolutly,excellent qoete

On Jan 21, 2010 Prakash wrote:

Just this morning, over a chat with my wife, I said, "you know what? I was just reading this week's iJourney passage and if we were there at this Wed, I would have loved to share this quote that just popped out, anyway, since we were unable to go, sharing with you as I am sure it will ripple out and reach long and far" it goes like this - "Love is God, God is Love".

Love the Wednesdays :-)


On Jan 21, 2010 Atul Balshiram Pokharkar wrote:
Love is necessary for enjoying the moment of life.

On Jan 24, 2010 sushil wrote:

of course it's quite heartening to be relieved of our fears,but inherent insecurity in love breeds fear.I don't think it is ever possible to lead a life ,minus fear.Though theoretically feelings of love n fear may be  taking place a moment apart.

On Jan 25, 2010 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that _I'm choosing_ to love you all :-)

BAAM! indeed beloved hermano Somik. This passage has so much material to learn from. This is a complementary comment of what I shared in the circle last Wednesday. As usual, the jewels shared by the people before me, inspired me to formulate the three points:

1. The Universal Love, Stillness and Fearlessness.
2. The story of Rea, the dog.
3. A question "?"

1. The Universal Love, Stillness and Fearlessness.
I was so inspired when I came back from Wednesday that I wrote a poem. It reflects pretty much what I said that night:

The True Red Pencil**
Emerged from the kisses of your eyes
was my need to be in love with all life;
the kind of love and the will
that come when the mind is still.

I didn’t know what real love was
until I loved all.
When my mind is still
I see everybody as my own self,
as my own blood.

At the still center within the heart,
same spot where the dagger pierced,
is where I found you, Beloved One.

Painful if we resist.
Joyful if we surrender...
to its petals
to its divine flow
to its detached nature.

We can never know what real joy is
until the mind is still…
a mind at rest and a heart full of love
is the true red pencil that panted
these verses from above.

A sister, right before me, shared how fearless she felt in many ways, physically and morally speaking, and her loving kind nature reminded me the words of Vinoba Bhave:

"This is real love and real love is possible only in a state of fearlessness. But how does a person develop this quality so that she/he can shed fear? Such woman/man fears anybody nor makes anyone afraid of her/him. The same is true for a free man/woman. It is characteristic of him/her that he/she neither submits to anyone nor keeps anybody in submission. One who causes fear in others cannot be termed as fearless and one who keeps others in bondage cannot be called free."

When it was my turn, I said something like: "Sister, I'm positive of your fearlessness!"


2. The story of Rea, the dog.

The beginning of the Wednesday circle was opened by brother Niel. He shared how he conceived fear and love, and made a powerful analogy between ignorance and wisdom. Inevitably, those words evoked in me the early teachings of my dad, a lover of Science, when he used to tell me how the Neanderthal men were, probably, scared to dead when they were in the middle of a thunder storm. Our ancestors needed to invent many human-like gods to explain what they couldn't understand. Then, I knew the perfect story to share.

That Wednesday's afternoon, we had a thunderstorm in Berkeley. In the almost 6 years I have been in the Bay Area this is the second time I hear a thunder, not like Mexico City where thunders occur very frequently. This time it was a thunder storm. Many of the thunders must have been discharged very closely since the ground, homes and buildings were shaking in very powerful way. I was in a positive shock of awe and wonder saying to myself: "

wow Mother Nature, you are phenomenal and powerful, I know this is just a beautiful reminder to tell us how fragile we, humans, are."

As I was enjoying the thunder storm and the fierce winds and seeing the patterns of the pouring water, the officemate who works upstairs was ready to leave the office with her two dogs... and I thought I was radical! ;-)

The big dog, Rea, was the first one trying to leave. She was visibly shaking and with her long tail between the legs. The little one, Kanji, was afraid too. A concerned sister Eve said:

"Rea is very afraid of thunders, she was below the desk shaking and now she just wants to go home. Kanji doesn't like thunders either."

The Metta Center office is warm, so as I did some mimic to attract Kanji's attention, I invented them to come in.

"Why don't you wait a little bit until the storm calms a little bit?"

Eva accepted, carried Rea and brought her by the heater. Suddenly Kanji was happy and jumped up and down in an invitation to play with me. An offer hard to resist. Then all the attention was put into the suffering Rea. Eva told me how the cloth she had tied on Rea's tummy was trying to resemble the love of a hug of a mother when they are puppies. We talk sweet to her, caressed her, but then... another thunder!

"Everything is ok beautiful" "We are here with you Rea"

. Little Kanji hesitated a bit, but he stayed equanimous ;-)

More sweet words, more love, we didn't stop caressing her and even Kanji started kissing Rea! The four of us could feel the warm not only from the heater but from each other. After a few minutes, the calm words of Eve were in the air, she was lying on the comfy carpet, in the middle of the office, I was on the floor too, Kanji was happy and then:

Rea's tail came out from between the legs! And not only that! She lied down and rolled 90 degrees, inviting us to caress her tummy!

Another thunder, she stud up, but it took her a few seconds to recover. It was a beautiful experiment of mirror neurons (mimicking the movements, feelings and emotions of mammals!) and how to spread love among all living beings. Love over fear. Fear dissolves in the presence of love.

3. A question "?"

Yes, anger, fear and hatred are contagious, but so as peace of mind, love and courage. What would we like to spread in this World?

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.


** Someone with muse powers, gifted me a red pencil that night at the Mehta kindness temple... therefore the title of the poem ;-)

On Jan 25, 2010 Gloria Ives wrote:

 I believe Elizabeth Kubler Ross's words are so powerful her life experiences are valuable tools we've gotten the benefit to learn from. this Love/fear concept is so true. It takes some undoing, of past lessons. How do we then, when we learn to respond from love, when what we realize, is that all we've known is fear-based responses? In the past, I've prayed for the holy spirit to guide my words, yet, I still succumb to self doubt. I guess, If I fully trust in the holy spirit to guide and direct my words, then my words are his not mine, and I shouldn't doubt the words that are spirit led.....

Any response would be gratefuly recieved ;)

On Apr 10, 2010 Isha wrote:

I agree that basically there are two emotions that fill our lives- love and fear. The author says that one cannot experience both these feelings at the same time. Here I beg to disagree. I have been in many situations when even though you feel love for a person/ situation there is still fear at the same moment. Its a mixed feeling. Or haven't we all , at least once in a lifetime , felt scared to tell someone that we love him/her , to open our hearts because of fear of being hurt/ misunderstood and so on... So , what I have gathered from the article is that its an ideal situation when one is either in love or in fear. And its a state one would like to strive for...

On Feb 23, 2012 alan dolit wrote:
 The introduction to A Course in Miracles states "The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught.  It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance.  The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.
This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
 Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
 Herein lies the peace of God.

On Feb 23, 2012 Jeanne wrote:
 This spoke very clearly to me. I was reading it and thinking how my daughter needed to hear this. Then, I realized that my fear and anxiety about my daughter cutting off our relationship, needed to be met with only love. My fear that she may never decide to be a part of our family keeps me from focusing on the love I feel for her. And keeps me from being happy. I'm going to focus on the love, the years we had together, and then hope the loving energy is sent and leads her back to her family.

On Feb 24, 2012 Shan wrote:
 I have had a clear understanding for some years now that every positive stems from love and every negative stems from fear - of course to always achieve love is easier said than done however, nothing like an article like this to remind me to work harder towards love - awesome article thank you :D

On Apr 9, 2012 juan wrote:
 I belive love and fear can exist at the same time.. In a relationship, one can feel love for someone. At the same time, he/she can also feel fear of loosing the one he/she loves. In other words, its a case to case basis. :)

On Apr 13, 2012 ash ayesha wrote:
 this article depicts my feelings and also one of my dear friend .,,,, who lost the faith on love,,,, fear has occupied on our feelings so much that we start judging the people who love us,,, we have built such a strong wall around us that none can come near to us. this type of fear is somewhat different from the fear  when we are in love . that type of fear is losing someone whom you love . i am talking about that fear when you lose your trust after after loving ones..... this type o fear just make u more skeptical towards loving person. you fear to give space to other people.

On May 6, 2012 Suchita wrote:
 Beautiful thought... But in present time people generally go for fear in different forms rather than love... Might be to carry Love is a real courageous act ...

On May 6, 2012 Elly wrote:
 If you love someone along with that carry  this fear of loosing the one then it shows you not sure of the one you Love or else have no faith on your love.

On Jul 7, 2013 Elizabeth wrote:

 Love is such a tricky thing to define.  I would probably classify it as a state of being rather than an emotion.  It is much more than an emotion.  Things we commonly mistake for love are :affection, desire, lust, familiarity, interest, infatuation, want.  Love is none of these.  Instead these are all different versions of fear.  Love is more like acceptance without expectance.  Love wants nothing, not even to be requited.  Love is not full, it is the emptiness...that's why it is impossible to hold on to.  Love is not a feeling but the purest of motives. 

On Jul 7, 2013 Elizabeth Z. wrote:

PLEASE TAKE THIS AS MY OPINION ONLY:  the spirit you are asking for is one that is separate from you.  You want to trust the spirit and let it lead you, but you don't want to lose yourself...THIS IS FEAR.  The biggest fear I've noticed in human beings is the fear of 'loss of self.'  Everyone has a self and nobody knows anything without the filter of the self.  Would you still want to be led by the spirit if it meant losing yourself?  That means you wouldn't have your life's memories, you wouldn't know your friends or your family, you wouldn't even know who you are...but you would be completely led by the spirit.  Are you willing to give up your sense of self in order to be a vessel of the spirit?  You wouldn't even know it once you gave up yourself, because you wouldn't be you anymore.


On Jul 22, 2013 AK47 wrote:

With so much content/media being pushed towards us about dreams, hopes, passion, ambition, growth etc. its easy to fall into the trap of following what the general opinion is about such things.

Connecting with and cultivating a relationship with the true source of love might be a matter of pure Grace and complete surrender which in itself is can only be experienced. 

On Jan 12, 2014 denis khan wrote:

 "So the divine love is sacrificial love. Love does not mean to have and to own and to possess. 
It means to be had and to be owned and to be possessed. It is not a circle circumscribed by self, it is arms outstretched to embrace all humanity within its grasp." - - Archbishop Fulton Sheen"

On Jun 2, 2014 PRae wrote:

 No it cannot...because as you fear you lose the confidence & security of love. If you always exercise love, always turn your fear thoughts towards love, that is all there is room for. (Btw - being 'in love' is quite different from 'being' love.)

On Jul 24, 2014 p.niharika wrote:


On Aug 9, 2014 Akshay Sadana,NJ (New Jersey) wrote:

 I was writing my comment but some how it seems that either i pressed the wrong key or it got erased and as such i am writing it again.
Fear is one thing from which no one in this universe has escaped 
Every one fears some thing or the other but i am going to tell you one thing which is going to change your life all together and you will realise that you have wasted your precious time and life in fearing what you should not have done.
The interesting and the most strange thing is that we have the worst fears and in other words fiear the thing which have not actually happened but is actually yet to happen. It means we never fear or are worried about today.  We are just worried about tomorrow. Which is not in our hands and is yet to come. This may happen or not happen is uncertain but most of the times it does not actually happen and we go on worrying and fearing making our life miserable where we could have lived in peace without worrying.

I am taking an extreme case: We have got a life, we don't know how long we shall live and we live fearlessly. But if we know we are going to die after 5 years (Like we have cancer) we will  not be able to live comfortable today. We shall just ruine our these five years. Which again is not certain as there may be some new medicine which may ultimately cure us and may increase our life span or we may culturally die tomorrow by some accident. So nothing is sure, but we just the fear makes us not live our life today comfortably.

That is the way we never worry for today when and where we are today but we just worry for tomorrow that is not in our hands and is not certain.

So if we just leave this tomorrow in that is in the hands of god we shall be able to live comfortably without fear and suffering.

If you just relax and think you will always find what you feared yesterday and years back has actually not happened or has rather never happened but you lost that precious time what you could enjoy or could have lived peacefully.

I will suggest, please leave tomorrow in the hands of God and live today without fear. Tomorrow is going to wonderful as God has never planned continuous misfortunes for you rather he has created a solution for all your problems and you are bound to get a solution for you all problems and fears.

So leave the fear and live happily.

On Sep 29, 2014 Akshay Sadana New Jersey (NJ) wrote:

 Isha, I do agree to you that both the thing exist at the same time because without one there is no existence of the other. The more you love more you fear, lesser you love lesser you fear.
It is great to know that some one loves you and just at the same moment a fear starts in our mind : Will he continue me loving like this all the time? and so with one (Love) the other(Fear) has got existence and without the one the other does not exist.

When we take this in reference to God when we start praying god or get devoted to god or start loving god we start fearing , we may not do any thing to annoy him- and that way with one the other takes existence, if we don't love god we don't fear any thing.

On Mar 7, 2015 Sima wrote:

 Great! Thank you.

On Jan 15, 2016 Austin wrote:

"To transcend fear though, we must move somewhere else emotionally; we must move to love" YES! That's exactly it. I wrote something similar today

On Aug 10, 2016 Akshay Sadana wrote:

 When you don't love the biggest fear is loosing the love.

Actually in our life when we love some one it is not we love some one, It is actually that  we want other person  should love us and he loves us.

When we say we do not love. It is the other person is not giving us response.

This fear of rejection is the biggest fear.

On Oct 17, 2016 Tatjana wrote:


On Nov 16, 2016 Puja wrote:

 Fear is always about what will happen next. That means it is about something which Does not exist. If your fear is non-existant that means it is imaginary. If you are rooted in the present, in realty, there would be no fear. There is no point to put all your energies and imagine the worst and be fearful. At most what will happen- you will die. Well,  everyone has to die someday. so might as well be fearless and live our life to the fullest in present moment.

love is not something we do. Love is something we are. Anyone can be a loving person. We just sometimes use the other person the unlock this quality. Instead if we unlock it from within, it will be more enduring. 😊

On Feb 18, 2017 kuhajeyan wrote:

 Great! Words to live by, I wish I had known this fact very earlier in life!

On Mar 24, 2017 frank michael wrote:


On May 10, 2017 Gill wrote:

 You say that love and fear are the only two primary emotions and that all other emotions come from them but you give not one iota of evidence. Is this just a wild theory proposed by someone or is there some rational basis for it? It does not tally with my own experience of myself at all. There are many emotions which are neither fear nor love. When I oversleep and hence miss something I've been looking forward to there is disappointment but not fear. Fear needs a focus, something to be afraid of, and there is nothing to be afraid of here. When I go out of my way to get my hands on the puzzle page of the morning newspaper there is enthusiasm and a geeky hunger for puzzle solving but I would not call it love. Then there is a very basic emotion, disgust, which has its own dedicated area of the brain; this makes sense when you consider that disgust is our emotional protection from touching or imbibing poisonous, diseased, or otherwise toxic substances. In neurological terms, disgust is more primary than fear, though introspection doesn't suggest that it is. In fact, psychologists and scientists haven't trusted introspection for accurate observation for over a century because it is a terribly unreliable method. In short, I don't agree with your article at all. It may be reiterating the words of notable spiritual writers and speakers but it is a million miles away from anything which has a rational or empirical basis. It's just wild speculation.

On May 22, 2017 Shawn wrote:

 ". When I oversleep and hence miss something I've been looking forward to there is disappointment but not fear."

Why do you miss it?  Why are you disappointed?

On Jul 6, 2017 Tom wrote:

 Gill, if you are extremely curious and you do enough research you will understand this article a lot more. 

On Mar 7, 2018 Brett wrote:

 Disappointment I'd relate more to sadness, BUT..
The point of describing things in love and fear, is, I think, to point out that we can either move towards things or away from things. Attachment and detachment. Gill, I'd wager that you experience fear as your primary state more often than not; I know I have until becoming aware of it tonight. If you experience more negative emotions than positive in response to, say, a Facebook feed, this indicates a disposition of rejection or avoidance of those items. If you follow fear to its rational end, we can only either avoid something or eliminate something; if neither option suffices, we must choose to love.