By Brianna Wiest

The stoics practice negative thinking, or eliminating anxiety by imagining and preparing for the worst outcome (overly positive thinking tends to do the opposite, eliminating that feeling by just ignoring the potential issue). They save money rather than fear a job loss; make peace with how everything is impermanent rather than fear losing a loved one.

In this way, the things they fear serve them. They act as a guiding force, perhaps even more than “passions” do. They signal toward what must be cared for, where attentions must turn, and how to best actualize the deepest unconscious parts of their beings.

Remember our rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work of calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul. – Steven Pressfield

When we say “follow your fear,” we do not mean to cover yourself in tarantulas or stand on the ledge of a skyscraper. What we mean is to dig toward the deep part of you that is afraid of being seen, or failing, or being judged. Whatever you are afraid of is what you really care about. It’s what you want to protect. It’s what you know is vulnerable. And most of all, it’s the flip side of what you really want. Here, 5 reasons why you should listen to what it has to say:

1. Fear is an indicator of what you really care about.

Fear is what you experience when something you care about is threatened. If you feel fear, you can just as easily identify what you deeply care about protecting. That part of you is sacred, and for many people, remains unconscious (and untapped) potential.

2. Fear is resistance to what you already know is true.

You cannot fear the loss of something you don’t also acknowledge to be real. This is to say: you can’t be afraid of putting yourself out there without also being able to acknowledge that your deeper desire is to in fact put yourself out there. If one exists, the other does, too.

3. Fear is not the same thing as indifference, or discomfort.

Often we confuse our emotional navigation systems for telling us that fear = bad, as though it’s the same sensation as indifference or discomfort (it is not either of those things). Indifference means you don’t care, discomfort means something’s not right. Fear usually means something’s very right.

4. Passion is the solution we think will resolve what we fear; meaning is facing what we fear, and finding true purpose through it.

We’re told to follow our passion as though the ideas we think are most amazing are somehow indicative of what we really want. This is, obviously, not usually the case. The things we’re “passionate” about are usually solutions to the things we fear; the things we find meaning, purpose and continued success in are products of facing our fears and using them to cultivate deeper understanding. The obstacle is the way.

5. Fear is the flip side of love.

You can’t fear something without also loving it very, very much. You’ve likely heard that there are only two things that exist: love and fear. If this is true, love is when we open up and embrace what’s in front of us, and fear is when we cower and avoid it.

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