Love / Anxiety – two sides of a coin?

At a workshop last August bank holiday I heard two interesting comments that left me thinking. The first comment the speaker made was that ‘love’ can be defined as ‘paying attention to’. Initially I wondered if he was oversimplifying things but the more I thought about this the more I could see what he was getting at. Where we have a choice, we pay attention to and focus on those people (and things!) that we love. Certainly, if I want to let my husband know that I love him, I will do something for him, ring or text him or listen to him (again!) when he is talking about the performance of his favourite football team or how England are doing at cricket! Such attention communicates that he matters to me; that I care deeply for him.

The second comment the speaker made was that we all tend to have our favourite anxieties. And he is so right! If we get anxious about anything, it will always be the same things: money, the future of our children, the health of our spouse, the state of our homes, the security of our jobs. Whatever it is, our fears and anxieties will always be rooted in the same things. And how do we know what these ‘favourite’ fears are? By asking ourselves what do we spend our time thinking about? What do we focus on? In other words, what do we pay attention to?

If, then, love is ‘paying attention to’ and our fears are demonstrated by what we pay attention to, is there some kind of connection between these two emotions? Are they, in fact, two sides of a coin? I would like to suggest that maybe they are. We love those things or people that we get anxious about; we get anxious about those things or people that we love. It is very unlikely that I will feel anxiety over someone (or something) I don’t love or care for!

This can be a very helpful connection to make and I would like to highlight three ways in which this might be true.

  1. Maybe we are struggling in our relationships; perhaps the spark has gone out of our marriage or partnership. One way to seek to begin to remedy this might be to choose to pay attention to our spouse/partner by doing or saying things that communicate that they are important to us. They, in their turn, might then begin to respond to us in a way that communicates that they appreciate what we have done; and we’ll find ourselves wanting to do more. Bit by bit the relationship may begin to improve.
  2. We can look at those things that we love and give attention to and ask ourselves if they are really worthy of that time and energy. Is there something or someone else more deserving of it? This can be a very important check to undertake if we are struggling to stay on top of life and feel stressed and overwhelmed.
  3. If we look at what makes us anxious, we can ask ourselves ‘What is it about this thing that is so important to me (that I ‘love’ so much) that I experience anxiety over it?’ I might feel anxious about an impending exam. Have I done enough work? Will I understand the questions? Will I be able to communicate what I know clearly? Basically, will I pass? But, at a deeper level, what is so important about that exam? What is it that I ‘love’ about the outcome of passing that I can’t bear the thought of failing? Is it really worth that ‘love’ and attention or would it be better that I focus my energies elsewhere?


In many respects I am not really saying anything new but I hope that I have presented an angle that some may not have thought of. This in turn might then prove helpful in working things through. Whether you are in a situation that you are really struggling to get on top of or are faced with something that is causing you a great deal of anxiety, hopefully something I have said will help you to see things in a different light so you can move forward with it.

If I can be of any further assistance then please do feel free to contact me, without any obligation. I am always happy to answer any questions.

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