Finding Fear

“This is what it sounds like when doves cry.”
– Prince

The terror is inside of us. That part of ourselves embodying our fears and insecurities is a terrorist of our happiness and welfare as surely as anyone bombing the subways.  It starts with us.

I tell myself that I wish for a freer, but riskier, professional life. When I take on a new job allowing that risk and freedom, my insecurity of the very risk I was seeking sabotages my goal, causing me to lose sleep to worry, causing me to feel powerless and miss opportunity, undermining my ability to achieve security from the risk.

I tell myself that I want to be in a meaningful romantic relationship, but then fear controls me preventing me from taking risks to approach those with whom I could have such a relationship.  Or, I enter relationships I know will not work well only because they are what has become comfortable, even if unhealthy.

Our betrayers lie well-hidden in our hearts. The fears and insecurities are difficult to root out.  They cloak themselves within the stories we tell ourselves. Our mind jumps from place to place trying to get us to avoid confrontation with or even recognition of our fears and insecurities.  Their illusiveness gives them power.

We must move past so-called common “wisdom,” which tells us to do battle with the terrorists in ourselves. We must approach them with true wisdom and compassion. When we feel held back, we must not look away. We must be crazy and do the opposite: search deeply for the root of the insecurity. We must dwell uncomfortably in the fear and become friendly with it. Then, the fears and insecurities lose their power naturally, almost magically.

I hold myself above others because I fear being close to them. Those who know me may see that.  Until recently I only had a vague recognition of this flaw.  It is covered in jokes and irony. But, recently, someone compared his clothes to mine, in an effort to create connection. In my mind, I struck him down because my clothes were “better,” “more expensive,” “more fashionable.” My insecurities are terrorists perpetrating cruelty on my kind-hearted friend and cruelty on my deeper self, which really seeks connection.

I now can identify this insecurity. I can speak it out loud.  Voicing the insecurity makes it lose power. The minute I truly face it, my heart naturally opens with compassion – compassion for myself and compassion for my friend. We are tied by the cruelty and by the subsequent compassion arising from that cruelty.

Of course, we can know these statements to be true, but we must practice them. We must act. We must stop being accomplices of our terrorizing, lower selves. We must prioritize time to know ourselves in all the beauty we love and all the darkness we rather ignore.

We can do that through therapy, through meditation, through prayer, through contemplation. That which slows our mind and lifts the veil is that which we should do. When we learn to slow down the mind and to look at it, the narratives break apart and light will come through. It happens naturally, but it takes time and work.

An insightful friend told me that we have a responsibility to be happy. I found that statement shocking. But no truer statement can be made. The terror in our lives starts within us, and we must embrace it. If we are unhappy and insecure, we unwittingly hurt those around us. That pain becomes embodied in our social and economic structures, dividing classes, nations, and religions. And, those divisions, perpetrated by collective fears, result in war and destruction. It is deep seated fear with drives all of us to terrorize one another.  The terrorist lives in terror.

We must work to find the source of our internal fears, give them love and be released from them. Only then can we truly love others and work to better the world around us.

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About Trevor V. Stockinger

Trevor V. Stockinger is a Buddhist and a lawyer. He is a partner at his own legal practice, Kesselman Brantly Stockinger LLP. He is also the vice president of a non-profit, Live to Love Foundation USA, that supports humanitarian work throughout the Himalayas. While he was raised Catholic, he has enjoyed exploring the world's religions. Seven years ago, having gotten tired of just reading about Buddhism, he became engaged in the Drukpa Buddhist lineage, a form of Vajrayana Buddhism. Since he spends many of his off-hours thinking and talking to his friends about "spiritual" issues, he decided to start putting his musings down on paper (or into bits) for a broader audience.
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