Occasionally I have the opportunity to stay in a remote cabin in the woods of Big Sur, CA. The other night, the moon hadn’t risen yet and the stars were putting on a spectacular show. Crickets chirped and the soothing sound of the ocean waves crashing into the rocky shore melodized the air. As I was putting on a cozy shirt and getting ready for bed, I saw something out of the corner of my eye that made me jump. There, in the window, was a shadow on the deck outside my room. As my eyes adjusted, the shadow took human shape and my heart dropped with fear. Adrenaline flushed throughout my body as I froze in fear of the person outside my window. A few intense heartbeats later, I realized the person moved when I moved… I realized it was my own reflection.
I pondered this for a while, laughing at myself for being afraid of “myself”. It’s not unlike many fears in life. I, like most of us, grasped onto the concept of the scary “other” at a young age. From horror films with some crazy serial killer, to the evening news reporting the latest violent crime, we are always bombarded with the same story—someone “out there” comes to harm an innocent person, just like us. And if it could happen to that person, it could happen to me. We feel the need to constantly prepare ourselves against that outside attack.
Yet really, our most dangerous threat—the one that repeatedly means life or death—comes from within. It is our own self that is our own worst enemy.
Of course there are cities and habitats that are more dangerous than others. Places where violence fills the streets and gunshots are heard nightly. But is it not “ourselves” that makes decisions leading us to danger?
Somewhere inside of us we have the voice that doubts our every goal. It can doubt our dreams to the extent that it sabotages and kills them. It can make us afraid that we will be rejected by someone we love, so much so that we push our loved one away and we lose them. It can make us fear we are not good enough to follow our passions to the point that we don’t even try. Worst of all, it can make us fear death to the point that we don’t really live.
Stuck in this cycle of perceived fear of the other, not realizing that the biggest danger lies in the negative voice in our head. Most never break out of the pattern; some don’t ever notice it exists. Placing blame elsewhere is easy, placing blame on ourselves is uncomfortable and tough.
What can we do to live with less fear and more love? I start by recognizing the fear when it comes and trying to pare down to where it stems from within myself. Sometimes there I find a belief so foolish and unfeasible that I can’t help but laugh at the control I allowed it. After that moment of awareness of where the fear stems from, it’s easier to find the courage to stop the pattern and get over it.
“Facing our deepest self head-on can be scary, but liberation is sure to follow.”