It seems that so many folks I know are crippled by different fears these days. Big ones. That includes me as well. Marriage issues, relationships, work problems, money...these seem to be some large issues at play, and fear is at the root of all of them. Of course, fear is often in the driver's seat when we are feeling stuck, angry or not fully centered. At least it is for me.
Fear paralyzes me. It truly does. It feeds me lies. It does its best to keep me in my comfort zone, away from any and all growth opportunities. It keeps me locked into short-changing myself, my goals, my entire life. Fears will always tell me that I should stay under the covers and to not bother to engage in life. Fear is a bully.
There is a great passage in the book "Twelves Steps and Twelve Traditions" which describes fear accurately:
"The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear — primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing these demands. The difference between a demand and a simple request is plain to anyone."
And that is what it comes down to always - fear of not getting what we want, or fear of losing what we already have. All fears boil down to these two. To boil things down even further, the feeling that we have, egotistically, is that we will die (or at least not survive) if we don't get what we want or lose what we already have. The ego, like any other "living" organism, fights for its life. Daily. So it creates fears, resentments, self-pity, anger and a whole slew of winged monkeys to get us to do its bidding. Fear is the granddaddy of them all.
The idea of being held hostage in unsatisfied demands, as the above quote states, lines up with the Buddhist idea that suffering is caused by desire or attachment. And what is the difference between a demand and a simple request?
For me, the difference is that a demand has attachment to it - an expected outcome. It's a mandate. Another word for demand is "expectation", and as we have heard many times, an expectation is a pre-meditated resentment. We make demands all the time without even knowing it! I know that I have unwritten or unspoken demands of others, and when (not if) they let me down, I get disturbed. Fears underpin all of this - fear of being rejected; of not being seen; of being abandoned, etc.
A simple request is an invitation of sorts. An open-handed and even loving attempt to petitions someone to be a part of something. There are no expectations. I can ask someone to do something or invite them into something, but I don't hold a grudge if there isn't compliance. I don't bear the fear of being rejected; of not being seen; of being abandoned, etc.
What works for me, when it comes to overcoming fear, is action. I can find my faith and pray and meditate over it, I can talk to friends and colleagues and those who have walked the path before me, but in the end action is what breaks down the fear barrier. As I have been learning, on the other side of the "terror barrier" is freedom. I have walked through many fears, and am attempting to walk through big one - a new career doing something I haven't done before and not sure if i can support myself let alone my family with it. To be honest, there are lots of smaller fears that I am walking through to work up to that big fear. It's like working a muscle - the more I build it up, the more I can bear.
When I look back at my life and see when I've had my most marked growth spurts, it's always been when I've moved past my old stories and old fears and just hammered something out against all preconceived notions. Action, action, action. It's my mantra for breaking down that terror barrier.
I hope and pray you all find ways to break down those barriers and find the freedom you deserve!