By Scott Kalechstein

The Terror-List



 In my head there hides a terrorist who has been waging a holy war for a very long time. He believes that scaring and shaming is justified and is the way to create change and growth. He presents a running list of demands — all the things I must accomplish before I can feel good enough about myself to love unconditionally. The list is never-ending. Whenever I meet a demand, a new one pops up. Recently I recognized that the items on the terror-list were not really my problems. My real problem was the list itself, the tyrannical consciousness of conditional love.

Sometimes my attitude toward this list has been to acquiesce to its tyranny. I’ll push myself with fear and guilt to accomplish as much as I can, and usually have little or no fun in the process. Other times I will seek to overthrow the terrorist with a labor strike. “No I won’t, and you can’t make me!” my rebel shouts in defiance, while making sure I am engaged in his favorite form of peaceful, passive, political protest…being a couch potato. When the rebel strikes, nothing gets done, and two more items get added to the list of the terrorist’s demands: overcome procrastination and laziness.

The terrorist feels threatened whenever I celebrate or feel proud about something. He thinks that if I rest on my laurels I will not be interested in getting all the other things I should do, done.  And, by the way, ‘should’ appears on the list of demands more than any other word.

Time and experience have proven to me that my inner terrorist cannot be pacified through either force or resistance, both of which only seem to make him stronger. What can make peace is the practice of listening to him compassionately, making contact with the deeper feelings (fear, hurt, and sadness) underneath the surface show of aggression, and seeing clearly, from a detached place, the game he is playing. This is the way the game goes: First we imagine that there is such a thing as perfection, and that we are falling quite short of it. Then we summon our childhood friends from the old neighborhood, guilt and shame, to march in a holy war to rid ourselves of our faults and weaknesses. Using scare tactics, they drive us to put the pedal to the metal and get our ass in gear. Does it work? No, because rebel forces are determined not to be driven around by a terrorist, and they make sure that one foot stays on the brake, making for quite a rough ride.  

So what is this terror-list, really? An old, outdated, way of thinking and relating . . . fear-based, unconscious, mental masturbation. And, like many old-time religious folks believed about masturbation, this kind does indeed lead to going blind: losing sight of the beauty in myself and in others.

I started learning about this myopia of the mind when I was practicing The Morning Pages, a discipline outlined in Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way.” It consists of writing, every day, three pages of uncensored thoughts, freely associated without pausing to direct their flow. I found myself amazed at the degree of negative chatter spilling onto a page at any given moment, and how much of it related to perceptions of ‘not enough-ness’: I’m not good enough, she’s not good enough, the money’s not enough, …not enough, not enough, not enough! By about the third page, I had enough already, and would often spontaneously bring forth positive, life-affirming, loving messages from a deeper place within me. And so I discovered that if I let my terrorist have the pen for a while, it eventually would feel heard and give way to the musings of my higher self.

Since September 11th I’ve had increasing success negotiating a cease-fire with my inner terrorist. The crisis in the outside world heightened both my longing and commitment to peace and solidarity in my inner world. As soon as I become aware of struggling to meet demands on the terror-list, my higher self kicks in and reminds me that I have a job to do (be) and that there is nothing I need to fix before doing (being) it. I got the job by answering an ad that God had placed in the employment section on September 11th. Actually, God has been running it for quite some time now, but since September there has been a dramatic increase in response. Here is what I saw:

Sincere human beings to give their gifts and be the light of the world. Doesn’t matter how flawed you imagine yourself to be. Perfection not required, just willingness. Must be willing to give and receive love, voice your vision, stand for truth, face your fears, forgive mistakes, own your shadow, be the light, trust the universe, and enjoy mystery, paradox and change.  Come as you are. On the job training provided.  …Oh, and must be willing to consider that you are mistaken about being damaged goods. God doesn’t make junk.

On September 11th I got it. This planet doesn’t have the luxury of the time I waste when I indulge in my addiction to thinking I’m not enough. There is work to be done. Humanity needs me (and you) to heal inner terrorism and to be a channel for love. Unconditional, across the board self-acceptance is what opens the conduit. I con du it. You con du it. We each con do our part, once we stop giving our power away to the voice inside our head that makes us feel small, scared, and inadequate. The choice has always been this simple, but it has never been this abundantly clear: love or fear. Both are quite contagious, and both are spread rapidly from mind to mind and heart to heart. Whether facing inner or outer terrorism, in each instance we have the choice to respond with love or react in fear. What will it be in this moment?

Scott Kalechstein wears many hats. He is a counselor, coach, minister, inspirational speaker, recording artist and modern day troubadour. He travels through the United States, Canada and Europe giving concerts, talks and workshops, as well as presenting at conferences. Scott can be reached at (760) 753-2359, or e-mail him at  and be placed on his e-mail list. His website,  is an inspiring and playful place to visit.  

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