I read anything I can get my hands on regarding fear. Because I figure if I can get rid of fear in my limbic system (home to the emotions) then everything else in my life will run very smoothly. In his book “Moving Through Fear: Cultivating the 7 Spiritual Instincts for a Fearless Life,” Reverend Jeffrey Mark Golliher, Ph.D, cultural anthropologist and priest in the Episcopal Church lists five insights into the movement through fear and then seven ways we can cultivate a kind of immunity to the fear.
The foundation of his five insights start is this critical point: “Most of the fear that we experience, especially the harmful fear, seems to have a life of its won, when, in fact, it has no life at all except for the illusion of life that we give to it.” Golliher makes an interesting point: true self-knowledge is usually not what we believe it is. The statement reminds me of two of Don Miguel Ruiz’s four agreements in his classic book of Toltec wisdom, “The Four Agreements,” that we must not take anything personally, and to never make assumptions. Most of our suffering, Ruiz says, can be avoided if we practice those two agreements.
The golden rule of fear, according to Golliher? To pay no attention to what the fear wants. And to remember that the power we give fear is really our own power and strength misguided and misdirected. And while I recognize that on an intellectual level, it still doesn’t really do a damn thing when I’m looking fear in the eyes. However, I am going to list Golligher’s five insights anyway because he says they have stood the test of time in his nearly 30 years of work as a priest and cultural anthropologist in a variety of roles and settings:
1. Fear can close our hearts, shape our emotional life, and freeze our attention, but the only power that fear has is the power that we give it. We can take that power back. What we need is to have some understanding of what we really want in life and why we want it.
2. The freedom we want the most is found beyond the fear that we avoid the most; and when we move through our very worst fear, we realize that, ultimately, there’s nothing to be afraid of. (In other words, says Golliher, the most valuable truths about life are the ones that we learn for the sake of love.)
3. We don’t need to become experts of fear to move through it. Rather we must strengthen our Spirit, which means cultivating the very spiritual instincts that our fear would have us neglect or ignore.
4. One fear contains the power of every fear within it. Burst the bubble of one fear, and all our other fears begin to lose their power over us too.
5. These two questions–”How can we move through our fear?” and “How can we become who we are meant to be?” -are, for all practical purposes, one and the same.