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Beyond Blue

Jeff Golliher: Moving Through Fear

moving through fear.jpg

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.


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  • Anne Costa

    Fear was my constant companion all of my life. I realize that it was a combination of early trauma, abuse and the changes that occured in my body chemistry as a result. There was absolutely nothing I could do on my own, by my own power to rid myself of the fear. I could make it subside, take a backseat, but it never fully went away.
    In 2006, the fear became so intense that it “overtook me” and I ended up hospitalized for 10 days. It was a tsunmai of terror that overtook me and swept me away. But in the aftermath, I survived and I can honestly say that since that time, the fear has gone and been replaced by peace. MOst advice books don’t tell you to “give in” to your fears but I think that is what happened with me. I succumbed to the full force of my fears and I “rose again” fearless. During that hospitalization, the fear died but I didn’t. It was an answer to a lifelong prayer.

  • Marta H.

    Thanks for posting your experience on fear/ I going through the same now, that almost cripple my life BUT by reading your story NOW I KNOW IS HOPE FOR ME. I’m working on that every day and will conquer all my fears and have a happy healthy life again. May God bless you/ Love peace happiness & whealth / Marta D

  • Carolyn J

    One year ago something really traumatic happened to me and I have been immersed in fear ever since. I don’t know how to get out of it. It seems so overwhelming! how do I get started? Which direction do I go in? I feel like nobody understands how I feel. Carolyn J

  • S

    The Invisible Mother
    It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’
    Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this??
    Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’
    Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock?, Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’
    I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!
    One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’
    In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
    A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’
    I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
    No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.
    I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
    When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’
    As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.
    Share this with all the Invisible Moms you know… I just did.

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