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Posted: March 04, 2005

Spiritual Caregiving

Beyond Fear: 3 Views of Overcoming the Bugaboo

The Fear Book: Facing Fear Once and For All

By Cheri Huber

(Keep It Simple Books 05/97 Paperback $10.00)

In this sprightly volume, Zen teacher Cheri Huber of the Zen Monastery Practice Center in Murphys, California, provides us with an invaluable service ? enabling us to see how fear is set up in our minds. Some of us, she points out, see fear as a monster chasing after us. Others are lost in a big house of fears where we constantly encounter one thing after another that scares us out of our wits. Others cling desperately to the illusion of safety and security, warding off the unknown which is always looming on the horizon. There are many varieties of fear but they all share one thing in common. And that, writes Huber, is separateness.

?Fear is a very useful signal along the path to freedom,? according to the author. When there is genuine danger in our vicinity, it animates us to swift action. Feet, do your thing! Fear can be an ally, looking out for us. But we have made it into a monster that lives inside our heads and keeps us uneasy.

In The Fear Book, Huber helps us see that egocentricity, always putting ourselves ahead of others, is what brings about suffering and alienation. She challenges us to bring compassionate awareness to our fears. Sane and user-friendly, this paperback demystifies the boogie man. And best of all, it pokes fun at the shibboleth that imagination is something to fear.

-- Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


?Survivor's Prayer?

By Debra Bruce

Come here, fear,
but not
too near,
not quite where you were
when I first learned,
as luck would have it,
my body wreaked havoc
on itself. I?d never thumb
through a planner?s humdrum
future dates, or so I thought.

Come fear, when I forget,
when the sun?s right in my eyes, too bright,
turning me tense suburbanite,
its charms taking on the irascible glitter
of jammed summer lots.

Come, fear, and follow
as I go, mellowing
shapes I know in shadow.
And when I try to shake you off,
deepen the dusk, let whiffs
of ozone breathe what if ?
your best offer, your intricate gift ?
now ask me what?s to come of it.


Embracing Fear and Finding the Courage to Live Your Life

By Thom Rutledge
(HarperSanFrancisco 05/02 Hardcover $21.95)

Thom Rutledge is a psychotherapist and self-help columnist. He has been in recovery from alcoholism and was successfully treated for depression for six years. He is what Henri J. M. Nouwen called a "wounded healer" who understands the addictions and self-destructiveness at the heart of many psychological maladies. Here he tackles one of the most pervasive concerns of our time: fear.

At the outset of Embracing Fear, Rutledge observes: "Fear is essentially a positive mechanism, an ingenious natural design to keep us safe. And there are plenty of opportunities for that healthy fear to work its magic, guiding us this way and that, alerting us to danger and aligning us with what is good and right in the world." The major challenge we all face every day is separating the voices of healthy fear and unhealthy fear.

Rutledge uses the acronym F.E.A.R. to spell out a four-step process for coping with and transforming our relationship with this tricky emotion.

Face the fear means dealing with the "bully." There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from fear. We have to confront it face-to-face.

Explore the fear involves listening to what it is telling you.

Accept the fear means that we must rid ourselves of the notion that we can ever dispel this bully from our lives. He's here to stay.

Respond to the fear requires us to make conscious, healthy choices about how to deal with the bully.

Rutledge confesses: "Working with clients as a psychotherapist, with groups in seminars, and with audiences as a speaker, I sometimes think of myself as an energy-efficiency consultant. I help people discover their energy leaks; the ways they are thinking and behaving that drain them of the vitality they need to solve their problems." Fears do drain us of primal energy and they certainly distract us from work and personal relationships. Rutledge discusses some of the recurring fears that hamper his clients. He notes, "I believe that fear has become a bad habit for most of us. Maybe it is a side-effect of our techno-efficient world. In other words, maybe we have too much time on our hands."

Rutledge also talks about one of our favorite films ? Defending Your Life. Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep play two characters who after death wind up in a place called Judgment City where they must undergo a life review to determine where their souls will go next. The determining factor is how they responded to fear during various incidents while alive. It turns out, as Rutledge proclaims, that embracing fears is a very salutary way of dealing with them.

The author concludes with a list of 30 aphorisms he calls "Thom's Nutshells." Some of them are quite clever and thought provoking. Here's a sampler:

  • All things in turmoil in and around you are evidence that you are still alive.
  • God flunks no one, but He sure does give lots of retests.
  • Always move toward your demons; they take their power from your retreat.
  • Don't let your insights live with you rent free. Put them to work.

-- Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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