A Ghost Story and Fear

September 10, 2013 Becky Oberg

For a long time I've been interested Shogun-era Japan. I even have a book called Bushido: The Way of the Samurai, which is based on the Hagakure by Tsunetomo Yamamoto. One story in it is called "Story of the Thwarted Ghosts."

"After an investigation, Naoshige put to death the samurai and the woman who committed secret intercourse in the third circle of the castle. Later, their ghosts walked by night within the castle. The maidservants were so scared that they did not dare to leave their rooms at night. Some time passed before the Lady Naoshige heard of the haunting. Then she asked someone to pray for exorcism and to celebrate a mass for the repose of their dead souls. Yet all of these effort proved to no purpose. So the matter was finally reported to Lord Naoshige himself. Lord Naoshige said, 'I am extremely glad of this. They deserved more than just decapitation. I hold their sin so execrable that I am glad that they cannot go where the should have gone but still have to haunt in ghost forms. I am very pleased that they still suffer for their misconduct and remain restless. It is, indeed, quite understandable that they have haunted this long.' From that night on, the ghosts stopped appearing."

Moral of the story: fear is overcome when it is faced and accepted.

Acronyms for FEAR

As we say in AA, "FEAR" can stand for one of two things--Forget Everything And Run, or Face Everything And Recover. How we handle fear depends on how we view it.

If we run, it can catch up with us. If we run, it rules our lives. If we run, we abandon everything we hold dear because of fear.

If we face it, we can overcome it and make peace with it. If we face it, we can move on from it. If we face it, we don't have to let it rule our lives and force us to run.

Elsewhere in Bushido, Yamamoto writes "Since disaster is not as terrible as your unnecessary anxiety would have you expect, it is absurd to suffer distress in advance. This distress is caused by overactive imagination."

Or as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Handling difficulties

Bushido has the following koan: "If the water rises, the ship rises, too." In other words, the more we overcome fear and handle the difficulties life throws at us, the more we will rise in life. We will overcome our circumstances if we use our talents and willingness to overcome fear. We all possess the innate ability to rise above our circumstances.

So how do we harness this ability? By acknowledging we have it and trusting our Higher Power to help us rise above the situation. By using positive coping skills. By knowing and accepting our limitations and knowing when to ask for help. By facing our fear.

An example from my life

I recently found a sponsor in AA. We've started at the beginning of the Big Book and are gradually working through it. One thing I'm not looking forward to is Step Four: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Why am I afraid of it? Because I have to face my past, which was extremely traumatic. I have to face and try to understand my role in events I'd rather not relive. But I have accepted that if I want to move on from these events and progress in my sobriety, I have to face that fear. I have accepted its inevitability and will work that step when the time is right.

I have a plan to face Step Four. I will work with my sponsor and my therapist to ensure my safety during this time. I will rely on the grace of God and the fellowship of the program. I will trust my Higher Power and my own abilities.

I will face my past and recover, thereby thwarting the ghosts.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2013, September 10). A Ghost Story and Fear, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Becky Oberg

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