Jon Waterlow • • 4 min read
Geoff Thompson: How to Harness Fear to Create the Life You Truly Want
Consciousness & Meditation Philosophy Psychology & Happiness
Geoff Thompson is a charismatic enigma. A nightclub doorman and martial artist turned award-winning playwright, author, and spiritual teacher – he defies easy description and confounds all expectations.
Geoff grew up with few prospects, under the shadow of his own fears. Inside, he yearned to be a writer, but with no obvious mentors or opportunities in sight, he slid repeatedly into depression and began to reconcile himself to working factory jobs and capitulating in the face of all conflict.
In the back of my mind [I always had this sense] that there was more. More possibility. But every time I approached my potential, every time I tried to get outside of the social mores, conventional employment, conventional life, I felt this barrier of fear.
But then Geoff did something incredible: he made fear his mentor.
He constructed a Fear Pyramid. Taking pen to paper, he listed in ascending order of magnitude everything that scared him, from spiders right up to physical violence. And then he began to systematically confront them, one after another.
Each confrontation with his own darkness taught him a lesson – about himself, his identity, and how to rewrite the story of “Geoff Thompson”. To do so, he had to integrate chapters he wanted to forget, not least the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Without realizing it, he was becoming what Rumi called a Night Traveler, searching his darkness to find the light and life within it.
Within our fears is a potency; there’s power within fear, within terror, within anxiety. If we confront it, we can steal our energy back.
After working his way up the pyramid, Geoff placed his foot cautiously on the pinnacle. He took a job as a club doorman in one of Europe’s most violent cities. In the years that followed, violence surrounded him: he dealt and received it; he saw friends killed and others commit suicide.
But as his first book, Watch My Back, laid bare, he made this intense and frightening world a training ground for his mind and soul. More than 20 years later, he’s still digesting the lessons he found there about the human condition and our capacity to grow beyond our perceived limitations.
Fear is the gatekeeper at the periphery of our current reality; as Geoff confronted the gatekeepers, his world began to expand beyond anything he’d previously thought possible.
But what does it mean to create your own reality in a practical, executable way? Geoff did this for his own life and, after leaving clues and symbols in his award-winning films and plays, he now mentors people around the world to do likewise.
As he puts it,
Your reality is one room and if you don’t like it you can change that room. Because it’s you that’s creating it; it’s you that’s maintaining it; and that means it’s you that can dissolve it.
Geoff Thompson’s is a “muscular spirituality” – one pursued through action and forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone and into those different “rooms”. But the impulse must come from within; he offers no prescriptions or dogmas. We all have to make our own Night Travels to find what hides within our personal darkness.
My job as I see it – my Dharma – is not to be a guru and not to have people follow me […], but I’m very good at showing people with my own proof that it’s possible [to change] and trying to align them to their own map. Not to my map or my ideas, but to their own unique fingerprint, to their own Dharma.
In this inspiring interview, Geoff gives us some powerful tools for making positive change in our own lives, and it begins with recognizing that we are afraid. We might rationalize staying in a job or relationship we hate because there’s “no other jobs”, or “I have responsibilities or kids”, but really we’re just afraid of the unknown.
Admitting we are afraid and identifying what we’re afraid of are the first crucial steps towards confronting and overcoming our gatekeepers.
The only way to find your Dharma, your true purpose, is to clear the fog. And the fog is old beliefs, old conditioning, our social mores and the beliefs we were brought up with, religious dogma… We’ve got to look at the things we’re afraid of looking at and behind those things our Dharma is sitting waiting.
Geoff’s perspectives are deeply human and deeply wise – he quotes as readily from the Koran as the Hindu Upanishads; the writings of Carlos Castaneda to the teachings of the Buddha. Each of these sources can be a path inwards to our truest selves.
As we progress, the world becomes a mirror and everything in it a teacher. If we can find our deepest fear, behind it we will find enlightenment.
Ultimately, if I’m working with people, I’m really just helping them to identify who they are. So when the lights are off and they’re on their own in the dark, they know who they are. Most people you meet, when they’re alone in the dark, they don’t even trust their own hands.
Geoff’s message is not only an uplifting call to embrace our fears and truly become who we are, but by sharing his own story he creates an openness for us to share our own, to discover and speak our truth, and to step over the boundaries of fear into the possibilities of the unknown.
- Geoff’s Website
(As his website explains, Geoff’s taking a break from social media and the online world more generally, but his site still includes numerous resources.)