Courage is often defined as fearlessness in the face of adversity. The ability to somehow escape the shadow of fear, while boldly moving forward with purpose and clarity.
In my experience, that’s crap. The truth is courage is inclusive of the negative emotions. Courage is born in fear. Uncertainty is its amniotic fluid. Doubt is a part of its genetic makeup.
When I reflect on the idea of what it means to be courageous, I’m reminded that having negative emotions is a human experience. Self-doubt, fear and anxiety are commonplace. People from tribal communities to sophisticated modern societies all have language to describe the emotions we experience in moments of challenge and suffering.
Cultivating courage in ourselves and in our children, creating space to breathe life into the quality of courage in a healthy, lasting way, is a process not an event.
In my own life, I’ve come to recognize this process includes eight specific steps, if courage is to be cultivated without repression or suppression of the negative emotions—both of which cause unbalanced (a.k.a. neurotic) people.
8 Steps of Cultivating Healthy Courage
- Begin by allowing yourself to feel vulnerable in the situation you’re in.
- Sit with the discomfort, feel the raw emotion of that state.
- Acknowledge what’s occurring for you, “This is really tough and uncomfortable. I hate this part. It feels terrible.”
- Accept the process; give dark emotions space. Write them out.
- Know that this part has immense dignity.
- Let go of the idea of rejecting or resisting the fear, uncertainty, doubt or other shadow emotions.
- Once fully digested, consciously decide to let go and move forward.
- Imagine the feeling of courage, of hope, without making any of the negative emotions wrong, inappropriate or unacceptable.
These steps require a bit of growing up emotionally, and a few skills in emotional health. I’ve found it’s helpful to remember that you have feelings, but you are not your feelings. You have thoughts, but you are not them either. Who you are, is a soul building the quality of courage, one challenge at a time.
With gratitude and love to you to you all.
Happy New Year!
*Inspired by a calendar created by Jacquelyn, a Keenan realizing her own fullest potential.