What is Courage? | INFJ Forum

What is Courage?

sassafras

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Jun 17, 2009
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What Is Courage?

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.
- John Wayne

I like the definitions of courage above, which all suggest that courage is the ability to get yourself to take action in spite of fear. The word courage derives from the Latin cor, which means "heart." But true courage is more a matter of intellect than of feeling. It requires using the uniquely human part of your brain (the neocortex) to wrest control away from the emotional limbic brain you share in common with other mammals. Your limbic brain signals danger, but your neocortex reasons that the danger isn't real, so you simply feel the fear and take action anyway. The more you learn to act in spite of fear, the more human you become. The more you follow the fear, the more you live like a lower mammal. So the question, "Are you a man or a mouse?" is consistent with human neurology.

Courageous people are still afraid, but they don't let the fear paralyze them. People who lack courage will give into fear more often than not, which actually has the long-term effect of strengthening the fear. When you avoid facing a fear and then feel relieved that you escaped it, this acts as a psychological reward that reinforces the mouse-like avoidance behavior, making you even more likely to avoid facing the fear in the future. So the more you avoid asking someone out on a date, the more paralyzed you'll feel about taking such actions in the future. You are literally conditioning yourself to become more timid and mouse-like.

Such avoidance behavior causes stagnation in the long run. As you get older, you reinforce your fear reactions to the point where it's hard to even imagine yourself standing up to your fears. You begin taking your fears for granted; they become real to you. You cocoon yourself into a life that insulates you from all these fears: a stable but unhappy marriage, a job that doesn't require you to take risks, an income that keeps you comfortable. Then you rationalize your behavior: You have a family to support and can't take risks, you're too old to shift careers, you can't lose weight because you have "fat" genes. Five years... ten years... twenty years pass, and you realize that your life hasn't changed all that much. You've settled down. All that's really left now is to live out the remainder of your years as contently as possible and then settle yourself into the ground, where you'll finally achieve total safety and security.

But there's something else going on behind the scenes, isn't there? That tiny voice in the back of your mind recalls that this isn't the kind of life you wanted to live. It wants more, much more. It wants you to become far wealthier, to have an outstanding relationship, to get your body in peak physical condition, to learn new skills, to travel the world, to have lots of wonderful friends, to help people in need, to make a meaningful difference. That voice tells you that settling into a job where you sell widgets the rest of your life just won't cut it. That voice frowns at you when you catch a glance of your oversized belly in the mirror or get winded going up a flight of stairs. It beams disappointment when it sees what's become of your family. It tells you that the reason you have trouble motivating yourself is that you aren't doing what you really ought to be doing with your life... because you're afraid. And if you refuse to listen, it will always be there, nagging you about your mediocre results until you die, full of regrets for what might have been.

So how do you respond to this ornery voice that won't shut up? What do you do when confronted by that gut feeling that something just isn't right in your life? What's your favorite way to silence it? Maybe drown it out by watching TV, listening to the radio, working long hours at an unfulfilling job, or consuming alcohol and caffeine and sugar.

But whenever you do this, you lower your level of consciousness. You sink closer towards an instinctive animal and move away from becoming a fully conscious human being. You react to life instead of proactively going after your goals. You fall into a state of learned helplessness, where you begin to believe that your goals are no longer possible or practical for you. You become more and more like a mouse, even trying to convince yourself that life as a mouse might not be so bad after all, since everyone around you seems to be OK with it. You surround yourself with your fellow mice, and on the rare occasions that you encounter a fully conscious human being, it scares the hell out of you to remember how much of your own courage has been lost.

Agree? Disagree? Discuss.

(I will post the full link to the article shortly)
 
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Agree? Disagree? Discuss.

Very good question and topic.

"state of learned helplessness" is a good phrasing. But as much as I agree with the basic premise of the article, I think it doesn't take into account that what is courageous for one, is not a matter of courage for someone else. May've misread.
 
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Courage and self-confidence are the two things I lack the most in my life. I'm exactly the opposite for that definition, fearful, always feeling helpless..I think depression really correlates with it, any feeling that your loosing hope and that well, nothing would turn out correct, not having courage is exactly fear.
 
Courage is taking correct action when no action is required or even frowned upon. Courage is a choice. I once did something that people perceived as courageous and it was actually desperation that motivated me to get the restraining order against my father. I did not see it as courageous at all. I felt that I did not have a choice that it was my only option. Courage is seeing the choice and taking the one that is going to chew you up and spit you out yet doing it is the right thing so that is what you do.
 
Courage, having an erection in the mens locker room
 
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Courage is living by what is true to your heart; it is where your actions match what you truly believe.




Courage, having an erection in the mens locker room

Quote for Truth. Quote for Lulz. Quote for Sithious.
 
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I would agree with the article. Courage is not about being the hero or not being afraid or anything like that. Everyone gets scared. Everyone feels fear. Being able to conquer that, though...that's something worthy of a title like courage.
 
Well I was preparing to object, by my eyes scanned the first quote, which sums up my definition of truth quite nicely.:m177:

However, this article sort of paints courage to be something that is easily obtained, and shuns those who lack it. While I agree that the avoidance does reinforce the fear (I can't seem to escape behaviorist psychology), the correlation between fear and risk is different in everybody.

I wish I had courage, though. It would put a lot of worried problems to their final resting place.
 
However, this article sort of paints courage to be something that is easily obtained, and shuns those who lack it. While I agree that the avoidance does reinforce the fear (I can't seem to escape behaviorist psychology), the correlation between fear and risk is different in everybody.

Actually, I was about to post the second half to this article, where the author actually talks about how to get rid of your fears; starting wherever you are :)

Anyone interested in reading the rest?
 
Actually, I was about to post the second half to this article, where the author actually talks about how to get rid of your fears; starting wherever you are :)

Anyone interested in reading the rest?


YES
 
All right, here's another excerpt. You can find the whole article here.

Raise Your Consciousness

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.
- Anais Nin

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.
- Amelia Earhart

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

The way out of this vicious cycle is to summon your courage and confront that inner voice. Find a place where you can be alone with pen and paper (or computer and keyboard). Listen to that voice, and face up to what it's telling you, no matter how difficult it is to hear. (The voice is just an abstraction - you may not hear words at all; instead you may see what you should be doing or simply feel it emotionally. But I'll continue to refer to the voice for the sake of example.) This voice may tell you that your marriage has been dead for ten years, and you're refusing to face it because you're afraid of divorce. It may tell you that you're afraid that if you start your own business, you'll probably fail, and that's why you're staying at a job that doesn't challenge you to grow. It may tell you that you've given up trying to lose weight because you've failed at it so many times, and you're addicted to food. It may tell you that the friends you're hanging out with now are incongruent with the person you want to be, and that you need to leave that reference group behind and build a new one. It may tell you that you always wanted to be an actor or writer, but you settled for a sales job because it seemed more safe and secure. It may tell you that you always wanted to help people in need, but you aren't doing so in the way you should. It may tell you that you're wasting your talents.

See if you can reduce that voice to just a single word or two. What is it telling you to do? Leave. Quit. Speak. Write. Dance. Act. Exercise. Sell. Switch. Move on. Let go. Ask. Learn. Forgive. Whatever you get from this, write it down. Perhaps you even have different words for each area of your life.

Now you have to take the difficult step of consciously acknowledging that this is what you really want. It's OK if you don't think it's possible for you. It's OK if you don't see how you could ever have it. But don't deny that you want it. You lower your consciousness when you do that. When you look at your overweight body, admit that you really want to be fit and healthy. When you light up that next cigarette, don't deny that you want to be a nonsmoker. When you meet the potential mate of your dreams, don't deny that you'd love to be in a relationship with that person. When you meet a person who seems to be at total peace with herself, don't deny that you crave that level of inner peace too. Get yourself out of denial. Move instead to a place where you admit, "I really do want this, but I just don't feel I currently have the ability to get it." It's perfectly OK to want something that you don't think you can have. And you're almost certainly wrong in concluding that you can't have it. But first, stop lying to yourself and pretending you don't really want it.


Move From Fear to Action, Even if You Expect to Fail

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.
- Orison Swett Marden

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.
- John Quincy Adams

Now that you've acknowledged some things you've been afraid to face, how do you feel? You probably still feel paralyzed against taking action. That's OK. While diving right in and confronting a fear head-on can be very effective, that may require more courage than you feel you can summon right now.

The most important point I want you to learn from this article is that real courage is a mental skill, not an emotional one. Neurologically it means using the thinking neocortex part of your brain to override the emotional limbic impulses. In other words, you use your human intelligence, logic, and independent will to overcome the limitations you've inherited as an emotional mammal.

Now this may make logical sense, but it's far easier said than done. You may logically know you're in no real danger if you get up on a stage and speak in front of 1000 people, but your fear kicks in anyway, and the imaginary threat prevents you from volunteering for anything like this. Or you may know you're in a dead end job, but you can't seem to bring yourself to say the words, "I quit."

Courage, however, doesn't require that you take drastic action in these situations. Courage is a learned mental skill that you must condition, just as weight training strengthens your muscles. You wouldn't go into a gym for the first time and try to lift 300 pounds, so don't think that to be courageous you must tackle your most paralyzing fear right away.

There are two methods I will suggest for building courage. The first approach is analogous to progressive weight training. Start with weights you can lift but which are challenging for you, and then progressively train up to heavier and heavier weights as you grow stronger. So tackle your smallest fears first, and progressively train up to bigger and bigger fears. Training yourself to lift 300 pounds isn't so hard if you've already lifted 290. Similarly, speaking in front of an audience of 1000 people isn't so tough once you've already spoken to 900.

So grab a piece of paper, and write down one of your fears that you'd like to overcome. Then number from one to ten, and write out ten variations of this fear, with number one being the least anxiety-producing and number ten being the most anxiety-producing. This is your fear hierarchy. For example, if you're afraid of asking someone out on a date, then number one on your list might be going out to a public place and smiling at someone you find attractive (very mild fear). Number two might be smiling at ten attractive strangers in a single day. Number ten might be asking out your ideal date in front of all your mutual friends, when you're almost certain you'll be turned down flat and everyone in the room will laugh (extreme fear). Now start by setting a goal to complete number one on your list. Once you've had that success (and success in this case simply means taking action, regardless of the outcome), then move on to number two, and so on, until you're ready to tackle number ten or you just don't feel the fear is limiting you anymore. You may need to adjust the items on your list to make them practical for you to actually experience. And if you ever feel the next step is too big, then break it down into additional gradients. If you can lift 290 pounds but not 300, then try 295 or even 291. Take this process as gradually as you need to, such that the next step is a mild challenge for you but one you feel fairly confident you can complete. And feel free to repeat a past step multiple times if you find it helpful to prepare you for the next step. Pace yourself.

By following this progressive training process, you'll accomplish two things. You'll cease reinforcing the fear/avoidance response that you exhibited in the past. And you'll condition yourself to act more courageously in future situations. So your feelings of fear will diminish at the same time that your expression of courage grows. Neurologically you'll be weakening the limbic control over your actions while strengthening the neocortical control, gradually moving from unconscious mouse-like to conscious human-like behavior.

The second approach to building courage is to acquire additional knowledge and skill within the domain of your fear. Confronting fears head-on can be helpful, but if your fear is largely due to ignorance and lack of skill, then you can usually reduce or eliminate the fear with information and training. For example, if you're afraid to quit your job and start your own business, even though you'd absolutely love to be in business for yourself, then start reading books and taking classes on how to start your own business. Spend an afternoon at your local library researching the subject, or do the research online. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and any relevant trade organizations in your field. Attend conferences. Build connections. Enlist the help of a mentor. Build your skill to the point where you start to feel confident that you could actually succeed, and this knowledge will help you act more boldly and courageously when you're ready. This method is especially effective when a large part of your fear is due to the unknown. Often just reading a book or two on the subject will be enough to dispel the fear so that you're able to take action.

These two methods are my personal favorites, but there are many additional ways to condition yourself to overcome fear, including neuro-linguistic programming, implosion therapy, systematic desensitization, and self-confrontation. You can research them via an online search engine if you wish to learn such methods and increase the number of fear-busting tools in your arsenal. Most of these can be easily self-administered (implosion therapy is the notable exception).

The exact process you use to build courage isn't important. What's important is that you consciously do it. Just as your muscles will atrophy if you don't regularly stress them, your courage will atrophy if you don't consistently challenge yourself to face down your fears. In the absence of this kind of conscious conditioning, you'll automatically become weak in both body and mind. If you aren't regularly exercising your courage, then you are strengthening your fear by default; there is no middle ground. Just as your muscles automatically atrophy from lack of use, so your courage will automatically decay in the absence of conscious conditioning.

Now this may sound overly gloomy, so here's a positive way to look at it. Heavy weights can be a physical burden, but they are helpful tools to build strong muscles. You would not look at a 45-pound dumbbell and say, "Why must you be so heavy?" It is what it is. Heaviness is your thought, not an intrinsic property of the dumbbell itself. Similarly, do not look at the things you fear and say, "Why must you be so scary?" Fear is your reaction, not a property of the object of your anxiety.

Fear is not your enemy. It is a compass pointing you to the areas where you need to grow. So when you encounter a new fear within yourself, celebrate it as an opportunity for growth, just as you would celebrate reaching a new personal best with strength training.

Hmm.
 
Also, no courage thread is complete without this:
cowardly-lion.jpg
 
Is any thread safe from snarkity snarkness?
 
Is any thread safe from snarkity snarkness?

No, I wish some were, but then I realized that I'm part of the problem.

I'll try to give a good response.

I think that courage is when you actively make the decision to ignore your fear for a higher moral calling, the greater good, etc. It is something that you have the possibility to create every moment of every day even if it just some small thing like being kind to someone in certain situations.
 
No, I wish some were, but then I realized that I'm part of the problem.

Haha, it was a rhetorical question. Hope you didn't feel I was poking you for it. :p