Channeling Courage and Bravery

I was in session last week with a 26-year-old female who is navigating marital issues.  She recounted conversations that she had with her husband since our last session, which have led to conflict and unpleasant emotions.  This client is admittedly a people-pleaser and wants to avoid conflict at all cost, so actively stirring up conflict has been challenging and uncomfortable for her.  She shared that she noticed herself wanting to shrink back and say “everything is okay,” or “never mind,” when she sees her husband upset.  She then asked “Where do you get courage and bravery from or how do you channel it?”

Excellent question!

Different situations can channel different forms of courage and bravery, hers is about accessing the courage to practice vulnerability and authenticity.  We discussed if she had thought about, visualized, journaled, or meditated upon the emotions that she thinks are on the other side of these conversation mountains. She was able to name these emotions and visuals and very much looks forward to experiencing those.  We discussed holding onto those and bringing those to the forefront of her mind when her anxiety increases in these conversations and the inclination to give in, appease, and minimize her needs arises because she knows that will reduce the anxiety - temporarily.  We also discussed reminding herself of the whyshe is having these conversations and practicing positive self-talk before difficult conversations with her husband.  The strategy of people-pleasing to reduce anxiety and avoid conflict is the exact reason she has a mountain to climb and we have been working on becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Courage.  Defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one.”  The Latin root of courage is “cor-” which means heart (as the seat of emotions).  In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart."  Today we typically associate courage with acts of bravery and heroism, but we all face situations where we have to channel inner strength to take steps into the unknown and land of discomfort. We take the leap, embrace the ambiguity, and see what unfolds trusting ourselves that we can navigate what comes next. 

And because I love a good quote, the word ambiguity reminds me of one of my favorites:  

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”

― Gilda Radner




Back to courage… 

Here are some places courage comes from and ways you can access it:

1.    Find role models and people who have walked the path before. 

These are people who have taken the bold actions you want to take, have walked the path, and can or have shared their experiences and results.  They are people you admire and want to emulate overall or in certain aspects of life.  These people can be accessed in real life through face-to-face conversations or you can read their biographies or memoirs.  A wealth of experiences are shared on Podcasts, TED talks, and blogs.  Seek these out and, if possible, make the in-person connections. 


2.    Act on your intuition – listen to your heart. 

We’d all had that experience where we’ve had a gut reaction or a hunch about a situation, an opportunity, or about a person – these can be positive or negative hunches.  It’s one thing to acknowledge that you are having an emotional response and to know what your intuition is telling you.  Acting on this intuition is another way to listen to your heart. When you listen to your heart, act on those emotions, and prove to yourself that acting in spite of fear leads to good things, it reinforces this habit and practice.  Finding others who have acted on their intuition or support you doing this can also help.  Remembering times in the past when you didn’t listen to your intuition and then kicked yourself afterwards can also encourage you to listen to it this time!


3.    Avoid pain.

When you continue on the tried and true path and look down it to see what life looks like in 20 years and that picture seems miserable or unbearable, use the avoidance of the future pain as a motivator to do something different now. Stuck in a dead-end, unfulfilling job but fearful of making changes?  Ask “Is this what I want my life to look like in 5, 10 years?”  Feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship but fearing bringing up issues because you don’t want to rock the boat?  What does your internal world look like in 2 years if you continue to silence yourself and keep others happy? Using avoidance in this situation is actually a motivating strategy rather than an unhealthy coping mechanism.  


4.     Focus on the dream.

Much like with my client, we focused on what she is moving towards.  Will the temporary discomfort I feel in taking this action be worth the outcome I desire on the other side?  If the answer is yes, keep moving forward.  Mediate on, journal about, create a vision board, talk with friends - whatever your approach - shift your focus to what you are moving towards rather than what you are shrinking away from.  This will foster more courage and bravery. 


Do you have strategies for tapping into your courage that you’d like to share with others? Share below!  

Struggling with navigating a situation that requires courage and the ability to take the leap? Reach out, we’d love to help!