Is THERE A SINGLE COURAGE or are there different kinds? Shall we compare it to energy, in which case it matters little whether it is thermal, nuclear, or hydraulic, whether it serves for heating or to power a motor? We can’t hold a practical discussion of energy problems without recourse to a theory of equivalences quite independent of its applications. But this lies in the field of physics, not of psychology.
Since courage is an affect, perhaps we should ally it to the most celebrated of affects, love, which does not lend itself to conceptualisation. No matter how powerfully we are exhorted to go for universal love, we have a hard enough time analysing the proportion of motherly-love, brotherly love, love of neighbour, and falling-in-love love. Just as these varieties of love are experienced very differently, perhaps we should also see kinds of courage as so diverse that they have nothing but the word that covers them in common. So far, in our efforts to free courage from the moralising mist in which it has always been enveloped, we have chosen to generalise
This is because every passage to act in spite of must be triggered by a release of this affect. As soon we are aware of it, we spontaneously call courage.
But if psychological and philosophical reasoning helps us to put order into our thoughts, it also removes us from the concrete. It calls up abstractions and mental processes which have the same relation to our experience as does a map of Chicago to walking in the city’s streets. The map is a help, it keeps us from getting lost, but it obviously doesn’t replace our footwork.
For everything that touches upon my daily life, direct and specific experience counts much more than reasoning. To understand courage as a form of energy helps me along the way. But when I consider courage in its applications it seems to me, by its diversity, to be more like love.
The trouble with the specific is that if we start to depict all its facets we see no end to it. Our life situations are infinite in numbers. We must be satisfied with a rough- and -ready idea, the first plunge into the concrete, which every one of us can pursue on his own account, in his own measure.
There is courage for all the ages but the varieties of it most pertinent to us are those necessary to contemporary man.
Thus we shall speak only for memory’s sake of the kind of courage which had individually been held of prime importance (especially for the male of the species), the courage to fight.
1. The Courage to Get Up In the Morning
(And to Face the Commonplace)
Insofar as sleep is a replica of our dormant prenatal state, getting up in the morning involves a decision, even if unconscious, to grapple with life. Repetitive as it may be, it is nonetheless fundamental.
Not everybody finds it painful to leave his bed and dreams behind him, but when we suffer from physical or psychological fatigue this daily rupture can be a hard experience.
In its symbolic aspect (a renewal of action) and its very banality (it’s the least of things) it sums up a real difficulty of living. It is not hard to understand why the survivors of concentration camps identified “getting up” as the most tragic moment of the day, the moment when they were once more seized by the horror of their fate.
The courage to get up in the morning must be drawn from everything agreeable that life in general, and this day in particular, has to offer. Its compulsory character (failing doctor’s orders to stay in bed) means that the best we can do is to concentrate on the means of psychologically easing the operation.
Doctors recommend we not jump out of bed the moment we awaken. A few minutes of thought about what will lend meaning to the day ahead is the best spur to the courage to live.
2. The Courage to Say “I”(And to Exist)
To be is a matter of acknowledgement; to exist contains an affirmation. Earlier we have shown that existence, vis-a-vis the Universe and the human race, cannot be taken for granted.
To say “I” is not necessarily aggressive and does not lead automatically to confrontation, although it may do so. For it is a radical affirmation, which draws a clear line between the entity that “I” am all the rest, all the others.
The courage to say “I” means to assume the consequences, among them the impossibility of real fusion with any other group or individual.
To say “I” means to want to advance in the direction of being more and more fully myself. It is the work of a lifetime, and sometimes we may wish to take a vacation from it, and to take refuge in “we”.
If we evade the challenge to exist while continuing to live, then we prefer comfort to control and passive enjoyment to responsibility. This wouldn’t be so disagreeable if we didn’t come to realise, sometimes too late, that the price to be paid is the loss of our life’s meaning.
In principle, we all declare to be in favour of freedom and autonomy. But in practice we behave as if these were harsh benefits, clothes too big for us, and we slide into compromise, which is a bland misnomer for self-abdication.
3. The Courage to Say “No”
(And to Not Feel Guilty)
A “no” to the world is a “yes” to myself. In order to say “I” we must first know how to say “no”. In any case, it must be quite a natural thing to do; babies learn to say “no” before “yes”. But, later, education sees to it that this is forgotten. Because society and family have fewer problems when everyone says “yes”.
Isn’t “no” brutal, impolite, egotistical, abrupt, and generally disapproved of? However, it is also our only frail rampart against the assault of duty, responsibilities, love, friendship, loyalty, and proper manners.
If saying “no” is too much for me, I have only to consent and acquiesce and, like Poland over the centuries, to witness my partition by the amiable forces around me.
The courage to say “no” depends on my ability to bypass and reverse my guilt feelings. I must grant myself every possible chance to exist rather than give in to other people’s demands. I must have a slowly developed, steadfast faith in the irreplaceable, even if fleeting, worth of my own life.
As with other forms of courage, the courage to say “no”, if we practice it assiduously, turns out to be less difficult to achieve than we had imagined. Saying “no” doesn’t create a social vacuum around us. Because saying “no” doesn’t mean being tactless. Other people — at least those who need and/or love us truly — are quite willing to admit our right to existence.
We must take into account that “no” is more within the reach of rough, simple individuals than that of polished ones. To have been brought up on tolerance and understanding had its disadvantages. We have to re-educate ourselves in order to renew our ties to the vital force of “no”.
4. The Courage to Be Alone
(And to Be Bored)
We are willing to admit, philosophically, our solitary state, but on the condition of having someone else constantly with us. Aren’t we told that a man by himself is in bad company? Don’t actuarial statistics tell us that singles live less long than couples?
But contemporary men less and less do without the courage to be alone, for two important reasons, which we add to those given in earlier pages. The first relates to big-city life-styles and to growing mobility, which make, inevitably, for greater solitude. In a metropolis like Los Angeles or New York the majority of householders are alone. Whether we are young, or old, or divorced, the chances are that solitude will be our lot during one or more phases of our life. Better, then, to explore its attractions.
Attractions there are, and that is the main and more important reason for beefing up the courage to be alone. The urge to fully develop ourselves, awakened by our liberation from age-old constraints, impels us to seek freedom from the joys of “belonging”. How many people do we see around us who have amputated a part of themselves in order to perpetuate an unhappy marriage, or who have not been able to stake out professional independence!
To insist on banishing or restricting solitude risks diminishing ourselves. Solitude holds treasures that may be among the ones we have always been looking for.
Besides, except in the caves of the Himalayas, solitude is always relative.
5. The Courage to Endure
(And to Go On)
Because modern man is trained to solve problems and has forgotten (without regret) his ancestors’ virtue of resignation, this courage may be the hardest of all.
This time it is a matter not of passing to action but of the reverse, of bearing up under the burden because we simply can’t eliminate or modify it. This is the complaint of those harnessed to an uninteresting job, of unhappily married couples with small children, of prisoners. To live in low key, with the certainty that there is no end in sight, demand tremendous fortitude, or else leads to drowning or drugging one’s sorrow in order to dull it.
No wonder that our picture of hell is of a place of suffering without end.
It assuredly takes more courage to dedicate one’s life to a handicapped child than it does to risk it on the battlefield.
This dull, creeping, stubbornly humble courage culminates in something close to permanent physical pain; it means imprisonment in a miserable, diminished self. Long-term unhappiness is heavier to bear than tragedy, which can, at the worst, do no more than kill us.
All the more amazing is the courage to go on, to continue. For many people don’t give up; they survive death camps, transcend their physical handicaps, triumph over long oppression. What they have in common is courage founded on faith in the beneficent, almost sacred, quality of their life. The same mixture of courage and belief that permits us to face the anxiety of death allows them somehow to go on living. And here cynics do not start out as winners.
6. The Courage to Change
(And to Dance)
Perhaps it takes less courage to change than to endure. But it is necessary more often, and here is our problem. Change is the order of the day, and it leaves us dizzy. Today, far from the traditional models of a village, a spouse, a trade or profession, a home, we lead lives in which any or all of these things change, perhaps several times over. Hardly has one change come about than we feel that another is in the offing.
Yet our essential nature, marked by our beginnings in the womb, needs calm and stability. We need roots and points of reference, and the whirlwind in which we live disturbs us.
Hence the courage to change is in great demand. Perhaps, because, most often, we have no other option.
Inevitability alone does not produce courage, but we can draw from it positive motivation. Doesn’t change make my life?
There is a powerful existential basis for the courage to change. Since nothing can ever replace the feeling of completeness I enjoyed before I was cast out from my mother’s womb, it follows that every other source of satisfaction or answer to my need can only be partial and transitory. The only solution is to pass from one to another in order to discover and experience the answers (none of them absolute) of which, in the end, I, myself, am the end-product.
No one else can perform this life-giving dance for me. It alone can lead me to the realisation of my potentialities. Besides, afterward, the experience of change reveals benefits which we had not at first suspected. Herein is a new source of self-confidence and courage.
Source: The Return of Courage. (Jean – Louis & Servan – Schreiber)
If you made a list of words easier said than done, ‘Change’ would top it. Meaning to alter, vary or transform. Change may be frightening and confusing but with it come opportunities of growth. Be always prepared for the bewilderment and anxiety that will overtake you when you want to make a change, small or big. Take Change as a challenge. We are in the midst of turbulent times, but the paradox is that the turbulence and quickness required for evolutionary change demand exceptional patience. If you can’t change anything to positive, do not change yourself to negative. Life is for changes. Let changes provide us a huge platform to serve Understanding, Respect and Love.
Change should and will give everyone of us the visibility and importance that we require to help us produce required results. Meaningful changes cannot be bought and/or enforced. They come from within to be implemented by people and they must be integrated into the Company’s cultural fabric. How we anticipate and respond to change determines not only whether we prosper in future but whether we have a future at all. If we want to change results, we have to change ourselves first.
Let us consider the real case of the Ford Motor Company, which grew from a one room brick factory into one of the world’s greatest industrial empires.
Henry Ford, the founder, despite his being enterprising and industrious very nearly ruined the business on at least two occasions because his adaptability and attitude to change had not kept up with changing times. After his death, the business was taken over by his grandson, a dynamic young man embodying grace of the past with the pace of the present through changes, both evolutionary and revolutionary taking the Ford Institution to great heights in volumes and values. He simply adored and not abhorred changes that would inspire growth with a healthy bottom line.
Change by itself is an active process that promotes physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being even at a personal level. For a passion to live quality life to the fullest, if we have to ingrain “Change” into our system, why not with all the pleasure?
Some useful and easy tips, when we work towards change in our well-being, YOU & WE:
1 Get enough TIME ALONE-time to meditate, relax, reflect, daydream, or be still. You manage to “stop the world” for a little while and get some distance from its frantic pace.
2 Exercise and are conscious of good NUTRITION, controlling what you consume, ingest, or inhale.
3 Have atleast one GOOD LISTENER in your life. Whether senior or a close friend, this person hears what you have to say and helps you gain an objective view of the world and make decisions. A good listener offers comfort, compassion, alternatives, or a gentle push in the right direction when you are stuck.
4 Participate in a solid SUPPORT GROUP. It can be professional or personal. It can meet formally and on a regular basis or casually and occasionally. A support group lets you know there are other people whose concerns are similar to your own and gives you the benefit of other people’s view points and experiences.
5 Employ effective TIME MANAGEMENT techniques to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to make time for the things you want to do as well as the things you have to do.
6 Maintain a sense of PRODUCTIVITY and accomplishment by pursuing challenging work, hobbies, and/or interests.
7 Take RISKS and strech your limits physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
8 COMMUNICATE your wants and needs as well as say no to what you do not want or need.
“Change” knows not “WHY & “WHEN” nor “IFS” & “BUTS”.
“If I had...... the money
a better job
fewer problems at home.... I would change”
“When I..... am more financially stable
get over this cold
know my kids are okay
find a better apartment
turn 25, 30, 40 etc......... then I will change”
When we postpone and procrastinate, our life does not get better. Often, it gets worse. It erodes our motivation to change. With each passing day it becomes difficult to see how we can improve our life stuck in the frozen attitude of status-quo.
Let me leave you with the words of America’s Dean of Psychology, William James. He suggests three steps to take if we honestly want to change. They are:
1 Start Immediately.
2 Start Flamboyantly.
3 Make no Exceptions (or excuses)
Let’s sincerely hope we all will and that our journey will bring us to the destinations in our fondest dreams. The possibilities for a better life are out there waiting for us. They are within our grasp as soon as we take our first step to get there. Life is a banquet. Life is a gift. Let’s enjoy it through challenges of Change. We can do it.
Let us dedicate ourselves to Change from within with the advent of the New Year and in the process if we change, enjoy that change.
With best wishes for you all with your families and friends for a Healthy, Happy and fulfilled 2007.