They say courage is born on the battlefield. That may be true, but I think just as often it arises in the aftermath, when we work to face our emotions. Anyone in a service profession knows about putting a “game face” on. You know it, showing no fear even when you are about to walk into a situation that is dangerous, frightening or threatening. Joe Frazier knew it when walked into the ring to face Muhammad Ali, arguably one of the greatest boxers of all time. Ali had a total of 56 professional wins, 37 of them by knockout. So when Frazier walked in the ring, he likely knew that he had a 50% chance of being knocked unconscious. Yet he did it anyway.
Shoving our emotions aside in times of distress is important and often necessary. It allows us to remain functional. The challenge is knowing when and how to take our game face off, and look deeper to discover what it is that we are actually feeling.
In treatment groups I’ve had Special Forces Members, Police, RCMP, Firefighters, Paramedics, EOD Techs, Corrections Officers and Trauma Counsellors say the same thing. Coming to treatment was one of the hardest, but most important things they have ever done.
So perhaps courage does take many forms. The obvious ones, and the more invisible form as we all come together to regroup, recalibrating our central nervous systems, and reclaiming important aspects of self that may have been lost along the way.
In my mind, that is indeed the face of courage.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong