“For my will is as strong as yours
and my kingdom as great.
You have no power over me.”
– The Labyrinth –
Those of us who are teenagers of the 1980s may remember these iconic lines of a poem, recited in “Labyrinth”, a 1986 musical fantasy film, revolving around 16-year-old Sarah’s quest to reach the center of an enormous otherworldly maze to rescue her infant half-brother, whom Sarah accidentally wished away to the Goblin King.
As I was thinking about this blog and what I wanted to convey about courage, this poem came to mind. After all, if we are courageous, we persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. In other words, we possess control and authority over our reaction to a situation. In the end, it all comes down to a power play between the perceived threat and our ability to withstand it. As soon as we relinquish control, we give power to someone or something else, which can be as abstract as thoughts, ideas, emotions, or expectations. Very often, courage is the mental strength to stay in our own power.
Here is an example: Let’s imagine we are in a situation in which we know the right thing to do would be to confront someone by voicing concern, verbal disapproval, or critical feedback. Let’s imagine this someone is a person we respect and care for. Rather than following Brené Brown’s advice “clear is kind” most of us fall victim to uneasiness, apprehension, or irrational fear. We tend to escape the situation, procrastinate the conversation, or avoid it altogether.
Why? Because we give power to the thoughts, ideas, or movies in our head: The person will be hurt or offended if we tell them the truth. They will dislike and judge us in return. Our relationship will suffer. For some people, this is where their mental cinema and self-talk takes off: “Oh my, if I do this, they will hate me. They will never talk to me again. Working together in the future will be horrible. They will tell everyone what a bad person I am. Or they will quit. Well, not if I quit first. – Come on, don’t be such a wimp, if I can’t even do this, maybe I am a total misfit for the role I’m in. Yes, that’s right, I’m a failure…” and so on! Sounds familiar?
Now, some may think this is exaggerated, they may not have noticed these thoughts in themselves but a) these are only examples, and b) maybe they have not noticed them because their self-observation stops at noticing the uneasiness of not wanting to deal with a situation in the first place. Not everyone examines the why behind the why, yet that is where courage starts. If you sense the tendency to avoid something, ask yourself why. What’s behind your hesitation? What thought, concern or worry is holding you back? What emotion is driving that thought?
Being brutally honest with yourself when doing this kind of self-scan is also a form of courage. Acknowledging your fears and emotions, no matter how irrational, ridiculous, or embarrassing they might be, is important. Yet, accepting them is not the same as giving them power over you. In fact, by acknowledging them and even embracing them as a part of who you are, you are magically assimilating their power and turn it into confidence, compassion, and self-love. You metaphorically enlarge your kingdom of inner peace by saying to yourself: “It’s okay to feel or think this way. I am no less because of it. Thank you – thought or emotion – for showing up. Yet my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.”
Oh and in case you were wondering why I brought up David Bowie in the headline – well, guess who played the Goblin King in “Labyrinth”…
Authored by Martina Mangelsdorf, Chief Strategic Dreamer at GAIA Insights
Read more about Courage in our blog “The First Virtue (or the most important skill of the 21st century)”.