Dr. Matthew Paldy

The Psychodynamics of Courage

"Courage can be defined as the ability to brave death into tolerate destruction rather than to betray the nucleus of one's psychological being, that is, one's ideals. There are genetic, dynamic, and structural aspects of such fortitude, as well as certain auxiliary devices which the psyche employees in order to maintain its resolve. One striking characteristic of unusually courageous individuals is that at certain critical moments or stages of their lives they create imagery concerning in all-powerful figure on whom to lean for support. This idealized figure may be a personified God or a prototypical historical figure or a charismatic person who is living in the present. It is my impression, however, that in many instances of great heroism it is not an intensely connected value system alone which is the primary motivation for the courageous thought or deed. As I will try to show, this motivation arises from the entire nuclear self of the individual and not from his values alone."

-- Heinz Kohut