How we think about mental health impacts our well-being. In these pages I offer my perspective - an African-centered, black-centered view of us and of what makes us well. an alternative path to healing both the personal and the collective.

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Cultivating Courage

November 08, 20182 min read

What is courage? The word itself has its origins in the Latin word for heart. The heart is widely thought of as the seat of Love in the human body. So, courage is a matter of the heart. Normally words like courage and bravery bring up images of swords, fists and iron strength. Sometimes, that is what courage looks like on the outside. But real courage, whether or not it externally looks iron-fisted, usually involves a softer kind of energy that allows for an opening up to, rather than a plowing through the challenges we face.


Fear is intimately connected to courage, not fearlessness. Courage is conquering your fear, it is feeling your fear and doing it anyway, as the famous book title goes. If courage was a coin, fear would be one face of it and Love (including self-love, self-acceptance) the other. Love is what allows us to move through our fears – to be present to them, to accept them, to reassure them and to finally face them. One of the biggest and most common fears in us is the fear of being ourselves, of truly and fully expressing everything that we are. We consciously and unconsciously pull all kinds of shenanigans to avoid it because we fear not being loved as we are.


Like most traits, courage can be cultivated. It may be that some people are born courageous, but most of us need to work at it. We can cultivate big courage through small acts of courage. Like training for a marathon, we run smaller distances first to build our endurance and gradually increase the distance until we can run that marathon. With courage, we can begin by speaking up in situations where we wouldn’t normally have spoken up, or wearing something a bit more daring that begins to reflect who we feel we are inside. Then we can move on to sharing our creative work with a small, trusted, and supportive group of people and overtime work our way up to, say, an exhibition. Before we know it, if we keep it up, we’ll be openly living a more meaningful life, doing the things that are important to us but which we were too afraid to do for fear of criticism or of losing the love of the important people in our lives.

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Yema Ferreira

Yema is an integrative psychotherapist on a mission to help heal the collective trauma of people of African descent. Therapy and writing are her tools.

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