The world is fraught with danger and people have different ways of dealing with it. Some will avoid the subject, others will react with fear, endure a stressed life or follow strong leaders who promise to protect them. While developing courage is the only viable option, many people don’t even know that it’s a possibility.

In Costa Rica, nothing causes greater uproar at a social gathering than someone shouting "Terciopelo". Warnings of a deadly fer-de-lance snake - Bothrop Asper - if it appears unexpectedly at your bar-b-q will send everybody into high alert. That very aggressive species of viper is responsible for more than 70% of the tiny country's snake bites.

Terciopelos aren’t mean or evil. They don't want to hurt you but, unlike most vipers who retreat and avoid humans, Bothrop Asper attacks at the slightest hint of danger. It'll easily reach seven feet in length and be as thick as your forearm, and that snake will quickly dispatch even larger mammals like the Giant American Opossum to an early grave you can imagine that its bite will cause havoc.

The majority of bites result from carelessness - as farm workers will trample directly into its environment, often barefoot, causing the snake to react. Terciopelo toxin is so venomous that survivors will tell horror stories about their bite. Besides a burning sensation and great discomfort at the wound, skin and muscle tissue disintegrates. Victims know the poison is attacking their brain's reptilian brain circuits, as they experience memories from primordial beginnings. They'll remember writhing in pain with awesome nightmares.

Farmers, eco-trekkers and people who appreciate the beauty and order in Nature can't let fear of that little terror rule their lives. Instead we recognize how the viper is a very effective controller of the rodent populations, that it protects its young from harm as any parent will, and it will stick to its habitat. If you are careful wherever rodents might be, you'll most probably avoid an encounter.

Of course, if you let yourself be affected by fear, it'll reduce your quality of life. Personal power depends on developing the 4 kinds of courage that psychologist Rollo May calls: physical, moral, social and creative courage.
  1. Physical courage is not the adrenaline charged antics of a Hollywood hero. The body automatically floods the mind with its "fight or flight" hormones at the slightest hint of danger so our gorilla grunts or anxiety attacks are a natural reaction. But you have to know that physical courage is more than a positive attitude in the face of adversity. From the French "coeur" - which means heart - courage describes the mood opposite to despair. Having physical courage means remaining true to the path of your heart - in spite of obstacles, challenges, trials, hardships or more.
  2. Moral courage begins with seeing the pain and suffering of others with empathy. In the perception, May says, we can overcome the form of cowardice called apathy. It is righting the wrongs that we encounter in daily living. Think of the peacemakers, activists and spiritual heroes across history as having moral courage.
  3. May defined "social courage" as the willingness to invest in relationships that demand increased openness and intimacy. In hard times, our more primitive reactions will often rule the heart but experience shows that a closed-minded and selfish attitude is detrimental to our continued existence. If I learned one thing in my months in the hospital, my very survival depended on opening myself to the experience of others.
  4. May said that creative courage is the openness to explore "[...] new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built." He also explained how courage is not the absence of fear but rather the ability to act in spite of being afraid.
Essential to health and wellbeing, May says that courage supplies the hope which"[...] makes being and becoming possible."

People in stressful jobs - like firemen - will undergo
courage training to help them better manage their reactions to circumstances and events. Because understanding follows experience, they learn that self-empowerment begins by adding the courage needed to overcome a reactive mindset.

Of course, the most important source of courage is the spiritual depth that lets you live each moment as if it was your last. After all, we can't experience two emotions simultaneously and if we experience love, then there is no fear.