Real Life Heroes: Do You Have What It Takes? | Parade

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In August, bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff persuaded an armed gunman to surrender at a Georgia school. Would you have the same courage under fire? Below, four characteristics common to real-life heroes. 1. They abide by a moral code. Heroes have often sworn allegiance to a system of principles that prize selfless action. (Think firefighters, police officers, or the clergy.) “Professional honor codes, as well as personal codes, remind us of the values we stand for,” says heroism researcher Zeno Franco, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin. In the case of Captain Phillips, “he had internalized that code for captains of vessels.”

Perhaps as a result, many heroes, including Phillips, downplay their selfless deeds. “They say, ‘That’s what I’m supposed to do,’ ” says psychologist Robin Rosenberg, Ph.D., author of Superhero Origins: What Makes Superheroes Tick and Why We Care.

2. They’ve been trained to take action. After the Boston Marathon bombings, many bystanders and runners who rushed forward to help were doctors or EMTs. School clerk Antoinette Tuff had been taught how to handle dangerous intruders. And according to a study published in Social Psychology Quarterly, people who help street assault victims are more likely to have had rescue training. Even doing something as simple as learning CPR can help prepare you to act.

3. They’re highly compassionate. Heroes often see strangers as people like themselves instead of “others” with whom they have little in common. How can we change our view? Research by Deborah Small, Ph.D., and Paul Slovic, Ph.D., has shown it’s easy to shut down when we’re bombarded with grim statistics (“800,000 people were killed …”); we’re more apt to step in when we perceive others as individuals. If you want to help with hunger, for instance, get to know people at your local soup kitchen; their struggles will inspire you to serve them.

4. They perform ordinary acts of kindness. In surveys, Stanford emeritus psychologist Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., has found that people who volunteer roughly 60 hours a year are more likely to have carried out heroic acts. Zimbardo believes that when you consistently perform good deeds, focusing on others’ needs begins to feel more natural.

Elizabeth Svoboda is the author of What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness, out this month from Current.

via Real Life Heroes: Do You Have What It Takes? | Parade.

The Science Of Conquering Your Fears -- And Living A More Courageous Life | Huffington Post

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Aristotle believed courage to be the most important quality in a man. “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible," he wrote. Today, it's one of the more neglected areas of positive psychology, but recent research has begun to move toward an understanding of what courage is and how we might be able to cultivate the ability to face our fear and make decisions with greater fortitude. Neuroscientists recently determined just how courage works in the brain, finding that a region called the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) is the driving force behind courageous acts -- a conclusion which could one day prove useful in treating anxiety disorders.

So how can we train our minds to act more courageously in everyday life? Other recent research on courage, which has shown that's it's not just about facing fear, but also about coping with risk and uncertainty (as Ernest Hemingway put it, courage is "grace under pressure.") And, it seems, we can make ourselves more courageous with practice and effort.

Below, six tried-and-true ways to loosen the grip of fear on your life -- and become more courageous than you ever imagined.

via The Science Of Conquering Your Fears -- And Living A More Courageous Life | Huffington Post.

Heroism amidst the sharks? |


Are we right to regard athletic achievements as heroic, or is that a sign of a culture that has lost its moral direction in waist-high hyperbole? One hears the word “awesome” often in reference to things that are merely convenient or satisfying. Even attorney ads seem overblown – perhaps especially attorney ads, Bar regulation be damned. Don’t even get me started on the Super Bowl hype, even though I loved every minute of it last year when the Ravens won in the Super Dome. Reasonable people can and perhaps should stand aftward shouting “HALT” at American lexical inflation that obdures. But might Nyad be an exception to the heap of hype? Nyad risked death in her journey; she could have drowned, died by shark, died by jellyfish or other means. She had no guarantee of surviving 110 miles in the ocean at age 64, rescue crews in companion boats notwithstanding. Other performers risked death, too, though, such as the tightrope walker who walked, no net, between the Twin Towers in 1974. He was impressive and daring, but probably no hero.

So why might the term “hero” or “superhero” apply, without hyperbole, to some Baby Boomer swimmer? I don’t know that it does, but a few thoughts come to mind. Heroism does not subsist only in the cardinal virtue of fortitude, but fortitude is a core, necessary element of heroism. We take actions every day to prevent loss of life – paying attention to the roadway and putting the damn cell phone down, for example, saves lives but is not heroic it requires de minimis self-discipline. Heroism, and specifically the fortitude necessary for heroism, are rare.

via Heroism amidst the sharks? |

Where Do Heroes Come From? | Greater Good

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In her new book, What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness, science writer Elizabeth Svoboda explores what prompts people to act altruistically and how to strengthen the likelihood of heroic action when we are called upon to do so. While awe-inspiring heroes are to be admired and emulated, Svoboda writes, “many slow-and-steady career altruists also practice a kind of quiet heroism, one that too often goes unrecognized.” She makes the case that, whether we are talk about heroic or altruistic acts, “all of these acts arise from the same basic motivation—enriching someone else’s life at personal expense, whether small or large—so the differences between them are, in part, a matter of degree.”

In other words, everyday altruism is a precursor to heroism. If we build up our “altruism muscle,” she argues, we are more likely to act heroically when the time comes.

via Where Do Heroes Come From? | Greater Good.

Can courage like Antoinette Tuff’s be taught? | Washington Post


But one question I keep asking myself since hearing about Antoinette Tuff is this one: Is that kind of resolve–that kind of unflappable calm and courage in the line of fire–actually something we can teach others? If we are lucky, our parents, our spiritual leaders, our teachers, our loved ones show us how to be empathetic and compassionate. Tuff repeatedly spoke during interviews of her faith, of her pastor’s voice in her ear, of the practice he taught her of “anchoring.” Our life experiences–in Tuff’s case, a disabled child, a divorce, a contemplated suicide–help to give us courage. Each moment that takes something from us tends to give us something, too...

One hopes that the right mix of role models and life experiences, prior tests and personal faith combine to give us the mettle to act as Tuff did. But that kind of response may also be something far more inherent and innate. Most of us will never know. We don’t get to practice the sort of high-stakes moments where Tuff showed her remarkable grace–truly the best word to describe the confidence and compassion, calm and courage that she showed. The best we can do is try to prepare for it.

via Can courage like Antoinette Tuff’s be taught? | Washington Post.