Author and self-confessed “pathological worrier” Polly Morland shares how you can teach yourself to be courageous.
Bravery had always been a mysterious quality that others possessed and she lacked – as a timid soul, she had been more prone to anxiety, relates Polly Morland from her home in Chepstow, UK.
But then one day, about three years ago, the award-winning documentary maker came across a long-forgotten news story that changed her life and concept of courage. “It was about an eccentric group of stage-frightened performers in New York, 70 years ago,” she says. “They were named the Society of Timid Souls, and together, they learnt to be brave. With the use of rudimentary exposure therapy techniques, nervous musicians, actors and singers learnt to overcome their fear of performance.
“What was so intriguing to me about this story was the timing: Because the Timid Souls first met within just a few weeks of Pearl Harbor and the moment the US joined World War II, I couldn’t help wondering how those big fears that come with frightening times must have triggered a thousand tiny terrified ripples, little crises of courage at all sorts of levels in people’s lives.
“I couldn’t help sensing a real connection between their age of anxiety and our own; these strange years since 9/11, where there’s been such a lot to be frightened of. I found myself identifying with these Timid Souls – and I was inspired by their stories to work out for myself how you might learn to be brave.”
So Polly did the most daring thing she’s ever done – she quit her job to spend three years interviewing over a hundred people, whose enriching stories of courageous feats were collected in her recent book, The Society of Timid Souls, or How To Be Brave. From soldiers, objectors, freedom fighters and cancer patients to surfers, climbers, a bank robber, an opera singer, a man who confronted a suicide bomber and a woman who carried out her own Caesarean section – here’s what they taught Polly about true courage ….