Fear and Weakness and Fortitude

Due to recent events, this older post is topical once again…

Despite political grandstanding from both sides – a politician police officer on the one hand and a reality TV politician on the other – talking about what ‘they’ would have done. The fact of the matter is they don’t know.

No one knows what they will do when they are first faced with that moment, when they must walk toward Death to preserve life, risking everything, to get the job done.

It can be an enlightening experience. And what we do in that moment – or fail to do – can literally define the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, the rest of many others’ could be defined as well – or simply cut short. 

This is what you get when you stop training your cops to be Warriors…

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“Death fear and Death weakness hit the boy, shutting off his breath, stopping his blood.”

William S Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Fear exists at the core of so much of  human concern. Most in our modern society will have little need to summon the physical or moral courage necessary to address matters when the consequences are truly meaningful: death, or serious injury, or the loss of livelihood for doing what we must; Or social status and support systems (like our jobs)  for standing up for what is right.

And when that need arises, some will find themselves lacking. Hopefully without  the kind of devastating consequences we see in the news today, on a number of levels.

Two books addressing the development of the kind of courage needed to do these things, particularly in soldiers and “other professions that go in harm’s way” are:

Conquering Fear – Development of Courage in Soldiers and Other High Risk Professions


Power of Courage in Combat and Danger

both by Halim Ozkaptan Phd, Gen. Crosbie Saint (Ret.) and Col. Robert Fiero, (Ret.).

Actually they are the same work, the latter an expanded version published later, with Appendices and more background information. It is specifically addressed to Army leaders interested in fortitude, and instilling, developing, and maintaining it in combat troops.

Essentially it boils down to Character and Courage – the “strength of mind allowing one to endure pain or adversity courageously,” which of course applies to anyone hoping to manifest these traits in times of danger. Liberal use is made of historical quotes providing examples to help define the topic, offering perspective and wisdom from times past, and confirming that we have known for a long time how to develop fortitude in people…

It’s just that the prescription is hard to swallow.

The book breaks it down into leader training, individual training, and collective training. Specific to military applications, most of what is discussed is universal. There will be nothing groundbreaking for those in the Interdisciplinary tactical training world, spanning as it does the elements of sound character traits and actions of the leader, inculcated personal ethics and knowledge, and skills and physical attribute training.

All are spoken of in general terms, though a few specifics are mentioned in passing: targeted symbolism, rites of passage, and esprit de corps; the difference between leadership and management (spot on, this bit!); combat sports and games (“boxing, judo, wrestling and pugil sticks”…sense a theme?); maneuver training, etc. Each is attached to a particular realm: leader, individual, and team training, and all are geared toward allowing the individual to manage fear under duress, as well as just going about everyday life with integrity and resilience. The effects of military life and of managing fear over time and with repeated exposures are addressed at length.

As a collection of general principles on developing fortitude through constant attention to training the inner self as well as developing leader and warrior skills, this book has much to offer. It could stand some editing, and once again, while nothing earth-shattering is presented there is often some value in having our belief systems – and life path – confirmed.



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