Being able to participate in the community or contain one’s anxiety through work or campaigning means that you also have to find a way to be within one’s own psyche. In 1982 my inner anxiety felt as if it were reflected out in an unsafe world, so part of the focus was also in trying to manage that by going into therapy. From that I understood that the anxiety I had always felt came from unsolved conflicts between structural elements of the personality and that by beginning to confront all that; and that courage resists despair by taking anxiety into itself.
The thing about anxiety is that it is a way of avoiding non-being by avoiding being – Paul Tillich writes about the neurotic personality which on the basis of greater sensitivity to non-being and consequent anxiety has settled down to a fixed though limited and unrealistic self-affirmation. In contrast courage is the readiness to take on the negatives anticipated by fear for the sake of a fuller positivity … the courage to be is then a function of vitality which is the power of creating beyond oneself without losing oneself. This is the affirmation of being over non-being.
A person’s power of life is their freedom and the spirituality in which vitality and intentionality are united. The courage to be is essentially always the courage to be as a part and the courage to be as oneself in interdependence. In other words being fully alive is also about being able to relate and realise the connections with one another.
Tillich knew that the Augustinian analysis of the classical Christian doctrines of fall, sin and salvation are also the material of depth psychology. Both involve the struggle for the preservation of the person, for the self-affirmation of the self is found in a situation in which the self is more and more lost in the world.
Courage is the self-affirmation of being in spite of the fact of non-being, affirmation as part of an embracing whole or in its individual selfhood. Courage has to be rooted in a power of being greater than the power of oneself and the power of one’s world … every courage to be has openly or covertly a religious root. For religion is the state of being grasped by religion itself.
In this way every enquiry into the self is also a spiritual searching and every spiritual search involves self-discovery.