Shades of courage. Emotional dimentions of courage in the family semantic polarities model

Valeria Ugazio, Ferdinando Salamino

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


This article puts forward the hypothesis that courage varies accordingly with the dominant meanings through which people construct their own world. Delving into the model of family semantic polarities (Ugazio, 2013), the authors identify different shades of courage within the semantics of freedom, goodness, power, and belonging and illustrate and discuss them providing examples from their clinical practice and from literature. The goals people aim at when acting courageously, the threats they feel, and obstacles that entangle them are different in the four shades of courage discussed. The threat within the semantic of freedom is represented by the dangers the world is fraught with, in front of which the individual is constructed as vulnerable. Autonomy is the purpose, since losing autonomy means to lose value in front of oneself and the family. Fear is thereby the obstacle. Facing the word alone is the paramount shade of courage within this semantic. Breaking the siege of guilt is the principal shade of courage within the semantic of goodness. Being brave within this semantic often means to trespass the boundaries established by a moral code perceived as oppressive. Consequently the threat is to become corrupt and the obstacle is guilt, whereas the aim is to feel alive. Winning alone is the prevalent shade of courage within the semantic of power. It requires overcoming the need of approval (obstacle) and facing others' envy in order to gain one-upmanship (aim). Within the semantic of belonging, being courageous means accepting the fate of a stray dog in order to retain one's own dignity. Exclusion and loneliness are the threats, whereas the hope of being loved and included is the obstacle, since it may lead to the loss of dignity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-233
Number of pages19
JournalTesting, Psychometrics, Methodology in Applied Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Family semantic polarities
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Phobic disorder


Dive into the research topics of 'Shades of courage. Emotional dimentions of courage in the family semantic polarities model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this