How to use Emotion Scaling to turn fear into courage

It’s easy to see the natural relationship between fear and courage. But practically transitioning fear into courage is a more complex task. Fear and courage are two sides of the same coin. But going from one emotion to the other is more difficult than just flipping the coin.

Instead of going straight from fear to courage, you can use an exercise called Emotion Scaling to help you get there in more digestible steps. The idea is that leaping straight from fear to courage may seem like an insurmountable task, but taking a small step from fear to a related emotion like anxiety or doubt may be easier to achieve.

Imagine a ladder with ten rungs, and each rung is an emotion. Jumping straight from the first rung to the tenth is not possible, but climbing them one by one is easy. Emotion Scaling uses the same principle to help transition negative emotions into positive ones, one small step at a time.

Emotion Scaling technique:

  1. Design your own emotion scale going from fear (1) to courage (10). Use emotions that you feel comfortable accessing, but you can start with something like the scale below:
    (1) Fear
    (2) Anxiety
    (3) Doubt
    (4) Pessimism
    (5) Boredom
    (6) Contentment
    (7) Optimism
    (8) Enthusiasm
    (9) Passion
    (10) Courage
  2. Identify your current position on the scale. You do not need to be in a state of fear to carry out this exercise; maybe you’re already feeling optimistic about a situation, but looking for the courage to take the next step.
  3. Come to terms with your position on the scale. Know that there is no courage without fear, and that negative emotions are important steps on the journey to positive ones.
  4. Climb the ladder one rung. Once you understand your current position on the scale, try to approach your situation from the next emotional standpoint. If you don’t feel any different, re-assess your current emotional state from step 3 and try again.
  5. If you’ve successfully moved up a rung on the emotional scale, don’t immediately keep climbing. Instead, try to distract yourself and come back to the scale later. If you’re still feeling the emotion of a step above your starting rung once you come back, you’re successfully climbing the ladder.
  6. Celebrate every successful step. By appreciating each step you take along the way, you’re also giving yourself encouragement to continue the journey.

We often think about warriors and courageous people as those without fear. But it’s important to realize that we all face a wide range of emotional states in our daily life, regardless of the levels of external stress or pressure we face.

The best warriors are those who recognize and understand their emotions. They are aways conscious of their emotional state and external factors that might affect it, and can even practically transition between their emotions.

You can use techniques like the Emotion Scaling described above to try to transition your emotional state. Don’t try to go from fear to courage right away; every step up the ladder is a success.


At MaArtial, we believe in taking small steps on your way towards progress.

While it’s useful to think about courage as a component of fear, it can be difficult to try to jump from one emotion to the other.

Instead of trying to turn your fear directly into courage, it can be beneficial to use the Emotion Scaling technique above to take smaller steps on your journey into courage. For instance fear -> doubt -> boredom -> enthusiasm -> courage.

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Photo: Rene Burri/Magnum Photos/Profimedia.CZ

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