Denver’s Courage Club Encourages People to Take Fear Head On

Imagine a place where you could gather with others to work on techniques to overcome fear and gain a little taste of what therapy is like without the sticker shock. That is what Courage Club, in a nutshell, is like with sprinkles of laughter and deep breathing in between.

Galen Bernard a former journalist and now mental health coach founded Courage Club in 2015. It began as a word of mouth movement that traveled around the world from San Francisco to Puerto Rico hosting immersive connection sessions. In 2019 the club took its place in Denver and made it home base for Courage Club events.

“When I brought it to Denver, I wanted to shake it up a little bit and it’s been so cool to make it more about ritual and more about community. Before it was very much come I [will] show you and give you the info and you [can] go out into your life with it,” said Bernard.

Courage Club sessions are two hour-long events that Bernard starts off the group in a circle with everyone introducing themselves and immediately diving in with how each individual deals with impending fear. Different people in the group give answers of calming themselves with meditation, exercising to raise endorphins, or in my case – giving a self pep talk to prepare for the fear. Bernard then introduces the theme of the night that the group will work around a speak about.

Photo by Remy McAllister.

The theme of that night was “Little and Big” and it continued with a musical performance from Kaira Mayestra on the guitar. Mayestra played and sang a heartfelt original piece while participants were asked to write down current and future obstacles – whether they be little or big – that they were needing a bit of courage to face. After writing down these scenarios, the group was asked to split off into pairs and discuss one of these topics – giving in to a little fear while also helping another hopefully gain some courage to face a challenge. 

Some of the fears included breakups, dealing with imposter syndrome (the fear of feeling like a fraud or feeling doubt in your accomplishments) and finding ways to not avoid conflict to rather face them head-on.

Photo Courtesy of Archipelago

After a while, the group is called back into a circle and given a chance to talk about the experience of speaking in pairs about the topics they chose. Bernard then explains that even though some experiences that fill people will fear and anxiety may seem small or not a big deal in hindsight, they might still give us those feelings – which isn’t always a bad thing.

Bernard then dove into an example of how there was an instance at an outdoor concert where he saw an open chair behind someone as he stood watching the performance. He spoke about how he questioned if the person was waiting for someone or if the seat was saved and he was filled with anxiety and dreaded with the thought of asking the individual if he could sit down in it or to just take the seat. He debated and debated due to this fear and even though it wasn’t a big deal, the fear got to him. For the next few minutes, he continued this in his mind. The next thing he knew, the person standing next to him had taken that open seat. Again remerged the theme of “Little and Big.”

“Fear primes yourself for action,” stated Bernard.

After examining how fear can be a catalyst to propel one’s self towards positivity – such as being anxious before an interview or taking the plunge before a big opportunity – instead of making fear negative and backing away from that fear, the group is prompted into splitting off into two parallel lines facing each other. In these lines, three questions were asked – What fear did you first remember having? What fear did you last conquer? And how do you plan on helping someone else you know to take action to face a fear or anxiety within a certain time frame? The group was given a time limit of one minute to answer each of the questions giving a bit of quick release and intensity to the moment.

The evening then meets its end with a final performance from Mayestra singing an original song about the Earth and our control and connection to others. 

The whole evening was really about rewiring and giving recognition to the relationship of fear, giving individuals a chance to dive deeper into how they deal with their fears. At the end of the night, there were sighs of relief, spirits lifted and some clarity in the air that perhaps wasn’t there before. 

Bernard also plans on expanding his Courage Club programs to not only cover topics of fear and anxieties to later speak about cultural fears, economical fears and societal influences.

“My hope is to make Courage Club a spot where anyone can come and find a little more freedom from fears and start to be able to do the things that matter most to them more often,” said Bernard.

Bernard is launching a web platform to help connect others around the world as well a program for women over the age of 40 to help with the next stage of life called Bold Leap. You can keep updated on those launches here.

The next event takes place on September 25 at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available here. Archipelago Attic is located at 2345 7th St., Denver