I sincerely hope you are all doing the best you can, handling any challenges with awareness and strength, and continue to deepen into what is ‘up’ for you and others.
Let me start by acknowledging that although ‘we are all in this together,’ each of us is experiencing the pandemic along a wide range of situations. Some are financially unaffected while others are at risk of losing property and businesses. Some are deeply concerned about high-risk loved ones or have even felt the loss of someone, while others have not been directly touched. While some may be savouring the increased time at home, others are at increased risk of intimate partner abuse, addictive behaviour and mental illness.
From my observations, it is clear that as our routines are altered and distractions reduced, whatever was bothering us before is now most likely staring us in the face. Even if we find our lives busier (e.g., children/partner now at home), we lose that precious self-care time so necessary to keep any issues at bay or managed.
What is coming up for you? Financial insecurity, unhealthy relationships, anxiety, depression, lack of meaning, boredom, anger, or perhaps the fear of death of others or of self. Is anything really new for you in the discomfort?
Behind any discomfort lie our psyche’s complexes (those bundles of familiar historic emotions and beliefs) that beg for our attention – for change – in order to lessen our suffering. Here is an opportunity to sit with the uneasiness (on whatever level). Can we meet ourselves?
The pandemic beckons introversion – a conscious turning inward, with increased awareness of our feelings and thoughts. Then, with willingness and honesty, with courage and humility you can do the necessary work of putting your inner house in order.
There will be losses. For some, there already has been loss of wages, property, relationships, meaningful work and activities, and dreams. Even if the losses are temporary or will inevitably come in the future, this is grief work.
Hope and expectations have been shattered and we are more than a little ticked off! It is important to name what is lost – the void – and feel your feelings and honest thoughts around them.
It is not necessarily about what is lost but what feelings and beliefs they bring up in you. Statements emerge such as, “This isn’t fair! This isn’t what I had planned! Now what will I do? Who am I if I can’t ______?” Now we get closer to some core issues. Explore these statements and queries. Indeed, life isn’t fair. And, you are more than what your job is or what you have in your bank account.
Transitioning Self &Society Part of the introversion requires us to clarify our wants, values, purpose, what brings us meaning and what matters most. Here is where some are recognizing any ‘silver linings’ in all this.
We see in self and others an increase in patience, being supportive, recognizing our interdependence, a healing Gaia, and a balancing of masculine and feminine principles. What are your ‘silver linings’ (if any)? What have you learned? What do you want to remember as you move forward?
Similar to facing our own ‘stuff,’ there is also the exposure, perhaps like never before, of political, societal and collective (they are all the same to some degree) cracks or shadow material. Treatment of certain sectors and populations, wage inequities, how we act in shopping lines, the comments slipped out about ‘them,’ etc. are in the spotlight, with energy (media coverage, funding) being placed upon this other side of human behaviour, with transformation already happening.
Jungian Murray Stein, in a recent interview, images an “Umbra Mundi” – a world shadow hovering over the globe. In alchemical terms it is nigredo – a process in which all ingredients have to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter before any transformation can occur.
Like the newly exposed silver linings, it will take personal and collective perseverance to prevent any dimming of the spotlight or tarnishing of lining insights, changes and progress made to date.
We talk about the ‘new normal,’ how it already feels better in some ways, yet, will you (society, government) sustain these insights? Will the supportiveness to others, less spending, enjoying our morning coffee at home, etc. go back to business as usual? Remember that ‘normal’ does not equate to healthy or functional. What might Ego be resisting as this ‘new normal’ unfolds (even if temporary)?
And why might we be so sad? [I’m seeing this a lot!]
Most often current loss touches upon past losses evoking memories (flashbacks) accompanied by their associated feelings and cognitions. This stirring, often unconscious, often amplifies and distorts the current grief – a grief bundle may form. Thus, it is important to sort out what specific loss one is grieving in the moment and what feelings one is actually feeling. Often there are unresolved feelings (guilt, anger, resentment) and thoughts (“I should have done more” or “I was so stupid!”) with these past losses/decisions that may or may not coincide with the current grief.
Trauma Response And, while we are here, many of the losses, past and present, were and are traumatic, so in fact the pandemic may be re-traumatizing or traumatizing for some people.
The pandemic is invisible, universal, mysterious, and terrifying, with a component of lack of control. Does this remind you of any past situation? Core trauma concerns of safety, helplessness and unpredictability, as well as victim energy may surface. We can change helplessness by being productive and doing what we can. Unpredictability can be altered by setting schedules and adding structure to the day.
Watch for flight, fight or freeze behaviour – all natural and normal trauma responses. Anxiety and fear provoke anger, aggression, panic and paranoia. We may dissociate by numbing, withdrawing, zoning out or being in denial. Our aim is for emotional regulation or stability (staying in that window of tolerance) achieved by healthy and conscious means.
Whether stressed or traumatized, the key is to get grounded/calm and to stay grounded. We calm both the body and the mind. Breathing techniques, any type of meditation or mindfulness activity, stop thoughting, energy work, and moving the body need to be part of the daily routine.
Creativity also plays an important role in processing emotions – incorporate dance, singing, drumming, howling, play, writing, cooking, and art into your life. Dosing these along with other self-care activities 12 times throughout your day is better than doing something for say 2 hrs and then believing “that’s it.”
To calm the mind. It is helpful to recognize core issues (safety, control, scarcity, abandonment, not enough, victim, etc.) that are surfacing and have rational, ‘go to’ statements ready. This can be as simple as, “I am safe, now.” Or, “I’ll make the best of what money I have.”
Deepen into values, beliefs and virtues (acceptance, gratitude, kindness, integrity, service, etc.) with these statements. These can then be part of daily intentions, prayer and meditation. Examples include:
- “I am where I am because this is exactly where I am supposed to be (on this journey called life).”
- “Even though I am feeling (anxious, overwhelmed, scared), I unconditionally love and accept myself.” [This statement is from EFT tapping protocol.]
- “In the worst case scenario, I will … “
- “I am grateful for …..”
- “I trust that I will …”
We may not know where this pandemic will take us, yet each of us can decide how we are going to handle whatever comes. Some advice – “When one can see no future, all one can do is the next right thing.” (Pabbie, in Frozen II)