Who would have thunk it? Most of us have never experienced anything like COVID 19. As many of us in our country, even throughout the world, have been obstructed and disturbed by several gigantic turbulences in their lives (e.g., world wars, gigantic volcano eruptions, drastic ups and downs of financial markets), this is unique. A virus? Impacting the entire world? Yes, we haven’t experienced anything like this in our life time, although history shows that we have gone this way before. Most of us have felt the crunch that has taken place along the way; and without a certainty of what’s best next, we each have a choice as to what path forward we will take. There are many paths, yet we all must ask ourselves which one will lead us to the best one.
What path will you take? When people become anxious or stressed, it is common to react with either/or a mixture of “flight, fight or freeze”. These are the common responses to anxiety.
What is “flight”? It is running away from it all. The hype of the virus becomes so overwhelming and unstoppable that it can’t be reckoned with. As emotions of anxiety or fear reach a new height, logic may not be at the forefront and running away is the primary mode of operation.
“Fight” is another pathway some follow. Here, the emotions of anger/blame come forward. It is an effort to ensure there is justice or that those in authority be held accountable for poor leadership. The individual finds justification through efforts at opposition with feelings of being wronged. Again, emotions run the show and finding the path may be secondary.
“Freeze” is a reaction oftentimes felt by those who are stunned or shocked with the trauma and their emotions paralyze them so that moving forwards or backwards is not considered. Panic is the primary emotion, and staying still without a course of action is common-place.
Emotions have a hay-day with disturbances we have to face, such as this virus. We can allow our emotions; like anxiety or fear or anger/blame or guilt, to guide us down a path that allows our passion or reactions to lead.
We can also allow our own biases or personality traits to dominate our choice of paths, be it burying your head in the sand with a sei la vie’ attitude, fighting for power or control, reacting with a sense of being victimized and dependency, or sharing a full force of drama.
Resilience is a path that oftentimes is left forgotten. Resilience allows for a brighter ending – being logical about the reality of the virus, appreciating the challenge of it all, seeking emotional and spiritual endurance, over-powering the temptation of reacting with raw emotion, and building inner strength may all be keys to finding the right path.
Most of us believe that at some point we will return to a new normal but one we can accommodate with. How are you going to get there? In paraphrasing one author, “We all get off the train at the same time; but the experience of it all is up to us”. Indeed, these are uncertain times. Be aware of the path you choose.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW