Many of us are plagued by the violent whispers of fear and apocalyptic visions of death, loss and economical demise. We are imprisoned in our own homes, condemned to utter solitude and sentenced to isolation and helplessness. The seemingly contradicting messages sent out by either experts or politicians do not bring relief either. And then there are those who believe that panic is the true pandemic, rather than the true malefactor: the lethal adversary that cannot even be seen with the naked eye.
There are times when there is nothing we can do to change our fate, and when we do not know what is going to happen.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist who had survived the holocaust and had to deal with both the suffering in a concentration camp and the loss of his loved ones, wrote that in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Were his circumstances more severe than ours? It most certainly appears that way. Yet, he found a purpose and meaning where most others could not find it, and because of that he persevered.
So, what can we do in these troubled times? I would say that this is the perfect opportunity to learn how to embrace unpredictability, uncertainty and the unknown. We are forced to face things we most likely can neither predict nor prevent, and more importantly, as we are no longer distracted by normal life’s many attractions, we are forced to face OURSELVES. Furthermore, as our natural tendency is to follow habits that lead us away from facing hard truths, changing ourselves is of paramount importance. There are certainly methods that help, from counselling and meditation to mindfulness and breathing exercises, but at the core, I believe, it all comes down to learning how to sit with the chaos of our own emotions and uncertainties, non-judgmentally and without trying to avoid the experience of suffering. There is simply no better way, and we will come out of it stronger and wiser, not just individually, but as a people, of that I am very certain.
© 2020 Marcel van Delft