It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on it being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. - Charles Dickens
This morning I woke thinking about the stages of grief. This is what we are dealing with during this pandemic. Read the posts on social media. Notice how they range from denial, to anger, to bargaining, to depression? Occasionally, there’s acceptance.
Denial is pretending that it isn’t happening. For example: “It’s all a hoax!” or “It will be over in a couple of weeks.”
Anger is a self-protective measure. Instead of facing how much pain we’re in, we mask the pain. Often, it expresses by projecting blame onto others. For example: “Chai-Nah.” Or “Anti-vaxxers!” Or “Conspiracy Theorist.”
Bargaining is what happens when we feel vulnerable. We want to post-pone the pain. We need to regain a sense of control. We want to believe that we can affect the outcome of an event. For example: “When we get the vaccine, life will return to normal.”
Depression is the flip-side of anger. Anger is active. Depression is passive. Anger goes outward. Depression pulls inward, withdrawing as a way of coping with the sense of loss. Anger gives us a sense of power. Depression just leaves us feeling overwhelmed, foggy, heavy and confused.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that we have moved past the sense of loss. We still need to acknowledge it. We need to honor the feeling. We need to feel it to heal it.
Acceptance means that we have come to understand what it means. We’ve taken a blow. We’re dealing with a major change that has turned life, as we know it, upside down. We recognize that things may never go back to “normal” but we’ll get through this. No matter what.
Acceptance is the recognition that WE must change. We must find a way to cope with the uncertainty on a day-to-day basis. We must learn to adapt. We’ll have good days and bad days. Ups and downs are a part of life. It’s not what happens but how we deal with what happens that determines our quality of life.
How We Live is How We Die
When I worked at Hospice, I learned that people tend to die the way they lived. Some go peacefully in their sleep. Having come to accept change, they have made peace with their death. Others go out in a rage, kicking and screaming until the end.
Through the work of therapeutic hypnosis, I have come to understand this. Our responses to life experiences are learned. People who blame, learned to cope with their emotional pain by blaming. People who withdraw, learned to internalize their pain.
Denial is just another word for avoidance. Sadly, this is an encultured requisite for correct social behavior. We’re taught at an early age to stuff our feelings. We learned to deny our truest feelings and wear the mask of positivity. As a result, we suffer.
Bargaining often expresses as “if only” and “what if” thinking. This is the thinking of a Child. Children cannot express anger for fear of abandonment. With nowhere to go, the blame gets turned inward, leading to depression later in life.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that you are happy with the way things are. It just means coming to terms with how things are.
Acceptance is what allows you to adapt to fluctuations in external conditions. You can consciously choose to change course by trimming the sails or change tack, entirely. This is what resilience looks like.
Resilience is what gives us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can change, and the wisdom to know the difference. It’s learned.
Tough Times in Childhood
Tough times in childhood were meant to develop resilience in us. Learning from these experiences is what allows us to face tough times in adulthood. But not every lesson in childhood is completed in childhood.
Few people get through childhood without a few scrapes and bruises. It’s the unhealed wounds that keep a person stuck in the thoughts and feelings of the Child.
A Mighty Wind
Stuart Island is a privately owned island off the northern shore of Vancouver Island. One night, a storm kicked up, pummeling the island with a mighty wind. Come morning, what remained was a bizarre, treeless bald patch running through the middle of the island. It was like a huge bulldozer had driven the full length of the island, flattening every tree in its path.
Reforesting this massive area would have taken years and considerable expense so the owners decided to take advantage of Nature’s gift. They cleared away the debris and installed a nine-hole golf course in its place. That’s what we must do.
A mighty wind called Covid is sweeping across the globe. It is uprooting lives and devastating economies. We must come to accept that this is just how it is. For now. It may not change anytime soon.
A mighty wind called Covid is sweeping across the globe. It is uprooting lives and devastating economies. We must come to accept that this is just how it is. For now.
It may not change anytime soon. We may never fully return to “normal”. But perhaps we can find something worthwhile in it, just the same. Perhaps we can create something good out of a bad situation.
According to numerology, our lives move in nine-year cycles. 2021 is a Universal 5 year. It’s the top of a hill that we have been climbing over the past four years. Last year, in particular, demanded hard work and restriction.
This year brings the opportunity for change. We can choose how we will proceed over the next four years. Or we can continue repeating the same old, same old. And continue to get what we've always gotten.
Think of 2021 as a fork in the road. Do we really want to return to the old ways? Is the path forward “business as usual”? Or might there be a better, healthier, more joyous option? What do you think?