Emotional reinvention in the age of Coronavirus
May is upon us. April, if not the cruelest, was indeed a lost month. Most of us barely noticed that it came and went while we were still focused on getting used to a frightening, uncertain situation.
Which was kind of inevitable, really. Even when only small adjustments are required, we often sleepwalk our way into a new scenario.
Raise your hand if you have never been ruled by inertia. Regardless of whether I find myself in a comfortable or an uncomfortable situation, the road more travelled is to postpone any decision, or to give up on planning any change whatsoever. Countless times I have managed to take the step, to finally make the move — only to wonder why on earth I did not do it earlier when it was obviously the best course of action.
Worst of all, while I walk blindly into more of the same, I soon realise that I have become a clear victim of the so-called projection bias: the tendency to overestimate how much my future self will share my current preferences, thoughts and values, and how this leads to less than optimal choices.
Incidentally, this is what leads to food waste, as what we assume we will want to eat in a few days’ time may not be accurate — wilting kale in the fridge, anyone?
I have heard as many reactions to the lockdown as the number of people that decided to share them. Some cannot wait to just enjoy again what we did for so long without knowing we were privileged, like having a cold beer in a bar or hugging friends. Others are actually enjoying the time to read, reflect and enjoy activities we barely had time for in the old normal.
Why, given the same circumstances, do some people enjoy confinement while others struggle? It is hard to give a general response, but we know that some of us seem to take a while to recover from mild inconveniences, while others bounce back relatively quickly from the direst of circumstances.
It is also hard to admit that sometimes an external source of pressure or discomfort can be the best thing that happened to you.
We like to think we are the masters of our fate and that we make changes of our own volition. Deliberate, powerful movements fuelled by our own sheer strength and will power. Hardly so: often the obstacle leads the way, and we follow.
It may take a partial restraint to our freedoms to give us the breather needed to finally change our minds — and I mean that literally: getting our minds to function differently when we hit a wall — and focus on new ways of dealing with difficult circumstances. A sort of “updated” self that we may or may not share the thoughts and values that we have cherished so far…and that may be difficult for us to recognise at the beginning.
So my question today is, the lockdown is still here, how do you plan to use it?
There is no obligation to be this practical, of course, and I sympathise with those that refuse to take this enforced confinement as an obligation to become their so-called “better selves”, or more productive, or enlightened — whatever that means.
Going against one’s natural tendencies is not easy and we did not ask for this new strange world anyway.
We can take these months as just a parenthesis in how things should be, cope with them the best way possible and put our hopes in a restored normal that will bring back cosy feelings. I notice though that this stand has limitations and it is mentally harder, especially since there is no clear horizon for when this restored normal will take place, if ever.
Experience tells me that in the long term, the temporary discomfort of trying to do things differently pays off in both expected and unexpected ways. It needs a bit of a leap of faith though.
At the very least, these months can be a golden opportunity to listen to our own emotions and experience them fully.
There is nowhere to hide except your own sitting-room and there are only that many distractions that will keep those feelings at bay.
This is an era of self-directed learning and wide access to information. That, in itself, gives us more power than we think. Do you feel lost? Write those emotions down and let them guide you. What are they trying to tell you? Annoying as they are, they often carry powerful messages that we refuse to listen to. They feel awfully real and stubborn and we fear they will scar us permanently. No one wants to be angry or sad forever.
However, if we pay enough attention, they will be easier to tame. A bit like little children: once they feel heard by a sympathetic adult attempting to understand them, they calm down and become much more collaborative. Read about it. Talk it out. Someone or something along the way may be instrumental to give you a new perspective. And at one point, those emotions will leave space for now feelings and interpretations, and things will get better.
April already came and went, May is half-way there, but there is still time. Every day is a new day, if not to change the world, to change ourselves.
Every day has a light of its own and is a true new opportunity.
Thank you for reading! : )