Written by Tiiu Lutter, Director of Development and Family Therapist
You may have noticed, in the last few weeks, that you have hit a wall. And not just you, but most everyone you know. And you are right. Worldwide, we. are. over. it. We are over the pandemic, we are over Zoom, we are over faking optimism, we are over cooking for ourselves AND we are over takeout, we might even be over our partners, our families, our kids, and our friends. But why are we feeling this way? It’s not the immediate impact of anything. A big part of it is the unending uncertainty of the world right now: some people getting vaccinated, some are not, it feels unfair and unmanageable, more people out of jobs, there’s nothing to look forward to for months, school is still awful and getting worse, all novelty is long gone. We know how to do this thing, we are just sick of it. We are all running on fumes. Humans don’t do well with endless uncertainty! We crave predictable, and are not built for worldwide, unprecedented suspended animation.
In January of 2021, we are long past just needing to be resilient and deep into the land of grit. Even those of us who would never ever ever run a marathon (because we know better for ourselves) suddenly find ourselves in an unending super marathon through Death Valley. We are numb and grumpy.
So what do we do? Fortunately, someone did research on something like this in the past. Viktor Frankl had theories about grit and resiliency and then tested them when he was placed in concentration camps in World War II. I know that living through a pandemic isn't quite the same as a concentration camp, but the insights and psychological tips he offers are applicable to all aspects of life. After the war, he fine tuned his therapeutic model and wrote a great book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, he offers a path for getting through endless uncertainty and even endless suffering: meaning. He found that if we can find meaning in our experience we can survive anything.
As he said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Simply put, We can survive anything, as long as we can give it meaning. All kinds of suffering. This is how kids survive abuse, all of us survive algebra, floods, another Eagles’ loss, and this pandemic.
Humans get to choose how we move through tough times and we can find our own WHY. Frankl suggests that we think about that this is not what we expected, because who did? But rather that we use hardship to discover what life is expecting of us. In his research he found that people were most successful when they attached to one of a couple things:
- Love: including people who are gone
- Meaningful work/creation: if you're lucky, it’s your job. If not could be cooking, drawing, polishing the furniture, washing your mirror, singing in the shower - whatever brings you some connection and joy.
And here are a couple tools to help connect you and help you move forward: humor, forward thinking, dreams of afterward, looking for beauty (music, nature, and even our loved ones faces and kids’ tiny feet!), and lots of self-compassion.
So what do we do now? Know that you are not alone, and know that if you feel bad, there is a reason. Take a minute and tell someone (even yourself!) everything that is bugging you, and then let it go. You are in good company. Then remember that right now, we sometimes must focus on the things we HAVE to do. Then, take care of yourself and your loved ones, whatever that looks like. Show grace. REST. Find and think about love, look for beauty, and, if possible, find something meaningful to do even if only for a few minutes each day.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. We are made to do hard things. Yes, you can.