I, like many of you, have been acutely attuned to what this pandemic has taken from me and those around me, including the limitations placed on our lives for the good part of two years. Why? Because I’m human, and that’s where my attention was seemingly being called over and over and over again. My experience of the pandemic transformed when I made a conscious decision to not only create space for feeling healthy grief and disappointment, but to also foster gratitude around all the things that remained grounding and consistent in my life throughout this global trauma. Making space for several experiences to exist at once is often a pivotal branch of healing and has allowed me to observe some remarkable strengths about the human experience this past year.
When I reference the facets of life that “remained consistent” throughout the pandemic, I’m imploring you to join me in my favorite place as a therapist- within the experiences underneath the surface. As we know, little on the surface appears the same as it did before March of 2019, and doesn’t come close to doing justice to the complexity of what we are (still) going through internally. Throughout Covid-19 we have been called to modify our previous rituals and schemas that made up “our world” and adapt to an entirely new lifestyle – much of which has been virtual or remote. While all the change and newness have felt both limiting and flooding, there are some parts that have remained constant and fundamental, such as our human needs for connection, belonging, and understanding as well as our adaptive ways of seeking them.
All of these needs may have been compromised for us in one way or another over the past two years. Some of us are grieving important losses, while others haven’t felt safe to leave or let others into the home and receive the human contact we so desperately crave. However, chances are, you have found some ways to create connection and belonging in your life despite the circumstances- because that’s what we do. That is the beauty of the human condition; we adapt.
A mantra toward which I’m often pulled in my line of work is, “Just because I can’t achieve the task at hand, how can I still work to achieve the purpose?” That is the epitome of what so many of us are out here doing. We’re shifting our awareness, whether consciously or not, to the people, the love, and the inner work that are all still available to us. And we are practicing gratitude toward the things we can. Never before have I heard so often, both inside and outside of the therapy room, such reverence for family, connection, and health.
Below are five observations I’ve made on the human condition over the past year that contribute to my appreciation of the world around me at the present moment:
- Human beings’ capacity for psychological resilience and adaptability is more remarkable than you might think.
Most of us have come to the realization that when we cannot immediately overcome the challenge itself, the real challenge is within our reaction to it.
- Most people really want to help others during times of crisis.
- The mentality of, “we’re in this thing together,” has formed new communities and sensitivity for each other.
While at times it has seemed like polarization and divisiveness, driven by fear and confusion, have been at an all-time high, I’ve never felt such an accumulation of expressions of empathy around me on a daily basis.
- More people are feeling inclined to finally help themselves. The stigma around mental health is dying.
This global trauma has confronted us with our demons, past traumas, current trauma, and painful family dysfunction that we so methodically (or unconsciously) placed to the side for all those years. Since we have all been forced to spend more time with ourselves, the inevitable confrontation of these buried experiences has allowed for so many people to get help for the first time (that many have been needing for a long time). Suddenly, healing work has actually become a choice in how we spend our time during this pandemic, and the accessibility to tele-health has certainly helped.
- We all have a lot more in common than we would like to think 😉
Similarly to the ‘let’s all learn how to bake bread’ Season 1 edition of Covid-19, there are other themes that have arose somewhat collectively. Waves of fear, anxiety, sadness, languishing, and whiplash have been felt deeply and broadly. We had found validation and comfort in collectivity, despite the pain. We have also found a new appreciation for time, health and nature. At its core, we are all imperfect humans navigating a world that is not black and white, doing the very best we can right now.