by Sarah Trance, LMFT
During trying times, why does it seem that we lose compassion? Fear and anxiety as a collective group can trigger characteristics that we don’t usually see in ourselves and that we don’t really like. David Brooks has a recent article in the New York Times around the history of pandemics and its effect on collective culture. When compassion dies, it seems that we lose collectivist needs and shift to individualistic ideals like buying all of the toilet paper and hand soap, continuing to travel to the office for fear of lost business, and battling our fellow neighbors in Facebook commentary about the need, or lack thereof, to close schools.
But the issue with fear is that it can be divisive during a time when we’re all experiencing a pandemic together. To over prepare allows for anxious people to gain a sense of control during a time of the unknown. While that may ease our present anxiety, it doesn’t allow for compassion and problem-solving in facing long term effects from COVID-19. We need our neighbors to have soap and sanitizer so that they’re also able to stay healthy – because the better able we join in this together, the better able we are to overcome hardship. If you’re feeling anxious and fearful, you’re not alone. Consider some healthier techniques in managing fear:
Focus on the things that you can control:
Practice coping skills:
Reframe negative, catastrophizing thoughts:
During a time where our fear triggers primal panic, we have an opportunity to slow down and let connection win! Let’s take a lesson from our brothers and sisters in Italy who, during quarantine, are reaching for one another in the safest way possible. To sing together, chanting ‘don’t give up’, and finding ways to share in their hardship without feeling alone, is at the core of our human nature. When we find our compassion, we can find connection. Although many of the events that bring us joy and excitement are being cancelled, we can remind ourselves that the following things are here to stay: song, reading, self-care, conversations, important relationships, love. Compassion breeds hope and in hope, we can lean into the good things that remain, together. The pro: the human soul and it’s power in love and connection.