Coping with Disappointment to Avoid Disaster
As more and more activities of daily life – going to work, going to school, going to a concert or sports event, traveling by plane or boat or train – become more and more restricted in the cause of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, I’ve framed this for myself as coping with disappointment to avoid disaster.
Resilience practices can help us cope with any level of disruption to our lives – from small disappointments to challenging difficulties to extraordinary disasters. Keeping the big picture, how many people have been affected (infected) already, how easily this novel virus (no immunity, no vaccine, no treatment) spreads, the sense of common humanity supports me in the choices to practice “social distancing and self-isolation” terms that weren’t even part of our vocabulary until a few short weeks ago.
Underlying this shift in behavior is a core principle of resilience – response flexibility.
From Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges by Steven Southwick, M.D. and Dennis Charney, M.D.:
People who are resilient tend to be flexible – flexible in the way they think about challenges and flexible in the way they react emotionally to stress. They are not wedded to a specific style of coping. Instead, they shift from one coping strategy to another, depending on the circumstances. Many are able to accept what they cannot change; to learn from failure; to use emotions like grief and anger to fuel compassion and courage; and to search for opportunity and meaning in adversity.
In times like these, we deepen our practices of resilience – learning to cope with disappointment to avoid disaster…and we learn that we can.