Meeting Any Losses, Any at All…Head On
Between a 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. The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.
– attributed to Viktor Frankl,
Even though final results in the U.S. 2020 presidential elections are not yet completely clear, even as of this morning’s posting, whatever the final choice of the electorate, it’s still vital that each individual citizen “shows up” to respond to the new day with a sense of responsibility to continue to discern our options and make wise choices in response.
The oft- quoted perspective above about our responsibility to choose has most often been attributed to Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. I recently read in Daniel Levitan’s A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking with Statistics and the Scientific Method how very easy it is for quotation attributions to “drift.” Certainly Frankl expressed the perspective above many times in his writings, though these exact words have not been found there.
What’s important is that the truth of the perspective rings true, and that’s why this particular quote has been passed on through the decades. If someone who spent 3 ½ years in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, could propose such a perspective, it encourages us to try to live from such a perspective in our own very tumultuous times.
A pivotal hallmark of resilience and post-traumatic growth is responding to whatever has happened by making choices (See yesterday’s post: In Cataclysmic Times, Resilience Is Bouncing Back; Post-Traumatic Growth Is Bouncing Forward.)
Making choices empowers you and gives you hope. Making wise choices can change everything over time. And that works on every scale, very personal, very global.
Here I’m repeating the very wise yet very practical suggestions of my friend Rick Hanson from his October 28, 2020 post, repeated with his permission in my November 2, 2020 post. Valuable and workable:
There are so many examples of honorable people facing great danger with dignity, principle, and courage. They did it. We can, too.
Start by riding out the storm. When big things happen at any scale – in your child’s schoolyard or in a refugee camp on the other side of the world – it is completely natural and normal to be shocked and disturbed by them.
As best you can, stay with the raw experience, the body sensations, the deep feelings, the stirred up fears and anger and perhaps paralysis. Whatever it is, it is your experience; some may be upset about a big event while others may be glad about it; I am definitely not trying to talk you out of your experience. Be mindful of whatever is passing through the big open space of awareness, observing it without being flooded by it. Painful and counterintuitive as it may be, this is the foundation of releasing really hard experiences and replacing them gradually and authentically with thoughts and feelings that are helpful, wholesome, wise, and even happy.
Do things that help you come back to center and find your footing. Personally, I prioritize exercise, sleep, and meditation; I try to feel the truth of being basically alright right now, in this moment, moment after moment (alongside and deeper than pain or sorrow); I do the dishes and make the bed. Walk the dog, call a friend, eat something, look at trees and sky, get a cup of tea and stare into space. Take good care of your body.
Guard and guide your attention. It’s one thing to find facts and form the best plans you can. It’s another thing to get distracted or upset by news or other people that do not add any useful value.
Take heart in the good that is real. Outside you, there is the kindness in others, the beauty of a single leaf, the stars that still shine no matter what hides them. Right now as you read, all over the world children are laughing in delight, families are sitting down to a meal, babies are being born, and loving arms are holding people who are dying. Inside you, there is your compassion, sincere efforts, sweet memories, capabilities – and much more. Take heart with others, sharing worries, support, and friendship.
Do the things you can. The more that events are turbulent, alarming, and beyond your influence, the more important it is to grow stability, safety, and agency inside you and around you.
Have courage. At all human scales, strong forces have always tried to confuse and frighten others. Whatever outward action is necessary, you can preserve an inner freedom, never cowed or bowed in your core.
Last, I’ve found it really helps to have perspective. Without minimizing one bit of whatever is awful, it is also true that humans like you and I have been walking this earth for nearly 200,000 years. I see the trees, the land, the ocean – all of it here before me and lasting long after me. Empires rise and fall. Sometimes the center does not hold – in a body, marriage, or nation – and still. And still people love each other, go out of their way for a stranger, and marvel at a rainbow. Nothing, nothing at all can change this. We keep putting one foot in front of the other one, lifting each other up along the way.