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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Diagnosis: Human Antidote... Acceptance

Nov 30, 2021 10:00AM ● By Liz Jorgensen
As of this writing, we are in the 76th week of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We sit in a marathon of change, caution, uncertainty and all the things that tend to make average humans a bit loopy. This near-universal distress is compounded by knowledge most of us have that we cannot be sure how many miles are left to run.

Humans absolutely love the illusion of control. It is our essential “diagnosis” and the reason for much of our mental stability—as well as our suffering. Most of us understand our limited influence in many spheres and yet, we get really squirmy when we know for certain that we are not in control. It’s the essential tension of our emotional lives.

For those who tend toward a spiritual approach, the first assumption may be “there is no such thing as certainty” and having faith that things are unfolding as they should. The key to acceptance is not to fall prematurely into the “spiritual bypass” of avoidance and an over-emphasis on positive thinking, or any technique, including yoga, prayer and meditation.
For those who prefer philosophy, Epicurus said it quite well 2,400 years ago: “The only thing permanent is change.” In the world of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we have brazenly borrowed from many philosophies to help clients accept life as it is right now in order to feel some relief from the death grip of control-based suffering.

We must accept change as it comes at us every day in some form: our just-washed car gets dirty in a day, our plans for a hike get rained on, we want complete “freedom” to travel and do what we please and we are still asked to be cautious and careful due to virus variants. This is the paradox we all face. Some of us are managing it better than others, and perhaps the most vocal of the “science doubters” are masking fear and maybe even terror in a human all-time favorite delusion called “denial”.

But truthfully, don’t we all deny things psychologically every day? That we may die in a car accident as we start up our vehicle, that we surely will lose loved ones before we ourselves die, have only a temporary reprieve from some form of aging and illness each day, regardless of additional pandemic anxiety. Maybe we can be more loving and compassionate to those around us who deny the power of a virus that has killed 620,000 Americans so far and millions worldwide. It is, after all, a terrible burden to accept the truth—at first at least.

So how can we emotionally and psychologically “work” with our pain and fears? If we allow ourselves to first be afraid, to feel confusion, anger, even small doses of self-pity, and then work to release them, we may achieve what is close to peace, temporarily. It’s important to remember that accepting pain and all our emotions using a form of practice and then eventually releasing the tricky emotions is a skill and a habit that must be regularly practiced, not something we can achieve through shortcuts.

The idea of Spiritual Bypass is especially important to consider as a threat as life becomes more uncertain. It is so tempting, even seductive, to believe we can cleanse, yoga or meditate ourselves away from our human suffering—that we can hover above it in a stance of superior bliss. We can’t, and if we try, we fail, and may even hurt ourselves or others in our “enlightened” denial. Whether we “don’t believe in vaccination” or we seek to over-focus on self-improvement, we may still be missing the point. We all are subject to the human condition which does include a quotient of pain and illness. We don’t have to fear this.

Even if we have a real release of our fearful uncertainly, in our very next breath it may return. That is okay and real and spiritual as well. We all falter, we all get greedy for release, for more, for the illusion of control and certainty, for our ego domination of the world. In this hungry and irrational state, we tend to do compulsive and goofy, if not more seriously self-harming, behaviors. We all do this—the only difference between us is our preferred compulsions and the energy with which we chase them.

A 12-step slogan, “Let go or get dragged,” sums it up completely. We have a choice and can continue to clutch our hope that this can’t be happening, or this needs to stop. What we cannot choose is the emotional results of this choice. And they aren’t pretty.

This sounds good, and yet so many things are displaying impermanence at once, things we may not have realized were “constants” are gone, so many small and large pleasures and freedoms are just out of reach—including perhaps belief in truth itself. Most people are experiencing some feelings of heightened intensity of all emotions, anxiety, sadness and grief, as well as anger and confusion.

What can be done to help us with our essential suffering? The answers are in a way simple and extraordinarily difficult at the same time. They stem from the ability we have to train our minds to focus on the things in our lives that we can influence—the small choices we can make every day to remain in the moment, to have gratitude for the small things we still do have, to allow ourselves time outside and in nature every day, to reach out to others, even and especially friends we may have disconnected from, to eat clean or as healthy as we can, exercise, to keep a regular sleep schedule and to offer help to others who are in need. These small practices can enhance our mood and give us a sense of personal meaning.

Research is already concluding that a possible diamond in the rough emerging from the limitations and pain of the pandemic is that many people are nurturing a deeper appreciation of all they do still have: their health, small pleasures, a job. For some, this shift has been dramatic as they reassess their values and how they spend their days to reorder a deeper sense of meaning.
So, try looking in the mirror a few times a week and using the affirmation, “You can do this. Get to it.” Whether while grimacing, laughing or smiling, be gentle to that squirmy, scared, small child self who is looking out of the mirror. Because it is always true. We can do the one thing we think we cannot today, and in committing to this, we may have peace and real healing.

Liz Driscoll Jorgensen is a psychotherapist and spiritual seeker who has been on the path  of recovery for almost 35 years. She is the owner of Insight Counseling, LLC, in Ridgefield. Connect at [email protected] or InsightCounselingLLC.com. See ad, page 9.

Insight Counseling LLC - 105 Danbury Rd  Ridgefield CT

Insight Counseling, LLC - 105 Danbury Rd , Ridgefield, CT

Liz Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, particularly in engaging resistant tee... Read More » 

 

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