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Living the Dream

For people who are introverts and who desire a lot of time alone, COVID-19 isolation is less of a challenge – at least at first.  Now running into a month of very little human contact – and no hugs from family members, I am beginning to recognize some of the psychological scars of taking all of this on.  For example, as a psychotherapist I continue to practice – albeit through telephone counselling or video counselling.  It is the first time that I can say that I am experiencing that same trauma that all of my clients are experiencing.  So I am mindful of my own counter-transference and my clients’ transference.  I am more sensitive, easily disturbed, and just as confused as my clients.  We struggle to find meaning; to find deeper connections; and to find an outlet for pain, fear, sadness, grief and anger.

Some of the usual places to channel those emotions are removed from us  (e.g. the gym, shopping malls), so we must learn to sit with these emotions – sometimes in deep silence. We’re not used to this.  Sitting with feelings in silence is very uncomfortable and downright scary.  Emotions CANNOT  hurt us – it’s what we do with those emotions that can hurt us.  But it’s easy to turn to alcohol and food at a time when we cannot find other places to distract ourselves.

But what about just sitting. Allowing those emotions to wash over us. I am reminded of the teachings of Ani Pema Chodron who has guided me through many difficult times in my life.  She teaches that:  “Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”

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