This morning, a friend and I were talking about the virus and how surreal our current situation is. A few months ago, we were reading about the emergence of this weird virus in China. At that time, the magnitude of the virus seemed like the proverbial snow ball on top of a mountain. Fast forward to today, this little snow ball seems to have grown to such enormity that it seems as large as the whole mountain. It has struck fear into the hearts of most, and people have reacted and not so much responded. This blog is an effort to respond versus react.
There is an emptiness that has come along with the virus. Empty store shelves, empty hotels, empty restaurant tables, empty churches, and empty parking lots. Photos on the internet show NY Times Square and St. Peter’s Square … empty – not to mention other enjoyable places people can gather and connect.
This heightened sense of emptiness has fueled mounting fear and panic for many. One of the hallmark symptoms of fear is “What if … thinking.” Since fear can often be a future oriented emotion, it is common to think, ‘What if things gets worse or don’t get better?’ When triggered, fear can tap into a primitive or survivalist part within us. As a result, people can begin to make reactive decisions that are based on fear as opposed to responsive decisions that are values grounded.
Reactive and fear based decision making often fuels behavior that is irrational and ego driven. If not kept in check, this behavior can lead to selfish acts, such as stealing disinfectant wipes from hospitals or hoarding baby wipes – depleting the supply from those who really need them.
This behavior reflects an emptiness within– the seemingly disappearance of positive values. I have seen this happen to a lot of people – their sense of integrity and character becomes overshadowed by the short-sightedness and panicked thinking that fear promotes. It has happened to me – the emptiness I have felt afterwards has made me cringe.
So, this is a call to all of us to respond in a values grounded way to our health crisis and to disinfect ourselves from a tendency to react out of fear. Rather than get caught up and stuck in negative, fear based thinking, let me invite you take a step forward and use a different kind of ‘What if thinking …” Below are some examples:
In the midst of a fear and uncertainty …
What if I practiced gratitude every day by identifying 3 things I am thankful for?
What if I wrote them down and shared them with those close to me?
What if I practiced humility and prayed for the doctors, nurses, and researchers seeking to find a vaccine?
What if I prayed with my children for those who do are severely ill?
What if I practiced generosity and made cards for those who are quarantined in an assisted living center? How about for staff and medical personnel as well?
What if I practiced togetherness by baking cookies with my kids and sharing with others?
What if I made a special trip to the store and purchased supplies for a local homeless shelter?
Please add your own ‘What if … thinking’ to the above.
Take a moment and imagine how you would feel as you nodded off for the night knowing you responded and not reacted to the fear. Would you feel empty on the inside or perhaps feel fulfilled by your values grounded decision – making and actions?