This pandemic has challenged us, wounded us and changed us.
We are faced with new, scary adversities with each passing month. And we can’t even reach out for a big hug, because sadly, even human contact and comfort itself can have devastating consequences.
There’s so much happening that we can’t fix. People have lost their lives, their loves ones, their jobs, income, sense of security, and many of the freedoms we’ve all come to hold dear. It can feel like there is nothing we have control over anymore.
So how have I found healing and helpful amongst this worldly crisis?
I use a coping skill called radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance is knowing that the pain that comes from events can’t be avoided, but suffering is optional.
This means we can acknowledge that bad things happen and we can’t control or change it, but we can control how we relate to it.
Especially in this individualist culture, we slave away trying to get ahead that we bury our true feelings. We find ways to compensate with “not enough” by accomplishing more, staying super busy, engaging in addictive behavior and showing off to look good. But if we deny our true feelings about this pandemic, we are not being responsible for our true healing and happiness.
Tara Brach is my favorite spiritual teacher on Youtube, and she has taught me how to apply radical acceptance to our suffering in this pandemic. She uses an acronym, to make radical acceptance easier to remember, R-A-I-N:
We need to recognize our feelings and name it. Whatever it is, whether it’s fear, anger or sadness, when we give our feelings a label, it loses its power. When I am obeying shelter-in-place, I am also lonely. So I recognize this feeling with tenderness.
I allow my feelings to just be there without judging them. There is a quote, by Carl Jung which states, “What you resist, persist.” And what he means by that is if you tell yourself, stop feeling angry over and over again, the anger will just worsen. Shoving our feelings away is like trying to hold a beach ball down in the water. The harder you push it in the water, the harder it will bounce back out to hit you in the face. So I don’t deny my feelings of loneliness like it doesn’t exist but allow it to dissolve away naturally.
I then ask myself the deeper questions, like what am I unwilling to feel and how do I voice it and then accept it? This question brings me from my head back to my body. I ask myself, what most wants my attention? What do I need most? And the answer is that I want to feel I can connect with myself in meaningful hobbies and with people.
Lastly, I soothe myself with words of comfort. I put my hands to my heart and touch my feelings with tenderness. I then feel at peace with the truth of my feelings.
We are faced with circumstances that we have no power to fix. Here are some struggles we face. How can we apply radical acceptance towards it?
1. We can’t hug others outside our household and therefore physical closeness is not an option when we most need to bond. But we can vocalize affection for others instead, even though we have to accept that we can’t engage in physical touch.
2. Recreational outings are not opened, like malls, gyms and amusement parks. We can get creative and find other fun things to do, even though we have to accept that being angry won’t make places open.
3. If you have a job, you are stuck working at home. And if you don’t have a job, you are faced with the hiring process being too slow. You can count your blessings and be grateful for what you do have, even though you have to accept that your employment situation was better before the pandemic.
4. You feel imprisoned in your home and it feels like we are being punished and you’ve done nothing wrong. You can do fun hobbies at home, even though you have to accept the reality that you’ll be a homebody for a very long time.
5. Your social life has been reduced. You can still make efforts to reach out to friends and family, and they may be available. But you have to accept that people may not have the motivation to socialize in these gloomy times.
Radical acceptance is a skill that requires practice. Sometimes people behave as if they believe not accepting something will change the situation. It’s like accepting painful situations or emotions is being passive or giving in. That’s totally not true! We need to allow reality to be as it is, so it won’t overpower us.
Therefore, give yourself an accepting statement, such as “It is what it is.” Practice it over and over again. Acceptance often requires many repetitions.
But, you can do it!