It was the day of the stay-at-home concert. Some of the world’s most high profile artists, performing in collaboration to share love, unity, and empathy with the world. Emotions that only music can express in any language. I was in conversation about this event, when the person I was talking with offered a different perspective about why and how this concert was happening. “The only thing these people [The celebrities] are suffering from is a lack of attention”, he said. “Their only motivation is to keep themselves in the ‘spotlight’, in whatever way they can.” Cynical, for sure – but did he ‘nail’ it? Maybe, maybe not. I began thinking about the ways in which my own internal world-view impacts my perceptions. Especially when it comes to trusting the motivations of others. Especially now, when disinformation feels like quicksand: I expend so much daily energy trying to wade out of it. Why have Trust Issues loomed so large in my consciousness lately, and in the daily realities of others?
As I’ve shared in previous Posts, I started out as a happy child – a little feral tomboy, growing up the only girl in a house full of testosterone. Then, my mother chose to end her own life. I grasped nothing intellectually; the huge shift in my sense of personal safety and stability was emotional and psychological. My family dynamic was “textbook”, in the way the adults pulled-apart to grieve alone, instead of providing an emotional safety net for me and my brothers.
Over the years, especially as I entered the field of psychology, I learned a lot about Resilience. Lately it’s been referred to as ‘Grit’. (A recent PBS special, “Broken Places”, covered these topics exceptionally well, I thought.) What allows some people to endure life’s hardships without losing faith and optimism? They maintain the belief that the world is, in general, a safe place. The belief that people, in general, reflect attitudes and behaviors that promote humanity (as opposed to those that are toxic to our survival). Much of the chatter that invades my quarantined life these days feels negative and fearful. Is that how things really are, or is this just a primal ‘drumbeat of doom’ sponsored by larger forces seeking to distract and disrupt? It’s impossible to know, or say, for certain. It would be so easy for me to take the stance, “Trust no one: lying and selfishness are rampant”, and move into hyper-vigilance. Into fear. Into confusion. Who can I trust?
I’ve always been introspective, when it comes to understanding my place in the world. So, when we all went into mandatory isolation recently, being alone with my own thoughts for days wasn’t a radical shift for me. But I know many people for whom solitude is almost as stressful as the actual Virus we’re trying to hide from. Alone, with your own company. Alone, with your own thoughts. Alone, with whatever personal ‘arsenal’ of coping skills you’ve acquired (or not) in your lifetime. “Too much time to think”, was how one of my friends put it.
But, a smaller landscape is what’s turning out to be a saving-grace for a lot of us. In my own situation, I’ve returned to my love of cooking – ordering exotic spices online and realizing how chili peppers spark joy. And when it comes to deciphering the larger Truth about what’s going on outside of my homespace, I’m trusting my own instincts. Like everyone else on our planet, I’m engaged in listening to, and observing what’s being said and done by those in power.
But I’m also – just like the little kid in the midst of trauma so long ago – doing my best to stay anchored in Hope. To think, speak and act ‘Resilience’. Without fear, without cynicism, without anger or blame. Today I turn my attention to the signs of resilience everywhere, tuning-out what isn’t helpful. I trust in my own ability to not only survive the current chaos and tragedy, but to allow it to strengthen me.