How to Nurture the New Time
Four dimensions to recover emotionally from the isolation
These are the last breaths of a difficult year for many people and traumatic for so many others. European study highlights the urgency of responding to a symptomatology that subtly immerses people in depression (Pietrabissa & Simpson, 2020). One of the emotional risk factors is that many people have lost interest in leaving their homes again.
Even when there are no restrictions in their countries, their isolation has shifted to the emotional world. The restrictions have been transformed into emotional quarantines. Beyond cultural and geographic differences (Orgilés et al., 2020), various studies show the same dimensions of affectation in stress, depression, anxiety, irritability, and worry (Pandey et al., 2020).
While we try to find explanations to calm the anguish or anxiety in the face of this bewildering landscape, there are not many certainties about when we will take off these masks and recover the life we left almost a year ago. An essay in the Journal of Future Studies (2020) presents some sketches of our future landscapes.
This time brought a destructive tsunami that devastated projects, loves, relationships, jobs, and opportunities. Returning to a somewhat conventional life, we hope that the outside world will give us back our inner world. Then, we hope for a vaccine that enables the hug. We are enthusiastic that by changing the calendar, we will recover some of what was lost.
We live inside our descriptions of reality. We are the creators of the circumstances we face. Events generate situations about which we create stories that define the territory in which we live. In this sense, we can be the authors of new circumstances. Examine the emotions that underpin your stories. Where did the story of your daily life become emotionally tied?
In this framework, these four emotional dimensions provide the support that allows us to transform the story of our circumstances and nourish our daily world with other perspectives. We cannot ignore the passage of time, but we can decide how to approach this moment that is changing the space of our lives.
This attitude allows us to transform uncertainty into possibilities and extend the look to design alternatives. Curiosity allows us to explore. A recent study (Dahl, Wilson-Mendenhall, & Davidson, 2020) shows that personal well-being is a dimension that must be trained to achieve the necessary plasticity to face everyday challenges. It is a powerful antidote to resignation because naturalizing the irremediable in an unalterable landscape closes the possibility of the new in our lives.
How can you wake up your curiosity? You need to create support so that the new can grow, just like some species of garden plants that cling to points on the wall to spread their branches. As Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to be found by working.”
Create a routine to surprise yourself, to catch the unexpected. Activate the chemistry of enthusiasm to explore the unknown.
Avoid words that pollute your landscape with mandates of impossibility. Do not cling to words that hurt your narratives.
Engage in conversations that can enrich your inner world with new perspectives.
We must accept this present to take transformative steps into the future. Do not underestimate acceptance because acceptance is not the same as resignation.
Resignation is the validation of impossibility; acceptance implies the courage to stand facing life. In a recently book Freedom for All of Us: A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Peace, Matthieu Ricard deepens his writings on acceptance as the basis of inner freedom. Acceptance includes patience, strength, responsibility. On the contrary, denial, underestimation, resentment are functional to victimization and sustain inertia.
How can you assume acceptance? Do not confuse the emotions of the present with the emotions of the future because you can color with disenchantment and frustration the new possible landscapes.
Leave the negative emotions in the situations that generated them, do not expand them into other everyday scenes because you will miss out on lovely moments.
Accept adversity as a starting point for trying out emotional responses. Transform discouragement into curiosity.
Leave your story open to new meanings about what appears in the context. Do not force your narrative with certainties because you may get caught up in your own words.
This is the most valuable resource for dealing with helplessness and victimization. Without clear references, we will need to disarm the certainties to recover our economic livelihood, recover emotional connections, and live with uncertainty. Creativity is different from curiosity.
Curiosity allows us to explore the new; creativity leads us to shape something new (Richards, 2010). We will need creativity to go to the market, nurture our loves, heal painful scenes, and say goodbye to the inevitable.
How can you unfold your creativity? The habits that order the inner landscape are the results of our history. A subtle way to try creativity is to challenge our habits, to relativize our impossibilities.
Do not accept the impossibility of inertia; you can always try something new. The last time will never be the last.
Introduce small changes in behavior to alter the routine subtly.
Change roles in everyday situations and look for scenes where you can experience new characters and roles.
Without an inspiring horizon, there is no chance that something new will enter our lives. We are the architects of our destiny. What is your commitment to a new destiny? Commitment will keep inspiration from dying in the hands of discouragement. Perhaps the frontiers of the regions are opening up, but your story retains you in resentment and guilt.
According to the Center for Healthy Minds research, of the four pillars of personal wellness (awareness, connection, insight, and purpose), a strong sense of purpose is associated with improved health outcomes and behaviors (Goodman, Doorley, Kashdan, 2018).
How do you draw an inspiring horizon? Hope depends on the words that draw the horizon of your landscape. The dimension of that horizon will define the possibilities of recovery and transformation in the face of new uncertainties.
Recover the inner space to silence the profound external superficiality.
Create open questions that allow you to challenge your own script. What are questions important in your life today? Where do these questions lead you?
Use everyday subtleties to transform routine into sublime moments. Do not miss opportunities to express gratitude to life and the people around you.
We live within our emotional territories that are materialized through stories, which give meaning to the events we face. The opportunities for transforming the personal landscape will depend on our explanations of what we are living. When you introduce new references in your stories, you enrich your everyday life. The options to give more brightness and color to your inner landscape are right in front of your eyes, but you may not see them because you may be looking in the wrong place.
Transforming explanations does not change situations (it does not alter the facts); it changes the personal relationship with the facts (it changes the possibilities of your circumstances) and redefines an emotional position to deal with these events.
These four dimensions allow you to broaden a horizon and transform the resignation into hope to take the first steps into a new present that will not depend exclusively on the ups and downs of the outside world, on political decisions, on the availability of money, or the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Psychologist, Ph.D. in Communication and Master in Neuroscience. Author and postgraduate professor. Emotion researcher www.marcelomanucci.com