It’s so easy now in the time of coronavirus to feel tense, helpless, and fearful. Yet these emotional states are major stressors. Stress weakens the immune system, so it’s obviously important to be emotionally strong. We can develop this strength by becoming more insightful about psychological dynamics and processes.
We need to be vigilant, of course, but if we’re acutely fearful of contagion, we could unconsciously be intensifying a feeling of being helpless and powerless. Our emotional imagination will peer into the unknown with biased intent, determined to accentuate in us a painful sense of being at the mercy of fate. Instead of feeling passive and fearful, we can engage with the changing times to be at our most creative and inventive.
We have a tendency, when feeling fearful and helpless, to overthink. Our mind wants to consider all the possibilities of what’s to come. This gives us a sense of having some degree of control and power. Our mind can try to penetrate this unknown, yet it will mostly come up empty-handed. We’ll only be spinning our mental wheels, leaving us feeling overwhelmed.
Overthinking is a coping mechanism, a compensation for an underlying emotional attachment to feeling weak and helpless. It’s easy to feel such helplessness, but doing so will intensify fear and anxiety. When we understand this, we can stop the overthinking, which enables us to stop “feeding” the helpless feeling.
Of course, we’re naturally going to be concerned about others and for loved ones. Yet if you’re acutely anxious about, say, an aged mother or father, you could be identifying with them through the feeling of being at the mercy of fate, agonizingly struck down by the coronavirus. If so, you would be taking this helpless, painful feeling into yourself, which would make your own experience more difficult.
Another emotional process involves projection. To use the above example, you might be projecting your own inner fears onto your parents. You make them the fearful ones and deny the fear in yourself. But this doesn’t eliminate your fear. Instead, your fear is now hidden from your awareness where it can instigate self-defeating emotional and behavioral symptoms. Again, try to recognize any fear you might have and understand its source in your unconscious willingness to accentuate a passive sense of helplessness and vulnerability. Knowledge and inner vigilance protect us from the emotional attachment to feeling helpless.
Because of how we can feel stricken with helplessness, some of us will be on edge, prone to react angrily or belligerently. The need to shelter in place can enhance a sense of feeling trapped. With insight, we can avoid the worst of this emotional distress. By recognizing the pull into this passive feeling, we can see this emotional state as a kind of self-abandonment. Insight enables us to shift away from this weakness. Psychological clarity comes to our rescue. We see a better way to experience ourselves. We can now connect emotionally with our courage and goodness to experience ourselves at our best.
You can say to someone who’s agitated or frantic about the virus: “I think you’re reacting to feeling helpless. We all need to connect with our better self and find emotional support in this way. There’s a place inside us where we’re not helpless, where we can feel our strength and courage. Let’s try to find that place inside us.” You can put this statement in the first-person singular and say it to yourself. Finding emotional support from within enables us to sublimate our nervous energy with practical projects, creative pursuits, or simple amusement.
To my clients and readers, good fortune and safe passage through the coming weeks and months. With inner strength, we can avoid a lot of suffering. An effective approach to feeling inner strength is presented in the articles on this website, as well as in my books. This is the time for us to be at our best and to create an enduring legacy. It’s a time for rebirth and renewal. Best wishes to all.