March, 2020 COVID-19
“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior” Viktor Frankl; Man’s Search for Meaning.
Some of us are beginning to quarantine to avoid spreading or coming into contact with others who have this virus. At some point most of us will be staying at home. I encourage you to read while having more time at home and consider reading how others survived unusual times.
Mr Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz and several other extermination camps, tells us that during an abnormal period we can expect to act unusual at times. And this is perfectly normal. During this unusual time, you may see yourself and others have their minds respond through fear, anger or sadness. Mr Frankl experienced great atrocities. As I read this for the second time, I am astounded that he or anyone survived at all. As he is retelling his experience, it is only a short time after the camp has been liberated. And yet he tells us that most everyone acted as they did in order to survive. Some, he states, surpassed others in compassion, empathy and self-sacrifice. Most just did the best they were capable of doing under immense suffering. And there are always those, he said, who enjoy seeing others in pain. Mostly, people fall somewhere between these two extremes. So here you are. Let’s recognize that you will feel fear, anger and sadness arise at times. This is a very abnormal situation for us all, and we can learn from people like Mr Frankl. He did something that entirely changed his experience. At this point he describes that he had nothing on but rags. His body was reduced to bones, he had typhoid bouts, and still he was marching each day to dig in frozen ground and bury his comrades. During this torturous existence Mr. Frankl began to use his imagination and think ahead, of a time when it would be over. He imagined he was in front of an audience who were sitting in comfortable seats, and he was telling them of his experiences from the point of view of a psychiatrist of what he had learned about human behavior. He could see himself up ahead, doing things that helped others and this gave meaning to his CURRENT experience. Also, Mr. Frankl found an inner voice that he began to trust and follow. He recognized that he could use his feelings as his guide. But, he had to be careful. When following the feelings of fear and anger, he recognized it did not always lead to good outcomes for himself or others. Instead, when he made his most difficult decisions, he noticed a peaceful feeling would come over him when he had made the right decision, and he would trust this, even though he didn’t know what the outcome might be.
What does this mean to us? Keep setting goals for up ahead, make use of this current environment to learn, attempt new things, and practice acceptance, even though it’s normal to want to know when this will be over. Let's remember that a part of your mind that’s geared for survival will be activating, and at times you may feel sad, angry and fearful. So, you may want to practice meditation and exercises that calm the mind and help it to feel safe. See yourself up ahead, surviving this, and even benefiting from things you may have learned.
During this time, there is no charge for downloading the audio files from my website to help calm the mind.
Click here to access the webpage where you can obtain the files.
Lynn Barrett Stone, LCSW
840 Beach Dr N.E.
St Petersburg, FL 33701