As we all do our part and hunker down to "flatten the curve" as best we can, we are entering what will be a temporary, new normal. As we keep informed about what is going on in the world around us with the coronavirus and become aware of the commentary, opinions and actions others take pertaining to this, I wanted to offer additional thoughts and perspective that hopefully helps organize what you learn into areas of understanding. This perspective is a bit zoomed out and I hope you find it helpful.
For those of you who don't know, this is Maslow's hierarchy of needs and describes our needs as individuals from the most basic at the bottom of the triangle, to our most ideal needs at the top.
For those of you who don't know, this is Kubler-Ross's stages of grief. The stages are labeled from left to right and the bullet points describe what each stage is like. I add that the "Dialogue and Bargaining" stage can look like, "I wish..." or "If only..." starts to thoughts, feelings, beliefs or conversations.
Now imagine the two being intertwined and happening at the same time!
What Have We Seen So Far?
Shock and Denial/Physiological Needs/Anger:
When the coronavirus struck the United States, we initially avoided the reality of it. Some of us were in disbelief as we didn't take it seriously until it started to rapidly spread. As the projections were calculated and reported with mortality rates, impact on politics, global power, economy, schools, families, etc. many were naturally confused, fearful and numb. Panic buying and hoarding set in for many as water, food, toilet paper went out the door as fear set in. We were all put in a felt survival state. Depending on your personal experience, anger, disappointment and blame may have set in towards fellow humans and institutions during this time.
Shock and Denial/Anger/Safety Needs:
Hopefully by now, you're feeling safe as life shifted to self-quarantining and working or schooling from home. In the coming days as we look to government and world leaders for aid and response, we might be disappointed in their delivery. Again, this may put us in the shock and denial, or anger stages of grief, as we may feel our safety needs of security, health, employment and resources being met like they were prior to the coronavirus.
Shock and Denial/Anger/Depression and Detachment/Love and Belonging:
This may be most felt in the home. Take inventory of how other family members are doing. Which grief stage are they in? Do they feel like their physiological and safety needs are met? How your family handles conflict and emotion in the coming days will go a long way to if your home promotes love and belonging, and the rest of the hierarchy of needs. But know that initially as of now, you or a loved one might be steeped in anxiety, overwhelm, or lack of motivation and energy.
It's so important to know that if you are feeling these or is happening to someone you love, it's okay to feel these and we shouldn't feel judgmental, judged, guilty or ashamed about this. It's a normal response. We went through a sudden lack of resourcing ability, got kicked into survival mode with unfelt emotional heaviness at the time and were all impacted in various ways. Now that you're safe you have a minute to process what happened. Your mind, body and emotions need time to stop and feel the weight of to catch up with its sense of self and being. This process needs to be honored and supported. Love and belonging help aid this painful process to go faster into healing and improved self-esteem. More on love and belonging later...
What Might This Look Like Going Forward?
Esteem/Dialogue and Bargaining:
Some of us have witnessed this already. You may have seen footage of Italians singing to each other during quarantine, or you may have had conversations with others to process this, or you or others have reached out and served to meet other people's needs. Be mindful of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and conversations having the flavor or "If only" or "I wish." This will include that as we watch our leaders decide what to do in the coming days. They may disappoint us and we may respond in anger or sadness and be thinking "If only" or "I wish." Know that this is a grief response to leadership. It is also worth noting that we may sometimes go back to another stage of grief or need as well. That's okay. Keep going.
Dialogue and Bargaining also has a second half to this stage as it moves towards the acceptance stage. This can start to look like plans and options are being explored, and what the new normal can look like is taking shape. Potentially esteem needs can start to flourish as this process takes shape. Take the time to foster this need to encourage growth, character development and create a great foundation into acceptance and self-actualization.
We will get there. The coronavirus will pass. The world will figuratively speaking come back online and it may look dramatically different in the subsequent months and years. We shall see what is in store. More on this in just a bit...
Lastly, Vicarious Trauma
It is so important to note that as we collectively and individually go into self-care and quarantine, that we must monitor vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma is emotional or physical fatigue from taking care of others without having adequate time to take care of yourself and refuel.
This might look like the above, as well as behavioral, physiological, cognitive and spiritual symptoms that have themes of isolation, hopelessness, burnout, negativity, headaches, unpleasant heart or digestive sensations. The more support and resources you can have in the midst of needs and grief, the less vicarious trauma can happen.
Where are you personally in all of this? What do you notice coming up for you? Take the time to self-evaluate and name what's going on for you. It's a great process in self-care as it will give you a baseline of where you're at and where you can go.
You probably already are aware of a plethora of commentary about the coronavirus or are aware of how you and others are responding and being impacted. But again, take the time to filter what you're aware of from this, through grief and needs. How are they responding from and to those needs? Take the time to be aware of your response to them and how you might also be responding from your own grief or needs. This will include the leaders whom you look to in your life, and the ones who look to you to lead as well in the coming days.
How might coronavirus media consumption be creating vicarious trauma for you? It may be important to limit it to getting what you need factually and get off when reading commentary and responses. If you choose to entertain the rabbit hole that this can become, be aware of how it may be triggering your sense of needs and grief, or creating vicarious trauma symptoms.
We need to accept that the coronavirus cost all of us and we are all in the spectrum of needs and grief. We also will need to accept that we will make it through. As we continue to find ways to control the coronavirus, we can also take steps towards control individually and collectively. We all have a choice. In light of the above information, we're in this together and in a bizarre way, we all are belonging here. Take the time to get resources for you, whether that's neighbors, family, therapists, doctors, financial advisors, whomever you need to keep going and make it through. But, know that we also have the choice to step into acceptance, self-actualization, and love and belonging.
The coronavirus is historic. History is already telling us that our response to the coronavirus was to hoard and fight over toilet paper. We can do better. We will also have another historic moment coming right after where generations that follow us will see if and how we chose to love vastly and serve greatly. We have the choice to seek understanding, offer patience and compassion. We have the opportunity to be open minded and creative in ways we never have been. We have the opportunity to stretch our perspectives. Know that the opportunity to act is now.
Let's change that toilet paper narrative. The impact of the coronavirus is vast, but how we love and serve can be more vast and far greaer. Invest generously. There are already people in need. You and I can contribute now. Let's do it together.
Like most everyone else, I spent the last week reflecting on 2019, the close of a decade and the beginning of a new one. I always find these helpful and forced at the same time.
I thought about where I was in 2009 where I longed for so much. I worked retail and felt stuck in my life. I felt stuck because I didn't know what I wanted to do in life professionally and I was going through hardship personally. My sister was battling cancer and I felt tremendously guilty and afraid to make life changes out of fear that I'd miss out on being able to support my family the way they might have needed. I was very single that the idea of getting married and having kids was a farfetched dream. I longed for a better quality of life professionally and personally, and felt stuck in circumstances.
As the 2010s progressed, I held to my hopes but nothing changed. In fact, things worsened. During the 2010s, my sister's cancer got worse as we learned she had an auto-immune disease that made her susceptible to every cancer in existence. She eventually died. My parents got divorced, but I was too consumed by the cancer world, processing divorce took a distant second seat. I was still working retail, and I was still very very single. I was in a deep hard season of longing that worsened.
While the 2010s were largely spent in grief, there were also multiple seeds set to spring that were being sown. My dad remarried and I inherited a beautiful stepfamily. I anticipated living a life never knowing what it would be like to be an uncle, but with my stepfamily, I have an abundance of nephews and nieces. Though my family shrank and split, it also expanded 4 fold. One of the most important conversations I had with my sister in her dying years was the need for me to have blessing and in a way, permission, to move on in my life rather than put things on hold for her. By the end of the decade, I entered a new career and love what I do now. I'm no longer single, and learned that being so painfully single for so long makes me forever appreciate what I have now in marriage. What was once farfetched and unattainable became more than what I ever dreamed.
As I thought about what got me through the 2010s towards what I wanted, the word 'belonging' came to mind over and over.
No matter what you're doing for 2020 or the decade ahead, belonging is a critical component that can aid in sustainable long-term success. Brene Brown talks about how belonging is bringing your full self and being okay with who you are and what you bring, rather than trying to change parts of you to fit in. When going through grief, loss and longing, these reveal your authentic self.
Belonging can be found in healthy and unhealthy ways and places. The themes of how you got there are the same that's worth taking a look at. What you got of value from those communities or resources was being understood for your thoughts, feelings and experiences and being welcomed, accepted and supported. What helped you stay was safety to grow and learn, and knowing that you mattered. What helped you thrive was that you could give back as a part of your authentic self and others benefited and appreciated your care.
Whether you're in a season of longing or belonging, assess these areas and see if you have these in your life. Are there seeds springing up that you can see that could use support? Do you have people and resources that foster learning and growth? Do you believe you matter? How are you giving, knowing you matter?
Consider these and adding what you need as you make shifts for the New Year and upcoming decade.
Somewhere along the way, in our conversations we learned to listen to reply, rather than to understand. One quick social media check affirms this as it permeates our culture and politics. While these areas can appear easiest to observe and identify, it's so important to see how this happens in our homes with how we parent, within our marriages, and how we engage as family. For some of us, this might be less noticeable.
Listening was meant to go with understanding and a call to action from both people that resulted in a collaborative step towards union.
It is easy to make listening about ourselves. It's subtle. It's the, 'yeah, but..' responses. It's the fact that we are listening with our ears but in our own headspace, we have our own things we want to say or our own agenda we want to get across. It can be how your body conveys that you're not attentive, no matter how you think you might be listening. Maybe you did in fact listen, but your actions aren't backing up your ears. Or perhaps deep down you really don't have a collaborative spirit with a desire for union in said conversation.
Listening well demands a combination of internal and external work. It demands that the listener be clear minded, figuratively ‘empty' to fully be able to intake what's being said. That space then needs to exercise intake: interpretation, retention, recall, and then interact with feelings and ultimately decide on an action. When we fill that space along with, 'yeah, but..,' or a reply of our own agenda, that space your brain uses for interpretation, retention, recall, interactions with feelings, and action, has to share space with additional retention, recall, interaction with feelings and its own desired action that tangentially relates (or not) to what's being heard and taken in. See how that occupies space, effort, and cost of energy that may have impacted our ability to listen well?
Listening well also needs external. It needs the body to back your effort to listen. Is your posture attentive and body facing your conversational partner? Is your body preoccupied with a TV or phone? Is your body doing something else entirely or in the middle of a task? Again, these can be subtle, but convey a powerful message of disconnect and create areas that invite ripe misunderstanding.
If one listened well, typically, a bodily response is needed. It could be the need to convey empathy. Perhaps touch is needed. Perhaps a change in behavior is being requested, or a task to be completed. Without this external application, listening ultimately 'falls on deaf ears' because the body didn't take in what came in through the ears. To aid this from not happening, identifying and express feelings within conversation are so important because our body responds to when we identify feelings whether we pick up on it or not, by literally physically retaining it. For example, when we feel sad, we feel heavy hearted and hard to breathe, or when we are happy, we have smiles on our faces and our shoulders feel light.
The most impactful internal barometer lies in the spirit. Do we have a collaborative heart? Do we desire union? Do we desire co-action? If we don't, listening immediately becomes about me and not us, and the seeds of listening to reply are born. So take time to really tune into yourself and ask where in this spectrum you are in the moment. Question your motives. From there, it will indicate to you what you might need to do. You might need to purposefully create more brain space. You might need to adjust your body to convey better attunement. You might need to do what you don't want to do.
What does this do for you? You gain internal honesty and a desire to externally act on trust, and ideally, love. You also gain an understanding of self, and the other which then gets a chance to convey itself. All because you took the effort to listen to understand, not reply.
I encourage you to give it a shot and see what you notice! How much of the subtleties can you pick up on? What feedback can your conversational partner give you? May these efforts give you insight, clarity and enriched relationships.
Most people have heard of “Intelligent Quotient” or “IQ” but what about “Emotional Quotient” or “EQ?” As it implies, Emotional Quotient measures your emotional intelligence. Stereotypically for men, we might not score as well in this category than our IQ. This carries tremendous influence in our most significant relationships and roles in life. For some men, the lack of emotional maturity may have started from hurtful feedback from our loved ones that cut to the soul of our pride, and from that wound led to actions that ultimately left the relationship in ruin. How do we recover and reconcile? For some men, perhaps we fear if this could happen and there’s room for improvement. But where do you start? Emotional Quotient, or EQ, goes beyond knowing and saying what your feelings are. They involve self-awareness and regulation, a motivation to learn and improve, empathy and refining your social skills to be a better you.
Our culture and masculine messaging have told men that showing your feelings is weak. Not showing what you’re really feeling and powering through is part of how a man is strong and courageous. What our culture fails to recognize is that the task and ‘powering through’ was accomplished with the costly trade of self-neglect and forgetfulness.
We are created to be fully human. We are made with intellect, emotions, a body and a soul. Like everything else in this world, our humanity is designed to reflect the seasonality of life, harmony in all the function, unity in its parts, and ultimately show how we relate and care.
Growing one's emotional intelligence can feel vulnerable for anyone. The fear or conditioning can be powerful enough to where we ultimately limit our emotional voice. But with that voice, comes an invitation to show yourself, risk being understood, and build an interpersonal relationship. This is the power of courage, and in this case, courage is synonymous with vulnerability. That is not weakness. We are simply doing what we are wired to do and how we are meant to be.
So take the time to evaluate your EQ. How aware are you of your emotions, motivations and moods? How are you with your words and actions? Are you open to change and taking responsibility? How’s your empathy and attunement skills, especially if the other person is being behaviorally or emotionally challenging? How are you with conflict resolution and the communication that comes with that? You’re not alone in your imperfection with this. You can stop the damaging trade of self-neglect and forgetfulness. Seek understanding, support and growth. I'd be honored to help you. This is the most intelligent first step you can do for yourself.
The start of school is always a hectic transition and bittersweet reminder of how time passes by quickly. The kids are getting older, and it can bring a multitude of thoughts, feelings and enthusiasm, or concerns. It's a wonderful time to reflect on their lives and what's ahead.
Readjust to Structure
As transitions back into school happen, routine is so important to reestablish. As you implement your routine by maintaining your parenting and home structure, allowing for some flexibility as adjustments are made foster a balance of structure and nurture during what can feel like an on-ramp process. It's helpful to use age-appropriate, clear language so your child adjusts to school year expectations. It's also okay to practice if needed. The physical movement of the body helps integrate with what the mind is trying to remember and incorporate.
Taking the time to see their efforts getting back into the routine and praising them for their intrinsic qualities such as initiative, self-motivation, and other forms of effort empower the children to keep adjusting. Thanking them for how their decisions positively impact you or the family help children see that they contribute to the family. These also communicate to your child that they are seen.
Get on the Same Page
Part of what can help with shortening the adjustment period is having conversations about what your child is experiencing with school, teachers and friends. Remaining calm-minded, curious and excited can be very helpful in allowing for helpful conversation. Talk about what their hopes and goals are for the year. What are they academically? Socially? Personally?
Conversations like this help your child feel heard. Adjusting back to school can carry an array of emotions, thoughts, anxieties and enthusiasm. Meeting their emotions with empathy and normalizing what they are feeling goes a long way in helping your child's nervous system feel calm and embolden them with their hopes. Again, highlighting their intrinsic qualities is tremendously valuable in knowing they have the character, personality and strength to pursue their hopes and goals.
As a part of these conversations, consider the following question for yourself as the parent, "What skill do I want to teach?" As families adjust back to school routines, it's a nice time to cast vision and identify what your child needs to grow to be a successful adult. With what they shared, it's easy to want to be helpful but inadvertently do things for them when it might have been a nice opportunity for they child to learn a skill. Take some time to evaluate if this might be the case. This allows for you to consider shifting how you parent in the opportunity before you.