Is there some way to find meaning, if not beauty, in our quarantine?
A New York Times journalist goes all the way back to the Holocaust for inspiration, citing what Viktor Frankl calls “tragic optimism.” Frankl, a holocaust survivor himself, describes tragic optimism as “the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in life despite its inescapable pain, loss and suffering.”
That tragic optimism wound up affecting how quickly people recovered from the shock of 9/11, whether or not they had lost someone, and it shows up in the difference between people who recover from a trauma and those who develop PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
And, we have been traumatized, make no mistake about it. One licensed professional counselor, Jennifer Yaeger, has a widely-shared post on Facebook that talks about how this trauma affects us. We may become numb and shut down or we may become hyper-vigilant (scrubbing down groceries, for example). It’s hard to focus.
It’s time to be gentle on ourselves.
But it’s also time to look for meaning, while we have the time and space for this kind of reflection. Finding meaning, finding the good in this Coronavirus, is what is going to make us resilient. It’s what is going to make us bounce back when we do open back up.
When you opened your eyes this morning, how long did it take you to check your email or social media? If you’re like me, the answer is an embarrassing, “Less than 5 minutes.” I get anxious if I feel like things are happening, and I don’t know about them. Today’s guest, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher Nancy Colier says we have a digital addiction. In her book, “The Power of Off,” Nancy talks about the importance of unplugging. She talks about what’s fueling the addiction and how to kick it, at least long enough to get in touch with yourself.
I try to be present every day – it’s called being mindful. And I certainly try to be kind. But have you ever heard of mindful kindness? Dr. Doug Carnine has made a study of it – and he’s done it with the last people you’d ever think would be mindful OR kind…inmates. Dr. Carnine was at the University of Oregon for 35 years and had a pretty impressive career, including getting a presidential appointment to the National Institute for Literacy. He also became a Buddhist lay minister. After he retired, Doctor Carnine developed a mindful kindness project that includes a prison ministry and a couple of books. He joins me today to talk about how mindful kindness works in real life, and how it can even help you feel younger.