Permission to struggle (by Juliette Clancy)
Updated: May 21
With millions of people the world over entering isolation to fight against the spread of Coronavirus COVID19, the need for positivity becomes even more critical, but spare a thought for those who are struggling with the discomfort of not feeling positive. A lot of the disruption that’s resulting from COVID-19 is very distressing and many of my clients, along with people I know, are feeling overwhelmed in many different ways and yet feeling ashamed to say anything.
It seems that over social media there are endless ways being promoted to drown out any primal alarm with things that are positive. Research shows that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature have a greater effect on one’s psychological state than neutral or positive things. Clients are struggling with the social pressure to ‘find gratitude’ along with all the ‘potential positive outcomes’ that will emerge from this crisis. There are many people that are ‘enjoying’ the isolation. Spending time with family, learning new skills, being able to take time to do things they often don’t have time to do. For others the loneliness is stark and the extra time not only a reminder of what they were struggling with before the Coronavirus, but now highlighting additional issues that they are needing to manage.
Isolation from others makes engagement even more critical as relationships and social connections are crucial to meaning and purpose in our lives. While the Coronavirus pandemic plays out across the world, kindness should come to the fore in all our relationships. Perhaps the kindest thing we can do for anyone is listen to, support and empathise without giving advise, judging, challenging or fixing.
There is a tendency to consistently try to make ourselves and others ‘feel better.’ Listening deeply means seeking to understand the emotions and feeling the person is expressing, knowing that we can feel hope one day and despair the next. To allow our friends and family to feel scared, angry, uncertain, sad and lonely. To bless them with the knowledge that it is okay to not be okay. Yes, it will pass, but in the moment of deep emotion being told that it will pass can appear insensitive and harsh.
We are driven by compassion and empathy, but these two can often be misdirected and instead, we can leave our friends and family members feeling unheard and unseen. Most of the time all a person wants is an empathetic ear and an understanding heart. Brene Brown in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live writes; ‘if we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive,’
David Whyte in his poem; The Well Of Grief speaks beautifully about having faith that deep down at the bottom of the well there are gifts. If we can support each other through the steps of turning down below the surface without judging, but knowing the importance of ‘drinking the secret water’; finding the ‘gold coins’ so that people can emerge from whatever feelings they are having in their own time and way we allow them to emerge trusting that in the future they will again be able to dig deep. I believe kindness is being more alive to the presence of what are so often considered troubling emotions and not running away. If we choose to do so let that be fine, but let’s not put that expectation on others to do the same. It really isn’t that simple.
The Well Of Grief
Those who will not slip the still surface on the well of grief, turning down through its black water to the place we cannot breathe, will never know the source from which we drink, the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering, the small round coins, thrown by those who wished for something else. (The Well of Grief)
Juliette Clancy is an experienced Woman Within Facilitator and Psychotherapist