Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic is more a reflection of public fear than reliable and accurate information about the disease itself. Despite extensive media attention highlighting tales of racism, discrimination, irrational stockpiling, and anti-social acts of resource guarding…let’s not forget we are all in this together.
K wait, I’m not being cheesy…it’s literally the definition of a pandemic.
The word ‘pandemic’ has its origins in the mid 17th century and is derived from the Greek word ‘pandemos’ (pan = all + demos = people).
True to the definition, you’d be hard pressed to find someone NOT somehow impacted by this globally infectious disease. Eventually, we’ll recover from this crisis and hopefully one day the remnants of Covid-19 will be nothing more than bizarre bedtime stories for our children and grandchildren:
“Mommy, tell me the story again about the man you saw on the London Tube with a plastic Tesco bag on his head?”
“Grandpa, tell me the story again about the armed robbers who stole all the toilet paper from your delivery truck?”
You can’t make this shit up.
As a counsellor and coach, the mental, emotional, and spiritual implications of this pandemic have not been lost on me. Over the past week in particular, I have witnessed a lot of resiliency, a lot of compassion, and a lot of fear.
Fear is a contagious emotion in the face of uncertainty…and while there is evidently not enough hand sanitizer to go around, fear is something that remains abundantly available. All across the world, people are dealing with loss – in its most extreme form: the loss of life – in lesser forms: the loss of normalcy, the loss of connection, the loss of safety and security, and the loss of a perceived sense of control. People are grieving. People are hurting. People are scared.
What a perfect storm for the collective revelation of our shadow selves.
The idea of the ‘shadow’ self is a concept within Jungian psychology that represents the parts of ourselves we try to repress (rage, jealousy, greed, desire for power, lust, hatred, aggression, judgment, etc.) because they make us feel ashamed, unacceptable, or ugly. And while burying things might seem to be a viable solution, I’ve watched enough murder documentaries to know that shit doesn’t always go as planned (k what, I’m a Scorpio).
When we repress our shadow, it tends to show up uninvited when we feel stressed, hurt, or overwhelmed. As well, whatever qualities we deny in ourselves we see readily in others. More commonly known as projection, we project onto others what we bury within ourselves. Since coronavirus hit the mainstream media, we have probably all witnessed a few unchecked shadows popping up in our grocery store lineups and Facebook newsfeeds like a more sinister cover of “Jesus Take the Wheel”. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, when shadow has a go at driving it ain’t pretty.
Finger pointing. Facebook rants and public shaming. Judging. Blaming. Criticizing. Spreading fake news. Stockpiling groceries and medical supplies. Dropping the gloves over toilet paper. Creating lists and charts and schedules to combat isolation and boredom.
What. The. Fuck. Are. We. All. Doing?????
This is the emergence of our shadow. This is the unconscious overriding our rational sensibilities. This is the deep pain we are so desperate to heal. But as Carl Jung once said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain”.
So how can we use these coming weeks as an opportunity to heal, to grow, and to remerge into a rejuvenated world as more conscious versions of ourselves? How can we see this as an opportunity to break free from patterns and ways of being that were not actually serving us before this pandemic?
Let’s look at our shadows.
Consider an unconscious behaviour you have noticed emerge during this past week. Hands up if you have been more judgmental than usual (please note my own raised hand)!?!?! Now ask yourself…”What am I getting from this?”.
“Nothing!” you might say.
Dig deeper. Look for a secondary gain. While on the surface, most of our unbecoming behaviours seem pointless…I promise you there is always an underlying purpose, intention, or motivation to our behaviour. Be truthful…how does judging other people make you feel better?
“I feel like I escape judgment when I point the finger at someone else.”
“It makes me feel like I am doing something helpful or constructive.”
“It makes me feel reassured that I am smart enough not to make similar mistakes to the person I am judging.”
So what is more rewarding than this old pattern? How would you prefer to show up in this world? What is a better feeling response to your pain? How can you think, feel, or act in better alignment with the true nature of your soul?
Be objective and realistic with your thinking: “That person is doing the best they can and I’m actually not an expert on this either”.
Up level your emotion: The idea of moving yourself from judgment to compassion may feel like a stretch…but can you choose a slightly better feeling emotion? Can you move yourself from anger to disappointment? From anxiety to curiosity? Baby step yourself toward a calmer, more aligned state of being.
Catch yourself in the act: Feeling that familiar impulse to make a snarky comment, reply to a Facebook post that doesn’t resonate with you, or spread some contagious doom and gloom? Take a breath. Is this behaviour helpful? Is this kind? Is this your best work? Run some interference on yourself. Choose a different response.
Now. Don’t get me wrong…this is in NO WAY a recipe for an “everything is love and light and rainbows” bullshit cake. No…I’m not saying don’t feel “negative” feelings (I hate the idea of labelling feelings but let’s be honest there are some feelings we prefer to feel than others)…I’m saying do feel ALL the feelings…and learn to be okay anyways.
This is shadow work…and what a perfect time for us all to practice. Can we feel uncertain and peaceful at the same time? Can we acknowledge our insecurities and still trust we will get through this? Can we see our own shame and low self-worth and realize we don’t need to cover it up by making ourselves busy in a quarantine?
As we integrate our shadows we can become our authentic selves and live in a more balanced way. We can begin to feel more grounded, more self-aware, and have more energy (because hey, suppressing all of our ugly bits is tiring work). As the weeks go on, you may feel this will become increasingly necessary for your mental health. As the time continues to pass without our preferred external distractions and escapes, each and every one of us will spend more and more (and more) time with the truth of our own hearts.
Yes, plant gardens. Yes, play with your kids. Yes, clean out junk drawers, practice instruments and binge watch Netflix. But let’s also use this crisis as an opportunity to do the inner work. Let’s all do it. And when our doors finally open…and they will…we can step out into a new world as kinder, healthier, and more conscious beings.
If someone you know is struggling or if you yourself are in need…please reach out. I’m here for you.
Take care of yourself.
Take care of others.
Take care of your home.