Navigating the 2020 fog
I could be wrong, but I am willing to venture a guess that many of us are going through our daily lives with a pervasive, but ambiguous sense of heaviness. Underneath our façades of normal functioning, we cope with the turbulent stress of feeling confused, misunderstood, righteously indignant, not-enough, judged, sad. Polarized opinions permeate our culture right now. No matter which stance we take on any of today’s hot-button issues, the vocal crowd on social media will be sure to judge us as wrong, whether we asked for their opinion or not. The sun may be shining, but we can feel like we are walking around under a dense, gray fog.
Scott Berinato (1) hit the nail on the head for me last spring by pointing out that our country, our world, is going through a collective grieving process. His article focused on the COVID pandemic, but I think it is safe to say grief has also been our close companion as we collectively work on processing the realities that people of color face. Another layer of communal grief intermingles with the upcoming election, regardless of our candidate of choice. None of these issues have clear, easy answers, yet all of them carry the potential for grave consequences. We are grieving actual and anticipated losses. Sometimes grief helps us identify necessary changes to make and actions to take. However, our current cultural climate is too foggy for us to make out clear next steps.
To help families in times of crisis, therapists assess how each member of the family perceives the situation. When people perceive they can control a situation, even just part of a situation, it really does help them to be active in trying to do so. Likewise, when people perceive that there is nothing more to do, coping by distraction keeps them from spinning in worry about the situation2. The problem is, we live in community, and individuals in the community assess the danger, well... individually. We all have different perspectives, motivated by individual experiences and individual fears. Our assessment of what we can realistically do to take a productive next step through the fog determines how we cope.
To complicate matters, one person’s coping strategy can increase another person’s anxiety or frustration(2). When we think we have the right answer, we try to convince others to see it our way. Right now, our sources for accurate information are foggy as well. In fact, according to a Netflix documentary, social media algorithms nudge us to view information that generates profit, regardless of whether an article is accurate, causing fake news to spread six times faster than factual sources(3). Can any of us be sure we have the right answer to the problems facing our country right now?
How do we catch a glimpse of the sunshine behind the fog?
· It might help to consider that what you are feeling may be grief. Berinato’s article (linked below1) offers some pointers for addressing grief. Even just the simple act of naming it as “grief” can offer clarity and direction.
· Consider that others are doing the best they know how to do, they just see things differently than you do.
· Limit the amount of social media and even news you consume.
· Nail down what you think about current issues. Take time to do some research, using reputable news sources on both sides of the issue. Knowing your thoughts and beliefs, backed up by solid sources, can help you to feel less threatened by the verbal attacks of others.
· If you are a person of faith, pray. Ask God how he would have you approach these issues. He thinks it is totally normal that there is trouble in the world. In John 16:33 (ESV), Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” He also offers peace that transcends this world by saying “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 ESV).
· Take some time to rest, to spend time doing things that feed your soul and bring you joy.
· Schedule an appointment with your therapist. We are here for you, and glad to help you sort through your fog of thoughts and emotions.
We can help you come out of the fog. Contact us. At Sanctuary Christian Counseling, we help grieving individuals, distressed kids and teens and couples in conflict find peace, solutions and connection.
Sanctuary Christian Counseling, in-person and online
9974 Molly Pitcher Highway, Suite 4
Shippensburg, PA 17257
1. Berinato, S. (2020, March 23). That discomfort you’re feeling is grief. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief?fbclid=IwAR0nyk586jpCpgb5pSAu6qz_T-Q939naEcQlWLqe4cvD3_p8bPizfXAF2Io
2. Lazarus & Folkman (1984). In Catherall, D. R. (ed.) (2005). Family stressors: Interventions for stress and trauma. Brunner-Routledge.
3. Orlowski, J. (Director). (2020). The social dilemma. [Film]. Exposure Labs in association with Argent Pictures.