Looking at the street from the window of our own apartment, we see those who for some reason left the house. We do not know anything about people who are walking, running and walking with wheelchairs right now under our windows, but we are ready to condemn them right away: how annoying it is when someone does not follow the rules, when you yourself take them extremely seriously!
We can discuss the “violators” with the household for a long time, but why do we do this? Focusing on the negative is a skill that we have inherited in the course of evolution, according to clinical psychologist and relationship specialist Jill Weber.
The ability to see what seemed dangerous and unacceptable, and to focus on it, helped the person to anticipate potentially dangerous situations – and thus increase their chances of survival. At the same time, anger and irritation towards those who behave differently from us help us to elevate ourselves above others, to feel that we are strong and wise. This is how we mask our own vulnerability.
Do not forget about the humane attitude towards others, even if they do not behave the way we would like.
We are not at all sure about the future. When will the isolation end? What will happen to someone who contracted the coronavirus? How will quarantine affect the economy? Will we keep the job? Will we find a new one? Thinking about it is disturbing and scary. By judging others, we turn away from our own anxiety. Thinking in the “we are against them” paradigm, we hide behind an invisible fence – and we feel more and more alone …
The challenges facing us at this strange time are highly controversial, explains Jill Weber. On the one hand, ideally, we need to spend as much time as possible in our apartments and houses. On the other hand, we want to stay in touch with those we love. And for some, both the first and the second are good, while for others this “quest” is extremely difficult. Isolation combined with anxiety is a dangerous cocktail.
So far, none of the ways to deal with the pandemic has proven to be optimal. We can only follow the recommendations of the WHO, hope for the best and not forget about the humane attitude towards others, even if they do not behave the way we would like.
Jill Weber offers five steps to help us stop judging others and love those around us again.
1. Admit: we are all great fellows!
If a month ago we were told that a little more – and shops and cafes would stop working in our cities, children would begin to study remotely, and our bedrooms would turn into workrooms, we would simply not believe it. And yet it is so. It’s amazing what society can do in the face of danger, and everyone deserves praise for cohesion, flexibility, reliability and responsibility.
2. Understand: We are all very worried.
Each of us has lost something due to the coronavirus and quarantine. Someone’s plans for the summer were upset, someone lost their job, someone completely lost a stable idea of themselves and the world around them. We grieve, but our “grieving schedules” do not necessarily coincide!
While one denies reality, the other is bargaining with the Universe. Someone is stuck in the stage of anger, while someone has already accepted the situation and started to act.
There is no single right path and no single right amount of time to recover from. The brain of each of us chooses its own way to adapt to what is happening. How quickly this will happen, no one knows, but condemning others for the fact that their reality does not coincide with yours is simply pointless. Give both loved ones and strangers time: this is their path, their experiences and their responsibility.
3. Accept your negative feelings
Avoiding your anger, rage, confusion, not admitting your fear today is more dangerous than ever. An attentive attitude to emotions, the ability to recognize them will reduce our suffering.
Try to get curious, ask yourself: what new experience am I getting here and now? The realization that each of us is vulnerable will ultimately bring us relief: this way we release the forces within ourselves that were previously spent on containing negative experiences.
How can we use these forces? Accepting reality with all its limitations and characteristics means to stop being distracted by what others are doing and to focus on ourselves, to be here and now.
4. Communicate with those whose point of view is different from yours
Being in isolation, we seem to forget that the world around us and the people inhabiting it are different. We now have very little information about others and their motives. We observe what is happening from the outside and draw conclusions based solely on our own beliefs and ideas about how everything should be.
And therefore, if it seems to you that others are not behaving the way they should, try to guess why they are doing it, without immediately stigmatizing them for it. An honest conversation will help to come to an agreement or at least an understanding. But our guesses about what makes people act in one way or another may, firstly, have nothing to do with the truth, and secondly, make us angry at those who, perhaps, do not deserve it at all.
5. Remember: we are all in the same boat
Isolation, the need to keep our distance, the inability to entertain ourselves in the usual ways affect everyone: both us and our children, and those with whom we do not know at all.
We cannot predict how all this will affect our psyche – we can only observe. But we will definitely not remain the same. And everyone will have to deal with the crisis in their own way.
Therefore, tolerance and compassion are as important to us today as sanitizers and medical masks. The ability to take the place of another and not judge him will ultimately help us keep our psyche in order – as much as possible.
About the author: Jill Weber is a clinical psychologist and relationship specialist.