It’s funny what restrictions on your freedom can do to you. I have literally played golf 3 times in the 12 months. But the other day I looked at my clubs in the garage and had this moment of pure frustration that I couldn’t go and play. And then again, just yesterday, as I was rolling my foot over a golf ball I thought: man I would love to smash some balls right now. I indulged in a brief fantasy about what would happen if I teed one up in the garden and just smashed the shit out of it (sliced onto the road no doubt) But it’s crazy, my mind was going: “oh man, all I want to do is be able to play golf again!”
I caught myself in this moment and noticed how ridiculous this actually was. I mean, truth is, I wouldn’t have been playing if I had the freedom of movement we possess in “normal” times. But, I yearned to be out there on the course, right now. This makes me think about behaviours every parent would have seen in children. The forgotten toy. The one that sits in the corner of the room not played with and unloved for months….until… another kid comes in and picks it up and starts to play with it. Suddenly it is the most important toy that the child owns! They need it right now. How dare someone else use that toy and stop them playing with it!
It’s amazing that we can create a degree of suffering in someone, by taking away something from them that they weren’t ever going to do or use anyway.
I mean, I can’t play golf ergo I desperately want to play golf right now. I bet people feel the same about all sorts of things. Once we re-open I imagine there will be a rush to the fast food restaurants, and many of those people might hardly ever go in normal times, but hell, they’re thinking: “I’ve been denied it for so long!!!”
Now I could ramble off down a rabbit hole of psychology here, but seeing as I’ve forgotten most of that anyway, I think it is poignant to think about a critical fact in how we deal with our own emotions during a time like this. And, alongside that, to also acknowledge I write this from selfish perspective, as a way for me to speak to myself and how I deal with the my own uncertainties that surround my career, finances and my family health.
Now, it is obvious that the desire to do or eat things that we’ve been restricted from, can increase in intensity. But perhaps less understood, is our own emotional reaction to the crisis that is going on around us.
The critical point is:
That which we repress doesn’t grow weaker, it grows stronger.
This holds truth with how you are dealing with some of the feelings that might be swimming around in your head right now. Because, if you’re feeling sad, lonely, full of doubts, fearful or angry. Then the act of seeing these feelings as a bad thing, and then trying to actively repress them and bury them is harmful in so many ways.
What you’re creating for yourself is a habit of avoidance. Behaviours leading you to ‘be without’ the discomfort. The problem with that is that then many of the behaviours you choose to engage in come from a place of fear, you're motivated to do it because it helps you avoid something you don't want. You bury it, hide from it, deny it exists.
These actions are often more harmful to you in the long term as it becomes the habitual way you handle yourself in times of emotional stress. But most importantly, by doing these you’re feeding a beast that can keep coming back stronger and stronger. Like my desire to play golf... well sort of (I had to link sport into this somehow ha!)
Now, you may also have a misguided belief that you shouldn’t feel like this. I don’t blame you because it has been socially conditioned in many of us. The belief that you should be tough and unbreakable. The belief that you should be positive and optimistic. The belief that you should just feel good, all the time.
You don’t have to be any of those things. In fact, there is no “should” here. Where does that should come from? It doesn't belong in this situation and not in any of human emotional suffering. There is isolation, there is anxiety, there is sadness and if it’s with you in a moment, then that is ok. Take a breath into it. Name it, accept it and let it be there. That’s the bravery you need the most right now. The bravery to open up to and let in how you feel rather than run away from it, or repress it.
Through varying intensity we will all be dealing with the raw and pure emotion that comes along with this pandemic. Now is not the time to beat yourself up for feeling like this or not being able to “control” yourself. Now is not the time to run, numb or avoid your emotional experience either. It’s time to let that in and be kind and compassionate to yourself. Share your feelings with trusted people. Chose to do stuff that is based on what is important to you. Not based on what would make you feel better instantly or get rid of a feeling. Be open and welcoming of how you feel and remember that although you might be counting down the days until you're free to leave the house again... Life is still happening right now! So stay with it and present in it.