During this pandemic, there is no shortage of opinion or meme to convey what we should be doing with our time away from our daily grinds – for those of us who have the momentary pause, that is. Certainly, there are different impacts across the board.
I saw a writing earlier by an unknown author that described it well. Using the analogy of the storm (the same one I have used myself), the concept is that we are not in the same boat. It appears to have already been shared widely, so I’ll refrain from copying the entire transcript here and opt instead to pull just a few key phrases so that you get the drift, so to speak.
For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.
For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.
Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.
The overarching message here is that all of these experiences are valid so remember to be kind. I am absolutely here for kindness, compassion, and understanding. These are topics I’ve covered before and will gladly continue.
However, I took another thing not only from this writing but also from my own observations of behaviors that have been heightened through this particular storm. It feels like survival mode, regardless of your experience.
It feels that way because of our programming as humans at our most level. Some refer to it as the primitive brain; the reptilian or lizard brain. It doesn’t matter what you call it, you need to know that part exists in all of us. We are hard wired for survival and driven by three basic things:
- Seek pleasure
- Avoid pain
- Conserve energy
To be clear, this is referred to as the motivational triad, and it’s always with us, helping to drive our decisions daily. Knowing when your lizard brain is steering the ship is a skill worth developing for sure.
Let’s hone in on the pain avoidance because that is what is most obvious today.
It is usually fear that presents when we think of shielding ourselves from pain. When we were still living in caves, it served us well. Fear kept us alive and helped us to evolve as a species. Avoiding pain back then truly meant avoiding certain death.
Fear is also driving our behaviors today. We are not only afraid of becoming ill and afraid of dying (something that is ever present for some of us) – now we are afraid of losing our jobs, being unable to replace the job that’s already been lost, being unable to reopen that storefront or restaurant, losing the life we know. The one we’ve become very comfortable with.
We’re freaking terrified of the changes we are experiencing through this slow-moving storm.
It’s more than than the fear of dying and of the unknown. This is really nothing new. We’re also afraid of the things other people are doing. Or what they’re not doing. Because we know what’s right and they are all wrong. There’s also a solid dose of comparing the despair. My pain is greater than your pain. The Grieving Life As You Knew It
While this collective circumstance yields a myriad of varying experiences for each of us, try to remind yourself that there are areas that you can control. Your mind is so very powerful, and if you put it to work, it will help you to find the answers.
But if you just want to numb away all of the fear and other shitty emotions that you are feeling with booze, food, sleeping all day, or a good Netflix binge, you may survive emotionally, but you will be stuck in your pain. Full of anger and resentment about the injustices of it all.
I’m not the coach who pushes everyone who is having an experience of pause to use this time to learn a new skill or a craft; to better yourself to feel the accomplishment or so others will be impressed. Seriously, whatever floats your boat. If you want to do that, please see this moment as a gift and do it!
If you choose to numb it all away while you’re waiting out the storm, I simply want you to be fully aware that all of your shitty emotions will still be there when the skies clear and whatever semblance of normalcy you’re waiting for returns.
You have no idea how long you could be waiting.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to find yourself through this momentary madness.
I also want you to recognize that your primitive brain is trying to avoid pain. Certainly, do what you need to do to keep yourself well and physically safe. But also recognize that emotional pain is nothing more than a vibration in your body. If you allow yourself to feel it, your pain will not stay long and instead move through you. If you try to ignore it, distract yourself from it, numb it, or resist it, you will only succeed in delaying your experience.
Numbing is not how you avoid pain.
That’s just how your primitive brain thinks.
You have much more power than you think, and you can find the answers to any problem within yourself. But you can’t find those answers by avoiding and distracting and delaying your fear. You can’t find the solutions by focusing on what everyone else is doing/not doing, assigning what’s right or wrong, and bitching about it to your friends or on social media. There is nothing about doing these things that is productive, even though it may feel like it is in the moment. Even though the temporary release of frustration seems an accomplishment of sorts – it really isn’t.
Fear can actually be a great motivator. Think about it. If my primitive self is afraid when I see a tiger round the bend, my brain is going to say, “move!” and I’m going to scramble into action. It may not be pretty, my form may not be perfect, but I’m going to bolt as if my life depends on it, because I want to survive. The emotion of fear can be a life saver.
If I’m afraid that I may not have a way to produce an income in the near future, I have quite a few choices in this current first world environment that I exist in. I can assure you that my choices are not going to include laying around, feeling sorry for myself, and waiting for the world around me to return to “normal”. Feeling that fear could also produce a thought of “move!” and allow me to see alternative ways to create that income. That’s what a lot of business owners have had to do – quickly pivot from their normal operations, take messy action to keep the lights on, then figure out how to adapt as we slowly return to a way of life that is certain to look different than it did a month ago.
You have the ability to roll with change and to figure out how to thrive in any circumstance. You just need to know how to find those answers within.
This is exactly why I do the work that I do. I have learned to appreciate a good storm. Even more, I love the rainbows and renewed growth that it produces.
On the other side of survival mode, you can indeed thrive. It’s all up to you.
If you’re ready to find your power and Light The F*ck Up, I highly recommend my new podcast. You can find it on Spotify and Apple.
I am happy to coach on any topic, including the current pandemic events. I’m absolutely here for you! Book a free session with me here.
2 Replies to “Why This Feels Like Survival Mode”
Thank you for the reminder that while I have a nice and calm life here in my room and family to contact with, there are people who have it less comfortable than me and equally those who post on Facebook ‘Stay home or die’ type of things are also just trying to help.
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Thanks for your feedback! Sometimes it’s hard to find compassion for every experience out there. I admit it’s not always easy for me. I’m glad you liked it.