How to Create Trust and Certainty in Challenging Times

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The Covid-19 pandemic is social disruption like we’ve never seen before

The Covid-19 Pandemic is challenging all of us to remain calm, to not slide into doubt, fear, and the darkness of depression, or worse, to lash out in frustration, anger, and desperation.

You might even say, “Well, Darren, how could we not?”

While some of us are more resilient, have more of a physiological slant towards happiness, many of us are more prone to worry and upset. I fall into this latter category.

Whether or not you have a great social support system through a partner, friends, family, or pets, what are you most afraid of right now? What makes you slide into the darkness of the worst-case scenario in this pandemic?

What can you do that will make you feel certain?

What can you do that will allow you to trust in what you do know is certain in your life? How would it feel to know what you are certain about, as a strategy to feel more centred and calm?

Remember what I said in episode 119, “Owning the Problem Is the Nature of Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility is the ultimate self-love

These are difficult times.

As people become more understanding of what is happening, there will be a calming, and hopefully a more sensible approach to what is unique and difficult. Things like not having work, being forced to stay at home, not being able to go to the gym, not being able to hang out with your friends, and so many more situations that we have taken for granted.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Wayne Dyer

Your feelings, thoughts, words, and actions all lead to the alignment of what’s important to you.

Each one of those steps informs the next. If you feel fear and panic, you then think negatively, and choose words like “terrifying” and take an action that is in alignment with that “process.” How we manifest our feelings into the world through action is a reflection of who we are.

So, if we are afraid, angry, or terrified, at the feeling level, how does that manifest as an action? How do we interrupt this process at the point of feeling?

“Who you think you are each day, completely determines the universe you live in.” 

Ram Dass

Prediction and Response

Without the ability to predict what will happen based on what has happened in the past, we cannot respond based on created patterns. This is how we function day-to-day as human beings. We are not even conscious of all the responses we are making about the thousands of predictions our senses are picking up.

It’s not until we encounter something new, or we are faced with significant disruption to our daily lives — like the Covid-19 pandemic — that we stumble. We suddenly are face-to-face with the unknown. We react accordingly at the level of the most ancient part of our brain, the amygdala, which is constantly assessing sensory input, but is asking the same question over and over again:

“Am I safe? Am I safe? Am I safe?”

If your amygdala — the “reptile” brain — recognizes a pattern, that’s cool! It will settle down and you can go back to your business thinking about what you want to make for dinner, or perhaps, ironically, how you plan to solve world hunger. These later thoughts are the function of the human mind, the pre-frontal cortex, where we can plan, create, design, and come up with ways to improve our lives.

But, let’s say you’re out walking late at night. It’s raining hard and the wind is blowing the rain near-sideways. You hold your umbrella out in front of you like a shield against the coming onslaught, unable to see in front of you, only lifting your umbrella enough to see a few feet in front of you. You hear something strange and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. You’re in a neighbourhood you’d don’t know, alone, and you haven’t seen anyone else on the street. You stand up straight, the umbrella now overhead while the rain pelts against you. It doesn’t matter. That’s the least of your worries. “What was that noise?” You think, ready to run if you feel threatened.

Suddenly, you see something out of the corner of your eye and realize it’s someone digging through the garbage behind a fence you didn’t see earlier. Garbage can lids are strewn on the ground. “Oh, it was just the sound of the lids crashing!”, you think to yourself. Slowly, your heart rate begins to slow down. You relax your posture and lower your umbrella again to protect yourself from the deluge. You pass the person riffling thought the garage who doesn’t even notice you. You laugh inwardly and smile, moving on towards your destination as the adrenaline response dissipates, and the feeling of fight, flight, or freeze (the “response” of the amygdala) drains out of you.

Now you have a potential new prediction from this experience, one that involves darkness, rain, wind, and the sound of crashing garbage can lids. The next time something like this happens, there might first be the immediate response of, “Is that…” and then your senses will do their work to ascertain the best answer.

What we are dealing with as a result of the pandemic — social distancing, social isolation, economic uncertainty — are all major stressors, each one unique in the sense that each of us will react/respond differently. But for the entire world, for all of us, this pandemic, and how we are dealing with it socially and politically, is complete disruption. And disruption is a huge stress, a massive ball of unpredictability, and one for which we struggle to respond.

When we have no prediction and no response we cannot have happiness and thus no freedom.

Any kind of limit or restriction put upon us is felt as a lack of freedom. Many of us can accept what is happening right now as appropriate measures to a very difficult, uncertain, and unique situation. We may accept the measure that limits what we can do, and by accepting them as necessary, we are acting with personal responsibility for our well-being and that of everyone else.

Certainly, this act of personal responsibility, recognizing that we are all in this together makes our choice to curtail our freedom less reactive. But that doesn’t mean we will necessarily be happy about it, and I think this is something that many of us are feeling and deeply struggling with.

This is why I want to help.

Because right now, I need to help myself. I have been struggling emotionally, dealing with my worries — a lack of prediction and response. The last few days when I have gone out for a walk, not walking too close to anyone else, seeing how few people are out, how few vehicles are on the road, noticing how many businesses are “Closed until…” and how utterly quiet it is, I fight back tears of not knowing how else to respond to what I am seeing, what I know others are feeling, and feeling helpless to find solutions.

This morning, fighting back falling into a pit of darkness, I wrote a response to someone on Facebook. My response helped me more that it may have helped him. I did what I’m good at — I reframed a situation to look at the smaller aspects that may have led to the outcome, and then what steps may come after. I realized that I evolve by teaching what I know and teaching while I am learning.

If you’re feeling anything like what I’ve described in today’s episode and would like to discover a set of strategies to create more certainty and trust in this time of social distancing, isolation, and economic uncertainty during the Covid-19 Pandemic I invite you to try my mini-coaching program, “What’s Out of Your Control?

Image credit bruce mars on Unsplash

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Darren is a leadership coach in Toronto, Canada who helps his clients to connect and embrace their uniqueness and freely create the life they want. He writes and podcasts regularly about Queer Leadership.