5 Ways to Stop Judging and Start Loving Humanity Again
3. Accept your negative feelings.
Posted Mar 31, 2020
Many find themselves upset and even irate over the actions and reactions of others during this pandemic. I understand this frame of reference resulting from our evolutionarily wired tendency toward what social scientists term the negativity bias. This bias tends to go into overdrive when faced with uncertain and traumatic events.
Focusing on the negative is a survival skill that allows us to anticipate and evacuate harmful situations before it is too late. And, too, fueling ourselves with judgment and anger is a way to cope. When judgment fills our mental space and experience, we feel strong and superior—a powerful balm to the true reality of our current vulnerability. The dock of judgment becomes a focal point when we are helpless and unsure in a stormy sea.
Unfortunately, in reality, focusing on the negative through ruminating about what humanity, our community, or our friends should be doing better in the pandemic crisis actually intensifies and prolongs our anxiety. That’s because we fill our brain with worst-case scenarios and play out future outcomes that may or may not come to be. Before you know it, we are living in an adrenaline-fueled hyper-vigilant state; it is hard to relax, to sleep, to eat, or to feel at ease in our bodies. And, too, focusing on the negative keeps us feeling even more separate and alone—an “us against them” mentality takes hold.
These are virulent symptoms when what we need for healthy coping is to take on the contradictory task of staying inside while also staying connected to people. The combination of anxious energy and having to spend more time indoors can be debilitating for many.
In reality, there is no perfect way to cope with a pandemic.
Of course, following CDC guidelines is important. But how do we cope when others don’t see it that way?
1. Look how far we’ve come. If someone told you two weeks ago that all of our businesses and schools would close, and we would be isolating at home, working and educating our children from our kitchen tables, we wouldn’t have believed them. It is astounding to think of the enormous adjustment we have implemented, as individuals and as a society, in such a short amount of time.
2. We are all grieving. We have all lost something, whether it is plans or relationships or revenue or the future we thought we’d have at this exact moment. We don’t all grieve the same or on the same timeline.
Some of us move to acceptance quickly, some of us stay in a place of shock or denial, and some of us get stuck in anger. There is no right or wrong way; our brains simply do what they need to do to adjust. Make room for your community, your friends, your colleagues, your family, strangers on the street to have their own process without judging, shaming, or condemning their character.
3. Accept your negative feelings. It is important to not avoid but to accept your true reality. Mindfulness to our emotions, even the negative ones, decreases distress. Be curious and open to your experience; label what you observe as happening in your body and your mind. Sitting with the reality that at this moment we are all vulnerable is ultimately relieving because it frees up the space that was occupied by having to keep the negative emotion at bay.
And, too, accepting our true reality frees us up from having to distract ourselves and ruminate upon what others are or are not doing correctly. We are no longer afraid and avoidant of just being in this moment. It is what it is; we are here, and we have to accept that there are some things we just can’t control about this experience.
4. Connect with people that don’t share your viewpoint. When we are isolated and stuck in our bubbles, we have less data about one another. We observe the behavior and develop conclusions about what a person must be like or what their underlying motives are. Be aware of this phenomenon. Instead, connect.
If people are doing things differently than you, try to understand why as opposed to just feeling like they must be “bad people.” Talking helps move information to our frontal lobes and enables us to be less emotional. Talking and listening helps people to get to a place of acceptance quicker than judgmental attitudes.
5. We are all in this together. There will be a psychological impact from the social distancing and the isolation of our children and of ourselves. We can’t predict exactly how this will look, and it will be idiosyncratic to each person.
One factor that is an impactful buffer in terms of trauma and longer-term anxiety and depression is staying connected and attached to one another. Consider tolerance and compassion as essential as facemasks and hand sanitizers in being able to eventually emerge as psychologically intact as possible.
For more tips to manage stress and anxiety check out my book, Be Calm-Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now.