The Coronavirus is impacting us and the world in ways none of us have experienced or witnessed in our lifetimes. Just a few months ago, witnessing hand sanitizer and masks becoming precious items, grappling with the specter of rationing of health care resources and keeping one another safe by keeping our distance were confined to novels, movies and television series. Just a few months ago, cruise ships with ill people being denied entry to ports would have seemed almost unthinkable. Now, it is our reality.
What is unfolding is unprecedented in our lifetimes and brings up very powerful thoughts about everything from the role of government in our lives, to the extent to which we would go to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, to the contributions to others we are making or would like to make at this moment. The pandemic brings to the surface deeply held philosophical, economic, spiritual and political views that may have been much further from the front of our minds than they are today. Coronavirus can also, of course, make people think about their mortality and, therefore, their entire lives—what they have achieved, what they hope to still achieve, good decisions they have made and decisions they regret.
Because Coronavirus does trigger such powerful thoughts and emotions, it can also bring up powerful reminders of other times we lived through crises or experienced losses in life or were called upon to summon courage and show compassion. That’s how emotional memory tends to work; one deeply emotional moment kindles memories of others.
Documenting your thoughts and feelings at this time can be an important part of responding, in a very personal way, to Coronavirus. You can do that by writing a daily journal or by recording your thoughts and perspectives as they come to you—via audio or video. These reflections can become an emotional outlet, a form of intellectual exercise and a treasured archive for you and your family to keep for many years to come—essentially forever, if properly stored away. If more than one member of your family or several friends take on this challenge, you could share one another’s reflections and use them simply to know one another even better or as points of departure for deep discussion.
I share this advice with you partly because we can tend to keep our innermost thoughts and feelings to ourselves at times like this, or to even keep them from consciousness. But if we make thinking, feeling and sharing part of our consciousplan right now, we can overcome those emotional reflexes.
Dr. Keith Ablow