These are times when fear—including the pain of anxiety about illness and strained finances and social isolation—is spreading like the Coronavirus itself. So, it is a time when we need all the tools we can get to battle back against that fear.
There have been other times when our nation and the world has needed such strength and has found it in the words of great leaders. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt spoke these words in his inaugural address:
The only thing we have to fear is … fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
Confronting a Nazi invasion during World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
These words, delivered by leaders who believed them to their core, literally turned anxiety into action for many millions of people.
Soaring, inspiring rhetoric seems to be in shorter supply these days, generally speaking. Facing the Coronavirus pandemic is no exception. Perhaps speaking about defeating a virus doesn’t lend itself to the same defiant stance as battling other enemies, whether economic or military. Maybe we are not at a point in this pandemic when the right words can be found to break the grip of fear that now invades so many lives. Maybe boldly inspiring speeches would be seen as, somehow, inappropriate. But I am not so sure. I think we need an anti-anxiety, prime time, national address that rivals those I quoted from, above.
Still, I think it helps to take time to focus on two leaders who share our national spotlight right now: President Donald Trump and New York Governor Cuomo. Both of these leaders are working tirelessly to do their jobs and safeguard as many people as humanly possible. Neither shows any sign of slowing down or caving under or thinking less about an American future of power and promise. That is inspiring. That can help, if we take note and let ourselves be inspired by their example.
These leaders belong to different political parties and have many different political views. Yet, more binds them together in the face of this pandemic than separates them. There’s a lesson in that, too. We, too, can rise to this challenge and also lift others up to rise to this challenge. And focusing on our real, inherent power to do so has real, inherent anti-anxiety benefits.
I am trying to do what I can through continuing to counsel clients and continuing to share Pain-2-Power writings like this one and Pain-2-Power videos four on YouTube.
We have big challenges ahead. We also have the big opportunity to write next paragraphs, pages and chapters of our life stories that are ones of courage, empathy and understanding that will forever testify to the best of what is inside us.
Dr. Keith Ablow