There’s something big happening in the world right now. Coronavirus. Worried or not, prepping or not, the fact is that this pandemic is impacting the world on a large scale. We all have access to the same news, so I am not going to tell you the facts or how to act based on those facts. Rather, I want to talk about some basic tenets of the counseling profession that I find valuable in navigating day-to-day relationships when I am feeling threatened and anxious.
Many theories of mental health follow the presumption that human behavior is dictated by the follow string of events:
Fact/Occurance … Thought about fact … Feelings about thought … Action/reaction
We may have the same facts, but our thoughts and feelings will inevitably be different. We each have a lifetime of experiences and exposures that shape how we think and feel. In fact, the lifetimes of our parents, grandparents and other significant people in our lives also influence how we think and feel – so it would be highly presumptuous for me to sit here telling you how to act based on current events. You are as entitled to your beliefs, feelings and behaviors as I am.
That said, I’d like to also introduce the concept of unconditional positive regard. Simply put, this is holding the belief that we are each doing our best at every given moment based on the tools we have available. This one is big. And hard. It is empathy to the extreme. A challenge to mental health counselors in the professional setting is to try to take this to such an extreme as to truly believe that were we our client, we would have arrived at exactly the same place. Even if we were sitting across the room from Hitler. Or Bin Laden.
I am not suggesting that we all lose ourselves in being empathic and ultra-understanding of those around us; but I am suggesting that at the very least we include empathy and openness to others in our daily routines. The Coronavirus seems to be growing into an issue as polarizing as the US political climate. I think both situations are opportunities to act with greater respect and compassion for the people around us.
This issue is bigger than any one of us, and our actions will absolutely impact those around us. Whatever you choose to do, however you choose to act, please respect the choices and desire for safety that others hold – even if they are different than your own.