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Guilt, Gratitude & Compassion

So here we are.

Together. In this.

And yet, while we are all in this together, our experience of THIS is different.

For some privileged enough to have loving families, finances to see them through, work or job prospects and outdoor space, there is plenty to be grateful for. Yet, for others, working on the frontline or fearful about loved ones doing so, and for those worried about having little or zero income, times are far more challenging.

Equally, for some of us, staying at home without having to see anyone else is bliss and getting to spend more quality time with family is something to treasure and enjoy. For others in abusive relationships, stuck at home with the person who causes them fear and despair, bliss doesn’t come into it. Some single parents with young children or teens are really struggling, others with all the help they need are still feeling overwhelmed.

Some self-isolating alone are craving connection, some can’t wait to have their solitude back others can't wait to socialise again.

We’re all different, but we’re all in this together.

And we're all doing what we can with what we have.

Some of us will focus on finding the good as a coping mechanism, so we’ll savour and share what’s going well and celebrate what's going well, even on difficult days.

We’ll do so for ourselves, but also in the hope we may encourage others to do the same, because we know that gratitude is a powerful and helpful tool in building and bolstering resilience during tough times.

Some of us will feel anxious about the uncertainty and loss of it all and might feel annoyed about how everyone else seems to be holding it together.

Yet no response is wrong.

Those who are finding and celebrating the good might feel they have to temper their celebration and refrain from feeling grateful, but they shouldn't. Just as those who are finding this difficult should not refrain from sharing what’s challenging and asking for help.

If ever there was a time for each of us to all feel what we feel, without guilt or apprehension, it is now.

Because ALL our feelings are valid – feelings of frustration and worry, sadness and strength (sometimes all at the same time) or feelings of gratitude that we are getting to spend more time with our family, that we are having dinner with each other every night, that we’re getting to laugh more, notice more, connect more. That we’re getting to appreciate stuff we’ve previously taken for granted more. That we’re getting to exercise or do the things we’ve been meaning to do more. That we’re getting to make great memories and notice this more readily.

All these feelings of gratitude are valid and we should never feel guilty about them.

Our privilege may be why we are in the position to feel these feelings but these feelings are what will help us navigate through the difficult parts and buffer our resilience so we are in a better position to help others; to help those less fortunate than ourselves. When we are feeling good we can think about what can we donate, contribute, provide? How can we use our strengths to help others during and after this crisis? We can prepare ourselves to do something purposeful.

Of course it can feel hard to feel grateful when you know other humans are facing real hardship and loss, when you know that other humans are dying out there.

But in feeling grateful you are not dismissing those who are struggling.

In fact, perhaps one of the best ways to honour those less privileged than ourselves is to appreciate what we have with our whole hearts, rather than take what we have for granted: to find the good and cherish and savour it. To feel deep gratitude for what we have.

A few weeks ago I posted some words and this picture (below) in a group and someone responded by saying, they had no income so there was nothing to be grateful about. Another person responded to say thank you and share that they too were struggling as they had lost a loved one the night before to Coronavirus, yet they could still find things to be grateful for and steering themselves back towards gratitude gave them hope.

Focusing on the good is not about sugar-coating what's happening. The world is experiencing a health crisis and many people are dying, while others are without income or human contact. Our family too. There's lots we're all struggling with. But, given that the human brain has a negativity bias towards worst-case-scenario 'what ifs' and rumination, it's more important than ever now to focus on the good and be pro-active about being positive.

As positivity researcher, Barbara Fredrickson discovered, the more we can deposit into our positivity bank account over time, the more we are able to draw from it during tough times and the more resilient we can be when we most need to be. So gratitude is helpful in this way.

Compassion over judgement

As such I believe the time is right to practice collective compassion. As Tanis Frame of Decide To Thrive wisely says, to ‘choose compassion over judgement’ – to let people feel what they feel and perhaps, at home, to let things that might ordinarily trigger you slide. To give each other a break.

 

Now is also a time for greater self-compassion: to forgive ourselves as much as we forgive others for mistakes; to stop giving ourselves and others a hard time.

We are all united in caring about those who are suffering in this. Those who are finding this a primarily positive experience haven't had an empathy bypass; there is still a tremendous feeling of compassion and care for those in a less fortunate position.

And so those in a more fortunate position are helping where possible. Whether we become NHS volunteers - delivering medical supplies or talking to the lonely, sew masks, deliver food to those in need, share our wellbeing tools, write stuff which might help others cope, deliver to food banks, post a way for someone suffering domestic abuse to send an alert to you without their abuser realising. We help however we can. And we clap our NHS with immense gratitude because, whatever our experience ...

WE ALL FEEL THIS!

We all see the nurses and doctors working and risking and comforting and healing those who are ill.

We all see the people who are struggling and we know that even those lucky enough to have gardens and love and opportunity (to slow down, to notice, to create, to feel grateful) have challenging moments too.

Let us remember, even those for whom life seems rosy, it is rarely as perfect as it may appear. There may be grief and lack in those rosy-looking lives; loveless relationships; lack of freedom or family.

So it seems, we are all in this together after all.

With love, compassion and gratitude

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