What do you want your personal narrative to be because of the pandemic?
All humans strive for congruency, tying to make sense of the world around them and they process their environment through their senses and episodic memory. Our understanding of the world is shaped by a hunger for narratives that rises out of our discomfort with ambiguity and arbitrary events. When new and different things happen, we search for an explanation and meaning. In times of stress or fear our responses tend to automate and the logical part of our mind dims.
During this pandemic I think it is safe to say that all of us have had some sense of fear and we have reacted to that fear. Barren shelves at the grocery store and unavailable toilet paper
are all triggers that are normal and somewhat unavoidable.
From fear we seek meaning. In meaning we rely upon narratives.
Part of the reaction to fear are built-in cultural narratives that we default to.
Many of us are familiar with post-apocalyptic dystopian movies and TV series, such as The Walking Dead, Contagion or Outbreak. All of these stories influence how we
interpret these real world, unsettling events.
Based upon these narratives it is not hard to image the next stage of social discord and breakdown. But is it real?
If you don’t control your narrative now you will be influenced by others narrative (the news etc ). And more importantly where do you want to end up after the pandemic in terms of stress, attitude and motivation?
We gravitate to the narratives that best explain our emotions. In this way, narrative and memory become one. Whether you will be a better or worse person after the pandemic will depend largely upon the narrative that you follow during this time.
Narrative provides not only meaning but also a mental framework for imbuing future experiences and information with meaning, in effect shaping new memories to fit our established constructs of the world and ourselves.
If you change the narrative your ability to learn and change behavior will follow.
To change your narratives you need to confront them with rational thought.
How to reframe your narrative?
Let purpose create a framework for how you’re going to react and how you’re going to rewrite your narrative.
Purpose is powerful medicine.
To illustrate the power of purpose let us examine the hallmark story of the Wright brothers and their journey to invent controlled powered flight, which became the catalyst for aviation as we know it today.
“The Wright brothers were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it would change the course of the world.”
While at the same time and in contrast, the well-funded, intellectual, Samuel Peirpont Langley
, wanted to crack the question of flight to be famous and be first.
In the end, the Wright brothers, whose narrative was very different from Langley’s’, worked their dream with blood and sweat and tears discovering how to achieve controlled fly on December 17th of 1903. Langley went into obscurity and the Wright brothers became famous.
Reason is also a powerful treatment
“…recognize that there are things about this situation that we can’t control; no amount of worry will change that. Recognize too that, as often noted in psychology circles, “feelings are not facts.”
We may feel like we or our loved ones are in imminent danger, but those feelings aren’t always perfectly calibrated to reality. Humans are prone to biased thinking—things that come quickly to mind, like the many headlines and social media posts focusing on the virus, may lead us to believe that risks are greater than they actually are.
As such, entertain the possibility that our fear may be stronger than warranted, and try to take some emotion-regulatory steps. At moments when fear is high, take a deep breath or engage in frivolous distraction.
At moments when fear is lower, take a more reflective approach; remind yourself that there are smart people all over the world who are working on solutions. As Mr. Rogers says, “If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” And maintain connections with close others, remotely if need be—we’re all in this together.” –Professor Robin Smyton
Learning about things is great, learning about your self is life changing. During this isolation it is a great time to reevaluate and think about what you need to learn to become more and take advantage of those learning opportunities and take control of your narrative.