We’ve been getting a crash course in navigating the unknown. Like in a super macro way. No effing around, 2020 has us on the edge. The edge of our seats, the edge of our capacities, the edge of evolution.
When you’re at your edge, what are the coping mechanisms that pop up first? Distracting or dissociating? The ol’ numb + soothe? Controlling yourself, others or your environment? Fits of fear or flight?
Being able to be with uncertainty and navigate the unknown is a skill we can actually develop. But being able to regulate ourselves before our lizard brains take us right on the survival train takes some practice. Right about now, I’d consider it to be top-o-the-list.
One night, pre-covid, I was playing the game Hot Seat with a dozen family members. The premise is when it’s your turn to be in the hot seat, you pick a card, share the question and everyone else anonymously submits an answer about you. You choose the winning answer. Points for people who know you well!
My question was “What is my secret addiction?”
Some of the answers were hilarious or edgy. Some total misses. But there was one that pierced me with shame laced intimacy.
It was written in the scrawl of my 11 year old son. I was simultaneously gut punched and also in awe of his perceptiveness.
Planning, for me, serves a lot of functions. In terms of executive functioning and getting shit done, I’ve got some boss skills, so no shame there. But it’s also a coping strategy for stress, creates a soothing sense of security and the illusion of ground and control in groundless times. At its worst, it takes me right out of the present, jacks me up on all sorts of pleasure hormones while I take on things at a scale that is going to be neither fun nor nourishing to carry out.
Planning can become a way to white knuckle through that which can’t be planned for.
How about you? What’s your way of coping with the unknown? How does it serve or not?
One of the things I love about this time of year (beginning of autumn where I am) is the invitation to bring checks and balances to what I’m taking in and what I’m putting out – from energy to information. Part of this is exploring what I have been drawing on to meet my days, what I have been drawing on to cope and discerning what I want to maintain and what needs to stop, to shed, to rot right along with the fallen leaves.
I have no moral judgements about coping mechanisms or what we do to get through. But some of them help to alleviate our suffering and fortify us as we navigate the unknown + others don’t. Being able to discern what’s helping and what’s harming is key to doing our inner and outer work.