KEEPING THE PERSPECTIVE - Cognitive Reframing
A friend recently shared this with me and I thought it would be great to start a conversation on KEEPING THE PERSPECTIVE. If you have seen it during the COVID19 Pandemic, I encourage you to read it again for context:
“It’s a mess out there now. Hard to discern between what’s a real threat and what is just simple panic, media hype or hysteria. For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900.
On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and continues for your whole High School Career, ending on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the same year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday, killing 50 million people in two years. Yes, 50 million.
On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. As you try to make ends meet for your family and start your third decade of life. The Great Depression continues until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.
When you turn 39, perhaps as you just manage to turn it all around, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t have a chance to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.
5 years later as you turn 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years! 4 million people perish in that conflict.
On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, should have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. Perhaps at 75 you will see some easier times?
Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? When you were a youth in 1985 and you didn’t think your 85 yearold grandparent understood how hard life was. Yet they survived through everything listed above.
Perspective is an amazing art. Refined as time goes on, and enlightening like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s try and keep things in perspective.”
Even though the struggles and experiences of others do not make your feelings or experiences any less valid, perhaps we can look to those born in the 1900s and feel the sense of strength that is inherent to the human spirit. Humans have overcome, they have faced destruction, death and awful sights, yet in spite of this, they built the families in which we belong, the friends around us and the communities we live in. Let us keep the perspective – today may be difficult but there is always a promise of a better tomorrow.
On a neuroscience level if you perceive a situation as a threat — physically or psychologically — your natural fight-or-flight response will kick in. Your stress response will be triggered and can remain triggered for prolonged periods of time. We are not physically made to be in this stressed, triggered state as the threat usually abates once we escape the danger. Being in a constant fight of flight state can be extremely detrimental to your mental and physical health. Today’s demands make us susceptible to chronic stress and we need to learn tools and practices which downregulate our nervous system so we can thrive.
A useful tool to use in a situation which seems overwhelming, threatening or extremely negative is COGNITIVE REFRAMING. Reframing allows you to see the current situation from a different perspective, and can be tremendously helpful in situations, as well as improve problem solving, decision making and learning. Here are some basic guidelines to cognitive reframing which can help you shift your perspective, make you feel empowered and change how you feel and function:
Some beautiful words of encouragement, I extracted from the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (1927):
The Humble Humanologist