Coronavirus is an unprecedented experience for all of us. We’ve never seen anything like it. Thousands of people are getting sick, scores are dying, economies are crumbling, and millions have or will lose their jobs.
And yet, as damaging and deadly as Coronavirus is—and there’s no denying that—we might as well learn something from this circumstance. In other words, if we’re going to be locked away in our homes and forced to shelter in place, we would be wise to wonder what we can learn from this extraordinary moment in history.
As a race, I’m sure we will collectively learn how to better prepare for and respond to a global crisis in the future, whether it’s viral, chemical or nuclear in nature. This is a wake-up call for the entire planet, and in the end, we’ll be better for it.
But what about us as individuals? On a personal level, what can we learn from this? In other words, can Coronavirus be our ally in some way, and not just our enemy? Can it be our teacher and not only our tormenter?
The first thing Coronavirus can teach us is about control. There are some things that we can control and there are things we can’t. If we confuse the two and put our attention and energy into attempting to control what can’t be controlled, we will suffer. This is so obvious, and yet we do it all the time.
Spiritual teacher, Bryon Katie, says there are three kinds of “businesses” in the world: our business, someone else’s business and God’s business. The key insight, she says, is that whenever we focus on anything other than our business (what we can control), we suffer.
I was recently talking with a client who is terrified about the virus. She was worried about whether she or others she cared about would get sick. She was worried about all the jobs that could be lost, including her own. She was worried that others wouldn’t commit to social distancing and that our government would mishandle the situation. And she was even worried that her favorite restaurant would go out of business.
As we talked about those things, she soon recognized that she couldn’t control any of that, but by trying to, not only was she stressing herself out and making herself suffer, she was wasting her time and energy. What’s the use in worrying about things you can’t control? How does that help?
I then asked her what she could control, and she accurately said, “I guess all I can do is wash my hands, disinfect everything I come in contact with, practice social distancing and stay home.” She was right. Those are the only things she can control.
She can’t control who gets the virus, including herself. She can’t control her job, the economy, the survival of a restaurant or how anyone, including the government, behaves. None of that is her business.
I told her that if she wanted to be free of anxiety and worry, she could just let go of trying to control the uncontrollable. She could relax. She could open her hands and throw open her arms in a somatic gesture of surrender, and trust in how Life is—and will—unfold.
Recognizing what’s controllable and what’s not is the key to inner peace. As the serenity prayer says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (control), the courage to change (control) the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Let’s apply this to dating and relationships.
What can you control and what can’t you? Imagine that you have a great first date with someone who seems really special. The only thing you can control is if you tell them how you feel and that you want to see them again. That’s it. That’s all you can control.
You can’t control if they “ghost” you or call you, nor can you control if there is ever a second date. That’s none of your business. So, after a great first date, let go. Literally, as you walk away from them, open your hands and arms in a gesture of surrender. Don’t put any attention, energy or thought into whether or not you’ll ever see them again. That’s none of your business. You’ve done what you can do, so let go. (And if you’re the one initiating the second date, you can let go of wanting them to pick up the phone and accept your invitation.)
Now, let’s widen the application. In general, what are you stressed out about? With whom do you experience drama? What do you worry about or what upsets you? If you look closely, you’ll see that in every case, you are trying to control what is not yours to control. In other words, you’re in someone else’s business. Let Coronavirus teach you about control and how to let go, surrender and trust.
I live in Illinois, and as I write this, we’ve just been ordered to stay home. It’s gone beyond mere social distancing; we are being forced to isolate and “shelter in place”—for at least two weeks!
This sets up a cruel double-whammy. Many of us already feel lonely and disconnected, and now with Corona, it’s worse than ever. At least before we could leave our homes, now we can’t even do that! So, many people are feeling a double dose of loneliness and isolation these days.
The second way Coronavirus can be our ally is that it can help us notice how addicted we are to sourcing connection externally. Many of the things we do—going to dinner with friends, hanging out at our favorite bar, going shopping or to movies, attending networking events or dating online—are done to avoid feelings of loneliness, boredom and disconnection.
But now all that stuff has been taken away! We no longer have access to the normal ways we distract ourselves from feeling these uncomfortable emotions. So, as deadly and destructive as this virus is, it can serve our evolution by giving us the opportunity to fully face our “addiction” and challenge us to “come home” and learn how to source connection from within ourselves.
Amazing realizations can occur when we’re forced into isolation and choose not to run from it. When we’re physically alone, a wise person doesn’t immediately grab their phone and fill the void with digital interaction. Instead, they explore the emptiness and how it can be used for their evolution and growth.
Instead of surfing the Internet, scouring online dating profiles, scrolling through your favorite social media platforms or texting friends and family, why not sit with those empty, lonely feelings and explore them? Why not feel what it’s like to be alone? Why not investigate who you are apart from others? Why not spend time in meditation, contemplation or reflection?
What if you came through this Corona crisis with a clearer sense of who you are, a deeper sense of groundedness and trust, and a more acute recognition that you are whole and complete within yourself? I know you’ll never feel grateful for Coronavirus—no one would—but wouldn’t you be grateful if it led to that?
It can…if you let it.
The final way Coronavirus can be our ally is that it can teach us about fear and how it operates—unconsciously and automatically—in our lives.
This is a scary time. If you don’t feel at least a little scared for yourself and those you care about —not to mention your country and all of humanity—you’re either in denial or you’re feigning enlightenment. Fear is a very normal and natural part of life. We all experience it, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Fear is just another emotion (or energy) that moves in or on the body.
But here’s how Corona can help us evolve and wake up: The way we respond to Corona is the same way we’ll respond to any kind of fear. Coronavirus will simply expose our signature fear-response pattern and that is an extremely valuable thing to know about ourselves.
Having said that, there is no right or wrong way to respond to fear, there is only the conscious awareness of how YOU respond to it. And at the risk of oversimplifying, there are two basic responses to fear.
The first, which is very rare, is to respond by welcoming the fear (or any emotion), feel it completely and open to its wisdom. This response invites us to honor our experience, to pay attention, to look closely and to inquire.
Welcoming our fear causes us to respond to it with curiosity. It invites us to ask questions about what’s real and what’s not. It drives us to examine the ground on which we stand and to find a steady, secure place that withstands circumstance. (Remember how Jesus talked about building one’s house upon a rock? Well, Corona exposes our foundation.)
Conversely, the more common (and toxic) way of responding to fear is “fight” or “flight.”
“Fight” is an aggressive effort to be strong or tough in the face of what scares us. “Fighters” make impulsive, reckless decisions in an attempt to prove they’re not, in fact, scared. This response comes from the belief that fear is wrong, bad or a sign of weakness.
If you’re a “fighter” (as I’m prone to be), you’re embarrassed by vulnerability and angry at that which scares you. To the “fighter,” fear is seen as an opponent that must be defeated rather than a friend inviting you to be fully present. The real danger in being a “fighter” is that huge mistakes are often made, and nothing is learned.
The other equally toxic way of responding to fear is “flight.” This means to run away or flee from anything scary, whether it’s a conversation, a commitment or a crisis. “Flight-ers” often show up as peacemakers, pacifists and platitude-ists. They take on these personas in an effort to avoid their fears.
The danger for “flight-ers” is that nothing changes. Running away creates the Groundhog Day Syndrome, where we stay stuck in repeating patterns of drama and misery. Again, fear is a teacher, an invitation to pay attention and learn, and if we run from fear, we’ll stay stuck and stupid.
So, how do you respond to fear? Do you welcome it and seek its wisdom, or do you recklessly run toward it or cowardly run away from it?
Now, you don’t have to figure that out. All you need to do is notice how you’re responding to Coronavirus, for the way you respond to it, is the way you’ll respond to anything scary.
If you’re welcoming your feelings about Coronavirus, heeding the warnings, washing your hands and staying home, and if you’re feeling relaxed in the knowing that all is well and will be well—no matter what happens, then your relationship to fear is healthy.
But if you’re “fighting” your fear, saying, “Screw this sheltering in place bullshit! I won’t stop living my life. It’s just the damn flu. What’s the big deal?”—or—if you’re “flighting” from your fear by trying to stay positive, saying things like “this too shall pass,” or sharing encouraging memes on social media in an effort to keep others from being too upset—then you’re avoiding or running from your feelings and your relationship to fear is unhealthy.
So, in the end, Corona can show us what we’re really up to…and how cool is that?!
These are quite challenging issues to master in our lives. If you need help learning how to let go, source from within or be with fear in a healthy way, please reach out to me. It often takes the support of an awakened coach or spiritual teacher to make these kinds of profound shifts in one’s life.
ROY BIANCALANA is a certified relationship coach and the #1 best-selling author of three books, the latest of which is Relationship Bootcamp: Hard-Core Training for Life, Love & the Pursuit of Intimacy.
For the past 15 years, Roy’s mission has been supporting single people in the art of attracting and creating healthy, sustainable, intimate relationships.
In addition to his individual work with clients, Roy has group-coaching programs called, Online Relationship Bootcamps.These are 6-week programs that offer all of the benefits of private coaching but for a fraction of the cost.
Roy lives near Chicago, IL with his wife, MaryMargaret, and his son, Eric, is 25 years old and lives in Birmingham, AL.
Roy offers a complimentary 30-minute exploratory coaching call to anyone interested in his individual or group programs and you can learn more about him by visiting, www.coachingwithroy.com or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.