By Paige Zuckerman, Clinical Director
At the very moment of writing this, I’m in a small downtown apartment, lived in since December when major and necessary personal losses occurred. Just 2.5 hours ago the largest earthquake to occur in Utah since 1992 jostled my city while I was making my morning coffee to prepare for yet another day working from home and providing hours of telehealth sessions and meetings for the COVID-19 quarantine. My mind is working to make sense of everything, feeling like the earth did moments ago; shaking, swaying, trembling and out of control. The day has been filled with repeated aftershocks, each perceptible tremor fueling a tiny panic pilot-light within.
Control seems to be an ever-dwindling concept; our modern luxuries and comforts can so easily become unavailable, suspended, constricted or in some cases lost entirely. We have been forced violently into what I am referring to as a “rapid state of evolution and adaptation” that certainly none of us chose. Often the defining factor in traumatic experiences is the loss of self-determination and control. This day, this week, this month and year are forming a traumatic core for most of us.
The Illusion of Control
There’s a couple things that bring me solace in crises. One of them hails from my early therapist training days in ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy.) A fundamental and core concept of ACT is the idea that control is not only an illusion, it’s a harmful one in many cases. Often, our intense desire to be in control (including when nature and life is showing us just how unreal that is) merely heightens and expands distress and suffering. ACT asks us the question of whether or not we are willing to practice a particular art of acceptance known as “creative hopelessness.” The way I think about it, when we are faced with the removal of control, predictability and our constant, fruitless attempts to re-write what has already been written, a space opens. In the letting go of things-whether witting or not-there ensues an expanse, and void of sorts, where the things we held onto once were. As we grieve these things, we can recognize that this space is a room… for something new. This is where our creativity can alight, transforming within us a renewed, adapted resilience in the space of openness.
Creating Space for Radical Hopefulness
Speaking of adaptations, another concept I’ve played with these past few days is something of an apt adjustment to the mindfulness notion of ‘radical acceptance.’ Radical connotes something bold, something changeful, something that challenges convention.
Many of us are aching about the need to accept many things right now, and of course acceptance, as all things, is a process that is fundamentally non-linear. I propose, in addition to practicing radical acceptance right now, we work towards radical hopefulness too. Our arts, music, food, culture, gatherings, resources… are ancient, perennial and adaptable traditions. Like our mountains, quaking as they are this day, our most precious ways of being human will go on. Maybe they’ll even shift and adjust in ways that eventually result in deep and appreciated growth. Maybe the skies and our minds will clear.
So let’s work to be radically hopeful today, while the ground shivers beneath us as though in some odd act of vulnerable recognition. Let’s remember that our precious planet is bigger and bolder than most of us realize each day in our sheltered normalities. Let’s recognize that the tiniest factors can have a massive impact. Let’s grow loving, wise, compassion, conscious, grateful and radically hopeful.
My thoughts to you and yours today and forward.