Sunday, May 24, 2020
Connect with Calhoun counselors and explore curated resources you can access at home. Hear what our counselors had to say and see the resources they recommend to guide us during these times.
Choose Your Reading
by Fernanda Couto, MS Counselor
“Life is a box full of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get”
- Forrest Gump
The other day I was listening to Brene Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us” (if you haven’t heard of it, I recommended it wholeheartedly), and one of her episodes really resonated with me. She talked about “Terrible First Times” — she used an R-rated version, but suggested this version for younger audiences. She describes how hard it is to go through something for the first time, not only big milestones—first job, first date, new relationship, new baby—but little ones too—riding a bike for the first time, for example. Human beings are creatures of habits, Brene explains how we seek patterns, we like what is familiar, that's why change is so challenging and demands a huge effort from our part. When the status quo is shattered, our whole emotional system goes in high alert to protect ourselves.
During our “terrible first times” we might feel one way or another, or a combination of those protective emotional states (e.g. shutting down, getting defensive, checked out, etc.) because we are wired to think there is danger in the unknown. Now, you might ask, why would we try new things then? Why, go through all those fears, doubts, all those uncomfortable feelings? Well, sometimes, life happens and we are thrown into situations that never happened before and we have to deal with them. Sometimes we choose to be in that position, and when we push through all those yucky feelings and show up on the other side, it feels really good. Then we get better at it, we develop resilience and get confident in doing better the next time (which doesn’t mean that is not going to suck all over again, it just means we are going to be ok with feeling uncomfortable).
So, when we are faced with a collective “terrible first time,” a global pandemic not seen in over a century, what is one to do? If you are like me, and have to really make an effort to push through the discomfort of not knowing, Brene’s strategy might help you, too. First you name it, you acknowledge what is going on: “I am going through a TFT right now, that is why I feel so—insert feeling here—it’s normal to feel this way.” When you name it, you take away the power of that situation over you, you take back control. Second, you put into perspective: “this is temporary, nothing can be new for a long time, it will pass eventually.” Lastly, you reality check your expectations: “I am in the middle of a TFT, this is going to be hard for a while, it doesn’t mean I am a failure or that I suck at everything.”
Some of us are better at taking risks, putting ourselves out there, having “grit,” persevering. Others need more practice at shifting their mindset. I am a firm believer of embracing crisis as a place of opportunity. You need to disrupt the status quo to create something new, hopefully something better. Nevertheless, this pandemic disrupted our life and is teaching us that life is much more unpredictable than we could possibly imagine—a box full of chocolates indeed. So, why not embrace the unknown and give a chance to get closer to a better version of ourselves? It will not be easy, but can be worth it.
Fernanda, MS counselor