So, by now, you must have understood that you’re alone. In the couple of days following the declaration of the flu pandemic, many things have happened.
First, you became aware that, after the epidemic eventually dies out, there is going to be some sort of economic crisis. You see that the governments are taking measures to limit the effects, depending on how rich they are, but it is going to be unpleasant. Some rich states will protect better their citizens; other poorer states will leave their citizens to fend for themselves. It was up to you to try to live in a rich country or it was a matter of luck to be born in one. Now it’s too late, as the borders are closing or are already closed. You are trapped in a particular land and you will share the fate of the people from that land. Your options have, for now, expired.
Then, I hope that you have some resources stored somewhere in case of emergency. If you are a big spender believing in delusions of eternal growth, this situation is going to cost you more compared to those who were more financially-aware. It will be a learning experience. Hopefully. Resources mean food-shelter-medicines. How much? For a couple of weeks until the initial shock is dispersed. In most cases it is not the lack of food but rather the hysteria of people excessively buying everything from the supermarkets, creating a sudden gap in the supply chain. Gradually, things will improve. But on the other hand, if you are from a country that was already struggling with excessive poverty or war, things are not looking good for you.
A third aspect that you must have become aware of by now is the reality of your social network. This pandemic means also, at some point in time, being isolated from others. Not being able to see others or not being able to communicate with them. For some, not being contacted by those who were considered good friends might come as a shock, as putting oneself on the first place and the others on the last places is something quite widespread. This entire crisis will likely serve as a reset gesture for many friendships: some will die, others will get stronger. But it is nevertheless going to be an important aspect in the psyche of most people, as isolation also means time to ponder and a burden on one’s mental health.
Now, after giving you time to ponder on death in my previous article, I want to write about what you can do if you want to survive. I remind you that, philosophically but also practically, you have always the choice to commit suicide, provided you have arrived at this decision in a state of mental sanity. It is your option and your freedom. But in this article I will focus on those who want to live.
Right now, being sick or old is not good news. This virus kills frail people. But today I heard the news that some governments are contemplating letting people die, especially those who are too old or too sick, because the resources are (or are likely to become) scarce. That is, not enough beds and doctors. And I’m talking about Western Europe and evolved medical systems. In other words, there will likely be decisions using a pragmatic approach. I know this pragmatic thinking very well: you sacrifice what can be sacrificed so as to save as many as possible or as many valuable people as possible. If you are more than 80 years old or excessively sick, you will be left to… die. Or you will be delivered to… yourself. These are decisions in times of crisis and they are not lovely at all. The ethical aspects can be discussed to certain lengths but in the end it will be carried on as decided. It is this news that triggered me to write this article, as I understood that some people might find themselves alone facing the disease, a position in which they might need some input from me.
So, in case you get sick, nobody can heal you. There is no vaccine and no antidote against the virus. The doctors will essentially try to do 2 things to keep you alive: stimulate your immunity and assist your body while self-recovery. Same happens in case of common flu. Assisting your body means giving medicines for high fever or oxygen in case you have trouble breathing. It is a very simplistic view but that’s all there is. So, the only thing you can do is to increase the ability of your body to fight in case you get the virus. That is, increase your strength. And since the immune system is linked to the neurological system and ultimately to your psyche, besides food-sleep-vitamins, you might think about preparing your mind for a possible fight with the disease. The rest of this article will deal with this.
If you struggle, both with severe health problems but also with life in general, you will eventually ask yourself 2 questions: Why? and How? Why do I ever fight? This is linked to your motivation to fight (live). Why the hell do I keep on going? The second question emerges when you find an answer to the first one or when you get tired from asking yourself the first one. It is either “I know why, but how?” or “I have no idea why but how do I buy some time so as to think about it some other time?”
Often, you don’t know why. That is, it is unconscious. And you don’t always have time to think about it. Or it is too hard, too intellectual. Or you avoid it, often because you are afraid that you might find out that you have no reason to survive. And in this case it is the fear that motivates you to keep this subject unopened. One way or another, there is always a reason or a motivation to stay alive, even if you are not consciously aware of it (most people aren’t too). Why? Because otherwise you’d be dead by now.
A huge proportion of people are alive so as to look after their children. A lot of others are alive because they are motivated by pride (they don’t like to see themselves as easily defeated). Others believe they have a mission. The motivations are very diverse and interesting to explore. But for those who feel completely blank, utterly empty, who feel that they have no meaning in life, I will write below the 4 realms of meaning, the 4 areas where one can find meaning in a mature way. I always have them in my mind.
1. The humanity in us gives us meaning and motivation. Being able to help others in an altruistic way makes us useful, worthy and helpful. Giving justifies our existence. For some of us.
2. Encountering others gives value and meaning to our existence. Being in relationship with others, building friendships, families, loving the others, provides zest to our life. For some of us.
3. Creating something new and offering it to the world is an important driving force. Some innovate, others are absorbed by building systems, others are improving themselves through self-actualization. This is a burning purpose. For some of us.
4. Experiencing beauty, bringing beauty to the world, is a reason in itself to be alive. Aesthetics, harmony, pleasure, are powerful motivations. For some of us.
If heavily psychoanalyzed, people will eventually come to these 4 realms so as to feed their desire to live. They are part of the “survival kit”. If in intensive care, remembering the 4 motivations might give you that extra boost of energy needed to defeat the illness. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if your get your motivations from other people or from yourself; it matters if you still enjoy these motivations. In other words, I can enjoy the humanity in myself or the humanity in others, I can enjoy encountering (being in relation with) other people or encountering myself (enjoying my own company), I can create in the outer world or I can create myself, and finally, I can experience the beauty of the world around me or my own beauty. It doesn’t matter. All it matters is to find at least 1 out of 4 motivations to live. 4 out of 4 are excellent but not a must.
So, have your “shot” of motivation at hand, readily-available, prepared! Know why you are here and why you want to remain here!
It really doesn’t matter how, because your body already knows how to heal… if it can heal. So the essence here is not to stay in your own light, or not to unnecessarily block healing. Or not to make things more difficult. You have one enemy: the disease. But, all human beings who are not already perfect (there aren’t any perfect beings as far as I know), have or own or inherit also personal enemies. So, besides the disease, your (untrained, imperfect) mind will also complicate things by creating monsters that should not exist especially when you’re vulnerable. So the question is not “How to fight with the disease?” but rather “How to fight with my own monsters so as to leave space and time for my body to self-heal?” Just like any common fighter, you need a sword and a shield, that is, you need weapons and protection.
The monsters are of 2 kinds: emotions and thoughts. They are both illusions, hallucinations, as they do not belong to the present moment a lot, but rather they belong to either the past or the future. The entire psychology and most of spirituality deals with this chapter but you’re out of time when using the “survival kit”. So, everything needs to be kept simple.
There are 3 emotions that you are likely to encounter when you are seriously sick: fear, anger and sadness. Fear is normal; it is the fear of death and everyone has it. It is the source of hysteria you see in the news these days. Fear of everything. It is important to understand that it is justified to be concerned but it is not justified to have a panic attack. Then it’s anger. It deals with injustice. “Why me?” Why now?” “Why at this time or at this age? And so on. It is important to understand that anger is also normal, since sickness is taking away from you some of your rights, such as the right to be happy or, potentially, the right to remain alive. However it is also taking from you some illusions, such as believing that you have a contract to live or be healthy a number of years and a greater force or nature is guilty of not respecting this supposed deal. I guess you get it… It is okay to be furious but it is not okay to be irrational; you didn’t sign for anything so your discontent is groundless. Then, that’s sadness. Sadness is linked to unlived life (regrets for what you didn’t do) or life that is perceived as no longer having the time to be lived (when you give up too soon, your frame of mind changes in such a way that you consider a war as lost even before the first battle). It is fine to regret the unlived life (given the present circumstances, you can do little about it), but it is a sign of a self-defeating frame of mind when sadness comes from the future, from things that didn’t happen yet (the future-in-the-past thinking). A complicated problem, self-defeating thinking needs an antithesis, something like “Are you so freaking smart so as to know the future and to predict to minute details what is going to happen?” Unless you’re God or the Universe itself, you will painstakingly fail this task, as the future is always surprising and… unpredictable.
As you have seen above, it is okay to feel emotions but not to exaggerate them. You amplify them because you (and most people) have 4 parasite irrational thoughts or beliefs. You might know them from other sources, I’m sure. Your protection depends on giving up them. I will write them below for your meditation.
1. You believe that life is controllable. You are dead wrong!
2. You believe that life is fair. You are dead wrong!
3. You believe that life is adequate to your needs and desires. You are dead wrong!
4. You believe that life is predictable. You are dead wrong!
Think about them! You are dead wrong if you believe them to be true! And if you keep believing them, that will give you much stress and extra burden in times of sickness. And you will soon be dead. Just dead.
Now, moving on to weapons. You’ll need them on the way to recover from the disease, after your body has succeeded in its fight. They are sometimes described as powers or resources, and you might already know them. I write them here just in case you need them. Also, I write them for those who are lucky to go through infection without developing the disease.
1. Relationships are power. Knowing people and being able to rely on them is power. A good and trustworthy network of friends, acquaintances, including family as well, is power.
2. Knowledge is power. What you can do, what you know how to do, is power. If you are the only one who can do something, or the best who can do that, that’s power.
3. Smart investments are power. Money that has been invested in an intelligent way are power. It is not money itself but how you used it that it’s power. It doesn’t matter if money was big or small, but rather how you put it to work, how intelligent you were while using it. That’s power.
4. New information is power. Knowing before others what will happen is power. Seeing before others how the future looks is power. Being a clairvoyant, an intuitive, is power. Innovation, creating something new, is also power.
5. Loyalty is power. Being loyal to your values or inner rules proves to be, in the end, pure power. Being loyal, keeping your word, being trustworthy, is the best business card of all. Being trusted is power. Being faithful to your dreams, being persistent and focused, is also power.
This is my small “survival kit”. It helps you survive. It can also help you thrive.