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The Pandemic is Shining a Spotlight on Your Personal Issues. What Will You Do?

Last week, I sent an email to my newsletter subscribers asking them to share with me the biggest emotional hurdles they are facing during the COVID-19 crisis. The response was incredible!

In fact, I received so many heartfelt emails that one day later I got a warning from my email provider that my account was about to crash.

As I read through the many hundreds and hundreds of responses (which are still rolling in as I write this) I realized something very important. It is this:

Whatever was not going right in your life emotionally before the pandemic is probably being magnified and showcased for you right now.

This pandemic is shining a spotlight on our inner selves. Your eyes can now see, in high-def living color, what’s been missing, what’s been disjointed, what’s been problematic in your life, maybe even for a long time. At the end of this article, I will describe what sheltering-in-place forced me to look at in my own life.

But first, let’s talk about you. How will you respond to the spotlight? Will you look away? Or will you seize this moment? What will you do?

The Spotlight

Think about it. You may have spent months or years wishing you had more time with your spouse. You may have worried about your children. Perhaps you have longed to step off the hamster wheel that is your life to take a rest. Or maybe you have felt lonely, or sad, or anxious, but weren’t sure what to do about it.

Or your life issue could be something completely different from any of those. But, no matter what, whether you are feeling better or worse as this epidemic drags on, you are likely receiving some messages from your body that you never would have noticed before.

What do I mean by messages from your body? I’m talking about emotions.

Right here, right now, I want to help you not only become aware of the messages your body is sending you in real-time. I also want to help you understand those messages and why you are receiving them. 

Whatever you are feeling right now while sheltering in place during the pandemic may be simply a direct result of the situation which will resolve itself once the pandemic ends. Or, another possibility is that you are feeling something that has been coming and going often before the pandemic hit.

Now, with the onslaught of the outside world held at bay, we are being forced to sit with ourselves. You may be feeling an emotion that you’ve been avoiding for months or years or even decades.

If this is the case, then you are being presented with a useful gift. And I’m going to help you seize the moment, and potentially change your life in a very good and lasting way.

3 Ways the Pandemic Shines a Light on Your Issues

  1. Being locked away with your closest people highlights whatever problems exist in your relationships with those people. For example, have you been angry with your spouse for a long time? You’re likely to notice it more now.
  2. Being prevented from engaging in your external life makes you either miss it or be happy to be away from it. Which is it for you? What does this say about how you have been living your life?
  3. Having far fewer external distractions leaves you sitting with your inner self. Your body may have been trying to send you messages for some time (maybe even years) and you have been too busy, too distracted, too externally focused, or too tired to notice. Now you can pay attention. What are they? What do they mean?

Follow These 5 Steps to Identify What You are Feeling During the Pandemic

  1. Sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths. As you do, focus your attention on your chest and belly as they move in and out with the intake and release of air.
  3. Now, while breathing normally, keep your focus on the physical sensations in your body. What are you feeling? Search for any of the feelings above or something else.
  4. Do not get frustrated with yourself. Whatever you are feeling or not feeling, it is absolutely okay. How do I know this? Because you cannot choose what you feel or don’t feel. So all feelings, by their very nature, are okay.
  5. If you do identify one or more feelings, think about whether each feeling is a simple response to the pandemic, a response to being cut off from your normal life, or an actual reflection of how you feel about your normal life.

Examples of Common Feelings Expressed During the Pandemic by My Email Subscribers

 Alone

Lost

Restless or Anxious

Foreboding

Angry

Helpless

Afraid

Bored

Empty

Sad

Overwhelmed

Grateful

Relaxed

Relieved

Loved/Loving

Safe

Disappointed

Insecure

Concerned

** Helpful Resource: Use the exhaustive list of emotion words in the back of the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect to help you name whatever you are feeling.

Now Follow These 5 Steps

  1. Sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths. As you do, focus your attention on your chest and belly as they move in and out with the intake and release of air.
  3. Now, while breathing normally, keep your focus on the physical sensations in your body. What are you feeling? Search for any of the feelings above or something else.
  4. Do not get frustrated with yourself. Whatever you are feeling or not feeling, it is absolutely okay. How do I know this? Because you cannot choose what you feel or don’t feel. So all feelings, by their very nature, are okay.
  5. If you do identify one or more feelings, think about whether each feeling is a simple response to the pandemic, a response to being cut off from your normal life, or an actual reflection of how you feel about your normal life.

Examples of How to Use the Spotlight and Apply it to Your Life

Aaron

Sheltering in place with 3 teenagers and his wife of 13 years, Aaron is aware that he has a problem. Something is just not right, but he’s not sure what it is. After reading through the Feelings list, he does the above exercise to identify what he is feeling. He comes up with “Alone.”

Why would I feel alone? I’m here with my wife and kids, spending more time with them than ever before. In consideration of #5 above, Aaron realizes that he has felt alone in his marriage for a long time. He decides that he needs to talk with his wife about this.

Jackie

Jackie lives alone and is sheltering in place all by herself. She knows she is lonely and that it’s a natural response to the situation but she also has moments of deep discomfort that have been bothering her. Using the steps and questions above, Jackie puts the word “foreboding” on her feeling.

Why would I feel a sense of foreboding right now? By tuning in to her feelings and considering their source, Jackie recognizes that she has been carrying this feeling with her for months before the pandemic ever hit. Sorting it through, she discerns that this feeling of foreboding is about her self-care and health. Her body has been trying to warn her that working constantly with zero thought to her physical needs was going to harm her own health and happiness.

Jackie realizes that once she returns to her regular work life, she must do some things differently. She must carve out some time for herself, make an effort to meet her own needs for rest, free time, diet and exercise.

Myself

As I began sheltering in place, I noticed a quite familiar but troublesome feeling in my stomach. It was happening more than ever before, to the point that it was hard to ignore. After some focusing and consideration, I put the words “unsettled, uneasy, and lost,” all at the same time.

When I began to pay more attention, I noticed that I had this feeling at times when there was nothing obvious that I needed to do at that moment, when I had the luxury of making a decision about what to do. Having more of these moments was making me very uncomfortable. My body was telling me that I needed to be pulled 6 different ways and doing 12 different things in order to be calm.

So I decided to consciously address this. I downloaded a new Kindle book and identified some other things I enjoy doing but never have the time for. Now, when I have that feeling, I take a deep breath and consciously choose one of my new endeavors. That feeling always goes away.

The spotlight of this pandemic has taught me that whenever life does go back to normal, I need to make sure that I have more of these moments of conscious choice and leisure.

The Takeaway

Most people spend much of their lives running away from their feelings. Yet they offer us one of the greatest sources of guidance, energy, direction and meaning that is available to us in our lives.

Right now, what seems like a disaster is also an opportunity. With the world on Pause and a spotlight shining on your problems, what will you do?

Will you look away and continue to avoid it? Or will your gaze follow the light? Will you look directly at the problem, define it, and declare, “Challenge accepted.”

Those most prone to ignoring their own emotions are those who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN. Invisible and unmemorable, CEN literally trains you to ignore your most valuable tool for life: your emotions. Learn much more about how this happens and how to change it in the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. Linked below in the Bio.

If your personal issue involves your marriage, your relationship with your parents, or your children, you can find plentiful help and concrete suggestions for all of your relationships in the book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children. Find the link below in the Bio.

Use the links below in the Bio to learn much more about CEN, why most people who have it are unaware, and Take the Free Emotional Neglect Test. The link is below in the Bio.

The Pandemic is Shining a Spotlight on Your Personal Issues. What Will You Do?


Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who is recognized worldwide for her groundbreaking work in defining, describing, and calling attention to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). She writes, speaks, and trains therapists on the topic, and is the bestselling author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. She also created and runs the Fuel Up For Life Online CEN Recovery Program. Since CEN can be difficult to see and remember, Dr. Webb created the CEN Questionnaire and other free resources to help you figure out if you have it. Take the CEN Questionnaire and learn much more about CEN, how it happens, and how to heal it at her website EmotionalNeglect.com.


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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2020). The Pandemic is Shining a Spotlight on Your Personal Issues. What Will You Do?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-neglect/2020/04/the-pandemic-is-shining-a-spotlight-on-your-personal-issues-what-will-you-do/

 

Last updated: 19 Apr 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.