It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted so much in our personal and collective universe. The good news is that even though so much feels uncertain in our world right now, much of what we’re experiencing is temporary. In knowing this, it’s important to feel some sense of hope and to hold on to the belief that there is light during and after the darkness. Embracing this thought can truly help us on our journeys.
Psychologists and spiritualists understand the idea that spiritual transformation and growth stems from pain, discomfort, and trauma. Whether it’s coping with our new way of life that’s related to COVID-19 or something else, most adults have, at one time or another, experienced a sadness that is deep and tenacious.
Chances are, you have experienced a time of extreme darkness in your life. Maybe it was a time when you have felt that you were in a dark hole that you couldn’t climb out of. Maybe it was a profound state of loneliness and depression when you thought that no one understood what you were going through. Maybe you felt an intense sense of despair and disconnection, as well as a monumental sense of hopelessness. Perhaps you even had suicidal thoughts associated with apocalyptic feelings. The uncertainty associated with COVID-19 can create all these feelings.
It helps to understand that feeling intense darkness could be sparked by a force such as an illness, a loss, the triggering of an old wound, a natural disaster, or a universal occurrence like a pandemic. At the present time, we are told to isolate, but there are other times when we feel darkness and self-isolate, which can lead to deep, contemplative introspection. We might wonder, “why me?” or “why now?” At the same time, it may cause us to think about our purpose for living, especially if there is so much uncertainty or if you’ve lost a job.
We need to remember that there is a silver lining to this experience, and that is that this state we are in is temporary. Consider thinking about what can be learned during our isolation which for some has become a time of darkness. Perhaps it’s a good time to pose questions like: What’s my purpose in living? What’s important to me? How has this experience changed me? What have I learned about myself? These are also excellent journaling prompts.
The pandemic is forcing us into global isolation, which is a different way of living, and it’s forcing us to look deeply within. Instead of getting up and going to work or having in-person connections, we’re forced to be alone with ourselves on a continual basis. However, for creative individuals, this can actually be a gift, as the darkness can lay the foundation for new endeavors. But getting to that creative place is a journey, and happens only when we’re ready. It can’t be forced.
There are those who believe who everything happens for a reason and that maybe this pandemic is a reminder for us to slow down. This shift in our worldview has the ability to increase self-awareness—resulting in a new way of being. During this journey of self-awareness, it’s important to acknowledge that we might experience depressive episodes, which in the long run might lead to transformation.
In her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou shared her journey with darkness, which resulted in her not speaking for five or six years during her childhood. The experience literally silenced her. Many years later, serving as a role model for humanity, she read a poem during Bill Clinton’s inauguration that reminded people of the importance of leaving the darkness behind and entering the light.
While we can’t remove the wounds from our past, they can inspire us and push us forward. Angelou reminded us to look at the gifts that come out of the darkness. While transpersonal psychologists often speak about transformation, this shift must coincide with being able to understand and walk with our shadow sides.
If you’re going through a time of darkness as a result of the pandemic, here are some ways to cope:
- Self-care. Nurture your mind, body, and spirit through regular exercise, relaxation techniques, meditation, and prayer. It’s also about reminding yourself, “I’ve got this. Everything is temporary.”
- Creative visualization. Think of the images that emerge in the darkness. These may be a clue to what you need to examine on a deeper level.
- Journaling. This process can help you tap into what’s happening in your subconscious mind.
- Connecting with others. When possible, use phone calls, texting, video chats, the internet, or personal letters to stay connected with friends and family.
- Wholesome eating. Make a point of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoid animal products.
In summary, when you come out of the darkness, you’ll be stronger and more grounded. Trust the journey. Remind yourself that you’re doing everything right and if you’re not… make a concerted effort to change your frame of mind.
Previously Published on Psychology Today