Emotional Haunting

Every day is a new adventure. We’d like to believe it’s possible to live each day as a blank slate, creating from new every time we open our eyes. Unless you’re a Buddhist monk working toward enlightenment, it may not be in the cards for most of us. What is in the cards are the memories and reflections we carry with us from birth. We rely on these memories for comfort, for guidance, and as lessons upon which we make decisions in our current lives.

Unfortunately, not every memory has been joyful for many. Over and over we hear and read about stories of violence, hunger, injustice, poverty, and ailing health. We hear self-help “gurus” tell us to get over it by facing our fears, challenging our assumptions, and make lemonade out of lemons. It’s highly idealistic and for some quite damaging to believe their misfortune was their fault and it’s up to them to turn the tide.

We live in anxiety producing times. We are experiencing political, social, and physical unrest. If you ever watched the movie The Ten Commandments, there’s a scene where they depict the descent of the last plague, killing of the first-born. The plague is pictured as a cloud or fog or trail of mist descending from the heavens. It’s an ominous visual, and viscerally brings chills as the horrific turn of events besiege Egypt.

Rewriting history is not an option, but reframing our history is certainly a possibility. What keeps us up at night? What has a hold over us impacting our mental health and coloring our world in shades of gray?

If you think of stories of haunted houses, the spirit is often residing in the space in an effort to find closure from something in their physical lives. It’s their own open-ended, unanswered questions causing their unrest. Our lives today are filled with an overwhelming number of unanswered questions. Uncertainty seems to be more the norm than the exception. It’s causing many to isolate, increasing their stress and anxiety.

The events of our current world exponentially intensify the emotional and spiritual unrest felt for years. The events join together, hand in hand, wreaking havoc on our ability to cope with the stresses of daily life. Alcohol consumption since the start of the pandemic is up forty-six percent. Calls to crisis lines have jumped at an alarming rate. Layoffs and shutdowns have left many feeling hopeless and, in their own minds, left them with options but to take their own lives and end the suffering.

In the end, what are we looking for? Are we looking for healing or resolution? Are we working on developing our muscles of resilience to fend off the negativity? During turbulent times, it’s important to find an anchor. It may be a person, faith, a practice, or some other activity or belief where you can set down roots. We never plant a tree without attaching stabilizing poles until it has anchored itself in the ground. The same needs to be so for our emotional lives during times of intense stress. We need places or people we can return to knowing the solace it/they provide. Practices like this will allow us to be more adaptable during these uncertain times.

Greg Katz, MS, PhD is a psychotherapist, visual anthropologist, and textile artist. For visual prompts for healing visit Greg on Instagram @drfiber. Greg’s work focuses on how we can change health, communities, and society through creative self-expression. Visit him at http://www.gregkatz.com