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Coronavirus Fears: How to Find Meaning in the Adversity of an Uncertain Time

“The slowing down of day-to-day life offers time for reflection and gratitude,” writes Dr. Nahal Delpassand

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Dr. Nahal Delpassand, a licensed psychologist with a private practice in central Austin, works with adolescents and adults on issues including chronic illness, disability, disordered eating, body image, life transitions, depression and anxiety. In this piece she writes about coping with the uncertainty we face during a pandemic and how to find meaning in adversity.

We have encountered unchartered territory with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our world has come to a screeching halt. We all have been humbled by the reality of our fragility. I know many of us are struggling to manage our fears and worries during this trying time. My aim with this piece is to deepen reflection and broaden our collective perspective. A perspective that seeks to remind us of the united power that can be deployed in times of difficulty through a shift in how we choose to adapt, even in the midst of enduring uncertainty.

Choice and adaptation are concepts that have been beautifully articulated in Victor Frankl’s autobiography, “Man’s Search for Meaning” that he famously published in 1946. Viktor Frankl developed the concept of Logotherapy, after surviving Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The premise of Logotherapy is based in the individual pursuit of meaning through incredibly difficult circumstances.

Viktor Frankl’s powerful autobiography, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

Ultimately, he emphasized that his survival was propelled through one premise: When all choices seem foregone, one remains. Our attitude in any given set of circumstances; our ability to chose our own way; one that can either propel hope or hopelessness. This he famously expressed determines our path towards survival, meaning-making and progress. While his book was written in 1946, his principles could not be more applicable now. How can we learn from these principles to navigate our current situation?

First, it is of paramount importance to recognize the calamity of our current state. We are grieving the loss of life as it was four weeks ago. We cannot deny the physical, emotional and economic consequences that we are all facing. This is one over-arching truth, but we have to remember there are multiple over-arching truths. The slowing down of day-to-day life offers time for reflection and gratitude. We have been gifted a re-set button that allows us to cultivate increased resilience, ingenuity, determination, flexibility and unity with greater clarity. With this recognition, we are challenged to appreciate the intricacies present in ourselves and those around us.

Viktor Frankl by Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely, (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE).

This unique time in history allows us to move with intention that is three-fold: to acknowledge our responsibility when faced with crisis, to realize what it will take to surrender to our “new normal,” and most importantly to dig deep and find the meaning embedded in adversity. Frankl states, “Often it is an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.” These times challenge us to relinquish the urge towards divisiveness and embrace the opportunity and solace that comes with altruism.

Dr. Delpassand previously wrote about practicing acceptance when facing anxiety.