As I write this, I am sheltered-in-place with my dear husband, David, during the coronavirus pandemic. We are observing the at-least-six-feet-apart rule of social distance with others and remaining home as much as we can, not only to keep ourselves safe, but also for the safety of everyone else. The side-effect of the pandemic is a business shutdown that may soon result in a recession, yet if our country does not go into lockdown, millions may die from the virus unnecessarily. I’m reading many predictions about how bad things could get on both the health and the economic fronts and I know that what they say is generally no exaggeration.
Yet, I’m hopeful that some good will come out of this. The shutdown of sports, entertainment, and our driven lifestyles could, I believe, provide us with time not only to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but also to reflect on what we could learn from this crisis, checking with our deeper values and priorities to reconsider what makes us happy and feel fulfilled. Culturally, it could have some positive effects.
- In a time when many have thought duplicitous spin, outright lies, and fake news were OK, we are being reminded that getting the facts right matters when our lives are at stake.
- Even though nationalism is on the rise, this pandemic shows us how very interrelated all our lives are with all other humans on the planet. As with pollution and atomic radiation, viruses don’t care about our nationalities, nor do they care what side we are on within national culture war debates. We could adopt this attitude, too.
We still have some time to unite to respond to the threat of the coronavirus to our lives and our economy, so that we can also solve the many other pressing problems that have been held up by the partisan divide. For example, as we reboot the economy, we could focus on fine-tuning our financial and business laws and policies to restore the kind of equitable opportunity that would support unity among our citizens.
Thinking about these possibilities while walking in our neighborhood with David, my attention was arrested by signs of spring—buds on the trees and in yards, the temperature still cool but warming, some sunny days so lovely that they feel like a call to come out and play, as can those with soft spring rain.
I came home from my walk and in meditation could feel the energy of rebirth emerging from the earth, and took this as a call for my own annual renewal at this time of year. We are just past the spring equinox, but how to balance this positive feeling with the immediate reality of confinement, the threat of a potentially fatal disease, and the possible loss of a good deal of retirement income?
Reflecting on this, I realized that Mother Nature is having a very different experience than we, as humans, are. She has been dealing with how human activity has so upset the ecological balance that we are actually changing the climate of the earth and wrecking that balance of the planetary ecosystem. What is her perspective, and what is in her control to do?
- As humans dither, her options are limited by the rules of the natural world. The coronavirus, like many predators in the natural world, is culling the human herd by targeting those who are already fragile. Why? Perhaps so there will be fewer of us to do damage to the natural order. However, what most differentiates humans from the rest of the natural world is our capacity to make moral choices, leading us to value caring for the most vulnerable among us. Better that we help the natural world out by determining how to remain in balance with nature without millions dying through natural disasters, new pandemics, or human-caused disasters like nuclear annihilation. Left to natural processes and the underside of human nature, that is what will happen.
- Though social isolation has been difficult for people, the decrease in our activities has already had a massively positive effect on CO2 emissions, according to European Space Agency data. This is most obvious in the suddenly clear skies and waterways of virus hotspot countries such as Italy and China. While human society is at a standstill, nature is being restored. It is no wonder that this is a lovely spring. Mother Nature is experiencing a reprieve!
- Jung’s idea of synchronicity (meaningful coincidences) might encourage us to learn as much as we can from the coronavirus, even viewing its sudden appearance as offering us a chance to absorb critical lessons at this time in our history. As biologist Elisabet Sahtouris notes in Gaia: The Human Journey from Chaos to Cosmos, bacteria and viruses are able to share their DNA with one another, which is how they can stay ahead of our antibodies and vaccines. One mutates and then many do very quickly. In this way, they are not only more adaptable than humans tend to be, but also more generous with one another and less change averse. If we could apply their examples, we would be more able as a species to adapt to the reality of living on a planet we have now seen in pictures from space—images that reveal how very small and vulnerable our world is in the context of the immense cosmos and, thus, how important it is that we care for it and for one another.
My conclusion from all this is that feeling our connection with the arrival of spring can help us also feel connected to the natural world and with our natural humanity. We have the opportunity right now to listen to our better angels, so that we can love one another as ourselves, as Jesus and so many other great spiritual Sages taught (although not always in those words). This time of social distance can be viewed as a gift that allows us to pay attention to our deeper yearnings. Yearnings often are reliable signs of a hunger for the real—deep love, trustworthy truths, enduring relationships, and a relaxed and natural expression of the real you and the real me. Satisfying these authentic yearnings could have the effect of transforming our culture very quickly.
Whatever you conclude about this time, I hope that you use it well, whatever that would mean for you.
As for almost everyone, my schedule has been thrown into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. I was supposed to present next month at the Mepkin Abbey Retreat Center in Moncks Corner, SC. That event has now been postponed until later in the year, pending further developments. Additional information will be available on the Events page of my website as arrangements are firmed up, and I will notify you in a future newsletter when they are.
The revised Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) was due to be launched within the next several weeks, but its release has also fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic. The publisher, the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), has closed its offices, and the staff is working from home until further notice. CAPT has designed a beautiful and very functional website to support the PMAI®, with lots of special features, including a blogsite, and I was excited to see it made available to the public. That will now have to wait until the crisis has passed. I will keep you posted about when it finally will go online.
In the Blogosphere
Apropos of this critical moment, I have just posted two related blogs responding to the coronavirus pandemic on my blogsite. In the first, “Beyond Disinfectant, Cleaning Wipes, and Toilet Paper: Our Pandemic Challenge,” I take a depth psychology approach to posit how we might thrive during the current crisis. Working from a poem by W.H. Auden in which he urges us to “love one another or die,” a variant on the imperative expressed in many religions that we must love others as ourselves, I argue that now, as we shelter in place and maintain social distance, we have an opportunity to reflect, not only on the dangers we are facing, but also on our relationships to each other and the earth. “If we trust synchronicity, we can realize that this is a time to go inward and reconsider the lives we are living and their consequences.” Building on Rebekah Lovejoy’s guest blog (see below), I note that “[I]n depth psychology, the archetypal element of water is associated with the unconscious and with human emotions that can carry us away.” By confronting our unconscious fears and our shadowy lesser selves, we can cleanse our consciousness, express forgiveness and love for those around us, and use this time of crisis to evolve personally.
My second blog responding to the pandemic—“Do What You Love and Make a Difference—But How?”—offers ways for people to feel happier and more energized by identifying connections between their actions, what they love, and what can help others. The suggestions are based on the 12 archetype system I first developed in my book Awakening the Heroes Within and further refined in the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®). As readers go through the list of “archetypal characters within,” I suggest that they identify one that they have come to believe they should be like; one that they used to be like, but not so much now; and one that they wish were true, which then is likely calling them. Each item describes how living into the archetypes that are active in their lives or calling to them can make them feel good about how their actions benefit others, the environment, or the larger world.
Rebekah Lovejoy contributed a guest blog, Frozen II: Disney’s Response to Social Isolation in the Time of Coronavirus, that makes clear what we need to know now about what is happening mythically to us in this time and with this pandemic. Rebekah finds that Elsa, the principal character, who can turn water to ice, is the apotheosis of the princesses who are the focus of so many Disney films and the embodiment of ancient female goddesses. “Here,” she writes, “of all places, in this innocent Disney story, the goddess returns not needing any of the promises of man, not finally compromising out of nurturing compassion for mortal man. Instead, ready to return and release the real power of the original earth balance. Oddly, on the eve of real-life human disruption, our first big pandemic in a hundred years, Disney pays obeisance to the goddess they have been courting and flirting with, never quite giving justice to, since the first fairytale princesses they depicted.” The transportation and control of water is the central motif of the film, she notes, just as water, in the form of our saliva, is the way the coronavirus is spread. She asks, “What memory is our water trying to get us to discover and heal? How long has the water been shaping itself into the horrors of patriarchal control and human greed? Is the coronavirus the water’s memory of this greed?”
In a February blog, I applied an archetypal analysis to the current divisions plaguing our country (before the pandemic reminded many of us that we are all in the same boat) and endanger the very existence of our democracy. My thesis in “A Nation at War with Itself” is that “the President and the Republican Party are possessed by a primal, shadowy form of the Warrior archetype that threatens to engulf us all, as those of us who understand their threat get pulled into seeing them as our enemy.” The shadow form of the Warrior leaves us ill-equipped to respond to the myriad threats we face, not only as a nation but globally, such as climate change. I maintain that we must turn to the evolved forms of other archetypes, such as the Seeker, the Sage, and the Magician, if we are to meet these challenges.
My close friend Laurie Lippin, whospecializes in training, consulting, coaching, and team building in the areas of diversity and cultural competence, contributed a highly personal guest blog in January entitled “Contemplating the Intersection of Aging and Dying.” In the wake of the loss of a dear friend and former lover, Laurie also had to confront the threat of floods, fires, and power outages in the beautiful river and redwoods area of northern California where she lives. This led her to ruminations on her journey and her current life through the lenses of personality type and archetypes. The questions Laurie poses are especially pertinent to those of us who have lived long enough to have experienced the many vicissitudes of life, but also to younger readers contemplating their future and the meaning of existence, e.g., “What does my soul want? And, indeed, what is my soul, and what is my soul’s path?”
I welcome and encourage your comments on any of the blogs posted on my blogsite, several of which have inspired a rich exchange of ideas. Also, if you have an idea for a blog that you might like to submit, please send me an email with a brief summary and I will let you know whether it is suitable for my website and, if so, what guidelines you should follow in preparing it.
In addition to my blogsite, you can find many of my blogs on those of Psychology Today and the Depth Psychology Alliance, and you are invited to make comments on the former and on the latter if you are a member. The easiest way to learn when a new blog goes up on my website or any of the others on which I post is to follow me on Facebook at Carol S. Pearson, PhD and Twitter @carolspearson. Posts and tweets will inform you of the topic and how to access it. I also invite you to follow me on Instagram at carolspearsonphd. Just click on one of the buttons on the right to connect, and let me know what is going on with you.
As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to others who might be interested.
Carol S. Pearson