View this post on Instagram
Relephant read: Elephant’s Continually updated Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon
Many of us are struggling with loneliness during this quarantine.
R. W. Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance calls for maintaining that quiet, serene sense of self amidst a crowd. How many times have we heard of people being lonely in crowds?
That feeling of hair-raising stillness, whether in a crowd or alone can be dealt with. The real challenge is to embrace the solitude that floats below our loneliness—the very same solitude that can be cultivated from this experience if we are open to holding space for it.
Recently, I read about the concept of self-sovereignty by John Stuart Mill. It, at first, seemed a bit too autocratic to my misinterpreting eye. When I thought about it, however, I realised that it wasn’t the concept itself that made me distance myself from it. It was my cultivated aversion to anything remotely resembling autocracy.
But I’m willing to grant Mill benefit of the doubt (or humbly submit to his overpowering presence from years ago) and hazard a guess that he was influenced by the royalty and opulence of the Victorian era.
What I think he meant was an ability to control the self—an ability to balance the self by listening to the world around and remembering that we can choose to build healthy boundaries.
The world might be beyond our comprehension; it might be too difficult for us to grasp. But if we have a grasp on ourselves, perhaps we can understand the world a little better. That, for me, is solitude—when I feel I have a better grasp on myself.
The opposite would be anger. I have struggled with this emotion for some time now. I have used it as an unhealthy defence mechanism against something as simple as an “offensive” joke, or a targeted comment about something from my past. And this anger gets even uglier during the quarantine. Instead of laughing at myself when a friend sends me a meme, I sometimes become annoyed. When I see the injustices reported in the news, I become so unsettled, that my day becomes stale, like a week-old bread slice.
But my disappointment in myself and the society in which live creates a situation in which I become impaired for daily functions. I manage, I get through, and I try to make the best of what I have and who I am, like all of us do. But during quarantine, it is important to tone down the frustration and find inner calm again.
How can we cultivate an ability to listen to the voice inside—the voice that tells us to choose the reasonable path—while dealing with the anger associated with all that’s going on around us?
There are a few, simple, practical ways:
1. Count from one to 10, and breathe.
When we count, we are placing ourselves in the moment once every second, for 10 seconds. In doing this, it is easy to remember that sometimes all it takes is 10 seconds for you to fine-tune ourselves, and start anew.
2. Make space for kindness and understand why you’re angry.
Delving into what caused our anger and dealing with each cause is the only way to overcome anger. And doing so transforms the “negative” emotion into a valuable, informative and transformative tool.
To make practical use of anger, it is necessary to not only understand the cause, but redirect the energy of the emotion.
3. Defend against anger by using the wisdom within you.
Anger does not have to be an end in itself. It is possible to use the shield of wisdom to redirect anger and use it for good.
Suppose I’m reminded of a situation with an old friend who, due to my naivety and ignorance, took advantage of me. The memory and reminder might be bitter; it might evoke certain feelings that are not only unhealthy, but downright mean. If I act on these feelings, it means I’m stooping to the level of a return attack. That is not something I want to do. It might also start a chain of a self-criticism, turned into a fall in self-esteem, turned into additional frustration—a bitter, negative path.
It is in this context that solitude, or a return to self, reminds us that there might be a reason that the friend acted the way she did. On the other hand, we might use our inner wisdom to discover that our reaction has been in response to a chain of our own behaviors—our own allowance of certain treatment or behavior—or even something else entirely. These types of realisations are a sign of maturity.
It is only when we combine our understanding of the situation and the wisdom within us to understand and make peace with our situation that we deal fruitfully with our anger.
It also helps to be able to calmly express that experience of anger and what we learned from it when involves another person—to have the conversation, to say that we were disappointed and yet have come to peace with the situation.
It is only by the hard work of cultivating solitude that I have reached this conclusion. It is only by developing control of myself that I understood how even petty situations like friendly arguments can be dealt with by logic, locating the cause, and using wisdom to defend against anger.
Personal situations might seem trivial when compared with situations that seem beyond our control and understanding—societal and political wrongdoings, for example. These are even more upsetting than petty personal situations, and as such they’re even more important moments of anger from which to seek to understand not only ourselves, but also the society in which we live.
In dealing with anger against society, we can deepen the threefold idea mentioned above.
1. Step back and take note of the cause.
Again, we must recognize that anger itself does not hold the solution, but that understanding the cause in-depth might. We can ask ourselves questions to get to the bottom of our anger, expanding from ourselves to society as a whole.
>> Why does a particular political situation make you angry?
>> How does it affect you or the ones you love?
>> How is it bad for society?
>> Is your anger unfounded?
>> Is there a group of people that this political situation favours?
>> Is your anger righteous?
>> Does it stem from an understanding of the world that is incongruous with your government’s way of understanding the world?
2. Take concrete actions that provide solutions for the problem.
The first step involves a boundless reflection upon what has caused our anger and how social injustice is relevant to us. The second step focuses on taking concrete actions that can provide solutions to a problem.
If a particular reform is bad for certain portions of society, we can speak out against it, articulating to others why and how it affects ourselves, our communities, and society as a whole, and advocate for the progress of the world thoughtfully and convincingly.
In other words, temper your anger about the injustice with actions, which can lead to real solutions.
A couple of years ago, a sportswoman from my country won a medal at an international sports championship. I read a report on her upbringing and training. Her coach’s advice for her was to use her anger from her past failures as fuel for future wins. That lesson has stayed with me and for good reason.
It is only by embracing solitude during this lockdown that I could have applied that lesson in my life. I am grateful I realised that, and I am hopeful that my realization can help you.