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ISSUE 6 VOLUME 1

03/23/2020 02:00:00 PM

Mar23

Rabbi Eitan Zerykier, LCSW

I believe most columns start with an idea. In this case, it began with a challenge. The great* Jordan Hiller challenged me to write something for the YINW Vacczine. Not being an expert at anything, and simultaneously having a desire to do something, I offered to answer questions on a topic I know a little bit about: the human mind and mental health.

Rather than me acting like some guru who knows all the answers, I hope this column will potentially generate some back-and-forth conversations. As a therapist with less clients to treat than usual, kindly indulge me. If not for me, then perhaps for your own morbid curiosity and the entertainment of other readers, who will likely then debate why Jordan ever asked me to write in the first place.

This idea of not being a guru does not stem from humility. It is just true. This is a really interesting time because no one has any answers about this new virus and what it means for the future. Interesting or scary? Both. The problem is that the scary part overwhelms us. It’s completely normal to want routine, to know that we are safe, and to have some semblance of what the future holds for us. We grapple with a missing puzzle piece, and it can become maddening.

But, what if we were able to take parts of our life, and let someone else manage them? Even thinking about that could be scary, or freeing. Which is it for you? The latest studies in psychology suggest that struggling with thoughts will make them more uncomfortable and more frequent. Try NOT to think about a red tennis ball. Our brains do not hear the “not” and we think of the ball. But there is an alternative.

Do you know how to get out of quicksand? I’ll give you a hint. It’s similar to the Chinese finger traps you may have seen as a kid. The way to get out of quicksand is to lie on top of the quicksand. Sounds ridiculous, right? But counterintuitively, getting as close to the thing which is holding you back is the only way out. Increasing your contact with the quicksand actually allows you to float on it. Struggling against the quicksand only pulls you in further. The same is true for emotions.

I suggest we get friendly and curious about what we cannot control, and the fear which it raises. If we are afraid of the fear, it will overwhelm us and pull us in deeper. If we can let it be, feel it, cry a bit, and know it is true, then it can loosen its grip on us. Those tears may be the deepest you have shed in a long time, and they may also be the most meaningful. Find a friend, a spouse, someone you trust, and share with them what you’re feeling. Write about it in a personal journal, or online for others to read. Own the fear and see it clearly. It is normal. Even if it is scary.

This suggestion is based on ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which shares some of its roots with far eastern philosophies. There are many methods of dealing with difficult emotions. Let’s get the conversation going, and see which one speaks to you.

*Editor’s asterisk.

By: Rabbi Eitan Zerykier, LCSW

Mon, March 30 2020 5 Nisan 5780