Mind Management

Virtue in the Time of Coronavirus

Change is difficult in the best of times. Sometimes that change is joyfully awaited, such as the birth of a child. Even then, though, every parent will speak of moments of confusion, exhaustion, and perhaps grief over the changes that swept through their lives. Those emotions are driven by unpleasant odors, disrupted sleep, and less intimacy.

But that was a challenge that we chose.

The coronavirus is forcing us to change against our will. Our social circle narrows to immediate family. When we meet friends, we self-consciously stand apart. Checkers that celebrated our reusable grocery bags now insist that we pack our purchases. Responsibilities at work dangle incomplete – or are dwarfed by financial worries. Moment-by-moment, we question every act that we take. We become strangers even to ourselves.

As a hypnotherapist, the clients that come to me usually want to change. In assisting them, I draw upon knowledge of how the mind works to strengthen the social identity. The mind has powerful and awe-inspiring methods for building self-knowledge and trust.

These points are most important:

  1. Recognize that you have two minds – a social identity that works in the waking world, and an inner child that maintains your wellness.
  2. Your inner child relies upon your social identity for guidance. When faced with threats, it uses fear and anxiety to motivate the identity.
  3. Fear and anxiety weaken the identity through mental exhaustion and sleep deprivation. If these conditions persist, the social identity breaks down, forcing us to seek new relationships.
  4. As this happens, we stop recognizing that our intimates are offering us care and support. Even the best of us will display irritation, anger, and hostility.

This is the key to self-preservation: what you do has changed, but your character can remain the same.

Make a list of your virtues. Not what you do, but why you are able to do it: patience, determination, intelligence, friendliness, for as many as you can name. They have brought you to this point, and they are what will see you through. Add any that you’d like to develop in these conditions.

Every night before going to bed, write out a letter to your inner child. “These changes ensure our safety and the safety of those we love. In making our way through these changes, we will draw upon our virtues. In dreams tonight, please use all your power to envision how those virtues can serve us best. Rest deeply so that we are able to face tomorrow’s challenges with creativity and resilience – and a strong body to resist disease.”

Then write down your list of virtues, followed by the number of times you used them during the day. Then assign a worth to those virtues. Don’t stint yourself: these are the same virtues that you use at work each day. Pay yourself twice as much for maintaining them under these difficult conditions. Add these earnings to your bank balance of virtue.

These two simple methods counter our inner child’s fear and anxiety. They explain that the change is for our benefit, that our highest accomplishment – our character – is untouched, and that we are confident that we will be rewarded for our strength.

If you find yourself unable to quiet your fear and worry, please reach out to a mental health professional. As a hypnotherapist, I can provide stress relief over the phone or internet, but persistent anxiety that affects relationships may deserve clinical care. Reach out to your doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychotherapist for help.

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