A reporter contacted me yesterday for help on a segment on “Pandemic-Era Positivity.”  She was looking for non-traditional ways of staying motivated and inspired. She said people are getting bored and cynical, their 2020 goals unmet due to a lack of wind beneath the sails.  “How can we stay positive?” she asked, “And motivated!”  Well, guess what I said! “STUDY YOUR UNCONSCIOUS!” It’s the only way to figure out how not to get unmoored.


This is America, so we want progress and productivity.  We want to be RID of

A:        laziness. 

B:       the tendency to drink too much or

C:       feel numb or

D:       feel scared or

E:        be secretly ashamed of our newfound excuse to isolate or

F:        feel like we are crawling out of our skins for lack of social contact and

G:       short tempers that for many, are surprising in their ferocity. 

What we want is to hit a “reset” button for things to return to “normal.” … When we had concrete goals, replete with the inspiration and motivation. To be more productive and self-improving.  But instead, we have more fear, more doubt, more existential threat.


When enshrouded in fear and the possibility of illness and even death, we can’t (and shouldn’t!) ignore it.  

“Survival” is the new chronic underlying elephant in the room.

Conscious positive goals, like:

  • promotions, 
  • creative ventures
  • self-help incentives
have indeed lost much of their purpose.

For so many of us these days given this horrible pandemic (note how the word “panic” feels derivative of “pandemic”.) What’s most important?

Staying safe.

Back to being American. 

No, not the part about how we are pioneers and innovators!  The part about how we are all descendants of people at the mercy of war, poverty, oppression and worse.  

People who had to develop coping mechanisms against fear and vulnerability.  People who had to be strong, no matter what or how they really felt. 

Those coping mechanisms helped us to deal with survival threats, all of which got passed down to us through our DNA. And that is what we are confronting, subconsciously, now.

What we’re “remembering”, now are all the “coping mechanisms”.

Coping mechanisms and defenses against devastation, fear and existential threat are all subconsciously getting (re)experienced including:

A:   emotional numbness (which can also feel like “cynicism” or “bitterness”)

B:   feeling “frozen” (which can feel like “laziness” or “lack of motivation”

C:  depression or unusual negativity

D:  anxiety

E:   drinking or just imbibing more

F:   short-temperedness and more

We don’t like coping mechanisms.  They have a grip on us.  And we judge them. 

 We prefer not to focus on our alcoholism, our hardheartedness and stoniness, numbness, or weakness, vulnerability or fear. 

We want to get away from all that. 


It’s simple – we have to become more gentle towards our coping mechanisms.  

To scratch beneath the surface means an attitude of non-judgment, for starters.  


Thelma J. was so disgusted with herself for not being able to follow through on any of her goals for 2020.  She attributed the problem to social isolation as a self-proclaimed extrovert, and started drinking more at night to ward off what she thought were feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Waking up depressed, hungover and disgusted with herself, Thelma started judging herself mercilessly, in the hopes of whipping herself into shape.  All our hope rests in trying to be better, which ironically, when we can’t, makes us only worse.

Thelma had a particularly low tolerance for what she perceived as laziness, weakness and instability.  She kept striving to get back into a productive external world, replete with goals and aspirations.


Developing a positive, welcoming and compassionate attitude towards our coping mechanisms and defenses is what ultimately liberates our creative and intellectual energies to reach their full capacity.  

Once Thelma understood that she was putting all her eggs in the basket of being “better” she could put them in the basket of “know thyself.”  This gave her the hope she needed to stop beating herself up, and switch gears to being more curious about her default, autonomic coping mechanisms. 

Truly, this epoch in time provides an opportunity to increase positivity towards important internal as well as external processes. The more we can shift our goals to match the “elephant in the room“ and deal with our fears, vulnerabilities and coping mechanisms, the stronger we will come out of this in the end.


  •  Our coping mechanisms – how we respond to existential threats – are embedded in our DNA.  They are REFLEXIVE. (We are more likely to become alcoholics if our parents were.  Or to become stony, or dysregulated, or you name it.)  This is about your brain and about your ancestry.  You’re not going to notice what’s so much a part of you.

  • When you decrease self-judgmentalism, you open the door to something amazing and wonderful: self-compassion. 

  • Self-compassion feels really good, and it also organizes the mind.  But…you can’t command it. It has to grow naturally through your willingness to know thyself without judgment.

  • Give yourself permission to explore thoughts and feelings you don’t typically consider productive. Include what’s happening with your body, thoughts and emotions.

  • Share ALL your challenging thoughts and feelings with other people. Have them listen and hear you.

Being heard is what creates connection and fosters compassion and peace of mind.  When you are heard, you are no longer alone.


Shift your goals from seeking external growth and productivity, to seeking self understanding

The result?  

Your emotions become tools of discernment; helping you to see, understand, remember, and know.

With the power of “discernment” you don’t shy away from what you feel, you grow from it. 

If your can listen to yourself differently, and with the right people, you may discover what will really help you progress:

  • more connectedness
  • more comfort
  • more joy than you ever dreamed possible.

Now, THAT’s a powerful way to anchor yourself to life; to a wellspring of strength and stability that will pave the way for success in all your future ventures, replete with motivation, inspiration, and everything you may not exactly be feeling now.

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