We all rely on basic ideas about life that we’ve learned to count on. We generally know how we fit into our family and social structures, the relationships we’ve grown, and the kind of interactions we participate in. We are used to our daily routines and the meaning we derive from each of our life domains. We recognize how things generally work. These ideas make up what’s called our assumptive world.
The assumptive world concept refers to the assumptions or beliefs that ground, secure, stabilize, and orient people. They are our core beliefs about the world and ourselves based on previous experiences. They give a sense of reality, meaning, or purpose to life. In the face of death and trauma, however, these beliefs are shattered, leaving people disoriented and anxious. In essence, the security of their beliefs has been destroyed.
Shattered assumptions can also explain the adjustment we encounter after any type of experience that challenges a person’s belief system or worldview. And most of us are in the midst of trying to adjust to an uncertain and limiting outlook.
Life is Different Now
Even if you don’t know anyone personally affected by Covid-19, our lives are fundamentally different than they were a short time ago, and we don’t know when or how things might regain some degree of familiarity.
All this uncertainty can take a toll on our sense of well-being. Everyone I know is trying to establish some sort of new normal while hoping to return to life as it used to be. With no treatment and no vaccine just yet, we are challenged to create a new kind of life that makes sense and helps us to feel safe and secure once again.
Remember Old Assumptions That Are Still Valid and Build New Ones
And so, we must learn new ways of acting and being in the world, figuring out how to go on when so much of what we have taken for granted is no longer practical. We work hard at creating a delicate balance between confronting and avoiding distressing thoughts, feelings, and images.
This balance doesn’t have to be equal. Remember it’s possible to hold two seemingly contradictory thoughts at the same time, so try breaking up your intake of news with activities that are enjoyable for you. Alternate between focusing on the negative and relishing beauty, nature, music, creativity, or anything that reminds you of the ongoing goodness of the world.
Try to find evidence of some benefit in this time. Not that anyone is glad Covid-19 happened, but as long as this is the reality, can you notice some positives? I’ve heard the air is cleaner and certain animals are returning to their habitats. Being in nature or looking at nature scenes reminds us that flowers still bloom, grass and trees still grow new green leaves, and the spring sun feels warmer as we leave winter behind. And many people seem to be reevaluating what’s truly important, as valued workers now include many who used to be taken for granted.
While it’s true we’re all aware of our misfortune and vulnerability, perhaps we can also acknowledge that some of our previous assumptions may have been naïve; that bad things do happen to good people sometimes, and no one is invulnerable. The challenge is to recognize the experience of adversity without allowing it to take over our entire assumptive world.
Wishing you peace and healing,
Read The 4 Facets of Grief
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Essays on Grief Resilience