What Comforts us during this time?

Last year, when Covid-19 started making waves in the news, it was so far away from me and I was even arrogant enough to think it was not going to affect me. The day it reached South Africa I was out of the country, when I came back I had to be isolated and all of a sudden it became personal. Since then we have been under lockdown as South Africans and for the first time in many years I had to stop, I was so busy I did not realise that it was a while since I truly spent time with my family and more importantly myself. It is during this time that I was obligated to truly rediscover myself and my family members, it has been a trying time; I am not going to lie about that, but it has also been momentous in a sense because it has allowed me to appreciate my journey through life. In this blog I aim to share some of my life lessons from my favourite teachers that came in my life at a time when I was open to learn and have unknowingly helped me bear this dreadful time. I hope through their own words my dearest reader you find comfort and inspiration to push through to the next hour, next day and so on. C.G Jung once wrote:

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”.

Then Carl R. Rogers came and said:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Briefly I will give you a description of where I come from, I was born and raised in Soweto, a township historically where blacks were segregated during the apartheid era. I was born in the 80s, I am that generation that has grown up in both the middle of apartheid and post-apartheid. I am black and female, meaning my potential in my youth was quite iffy, I could have ended up pregnant and holed up with an alcoholic boyfriend who would abuse me emotionally and physically every other day, or I could get NASFAS and go to university and make my way in the world. I don’t think my 17-year-old self would have believed how things turned out. In other words, Carl Rogers knew what he talking about, once I accepted myself, life took me places that I would not have dreamed of, and it still continues to do so.

My journey of acceptance did not come easy, it was about making the unconscious conscious, and the mind is very vast it’s like walking into a jungle. In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert described it very well when she said:

“When you are lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to convince yourself that you’ve wondered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again and you still have no idea where you are, and its time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”

It was during my bewilderment that I came across Iyanla Vanzant in a book called Yesterday. I cried and she egged me in her poem to cry because it was time to cry with an agenda. She taught me that in life we have to realise that we are learning and unlearning. Just then came Oriah Mountain Dreamer and said:

“My invitation, my challenge to you here, is to take the journey deeper, into intimacy with the world and your life without any promise of a safety guarantee of reward beyond the intrinsic value of full participation.”

There I was, deep in my journey to the self, whereupon I had travelled so deep that I was lost within myself, not knowing which way was which, when I found Oriah and she dared me to delve deeper into the woods and not only that, but to be in a relationship with them. At this point in time I had somehow made it to University and it was clear that I was on a path of sorts, Paolo Coelho says:

“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointments, defeat and despair are tools God uses to show us the way.”

Believe me when I say I had plenty of those tools, luckily for me I also had sufficient courage, meaning that I was afraid for the most part but I pushed through some of the most difficult times in spite my fears. I experienced a lot of traumatic experiences growing up, and mostly there was not much I could do about it, mainly because I was born into my circumstances, and the more I learnt, the more I wanted to change my circumstances, but it’s not that easy, everyone is entitled to be who they want to because they are also travelling their own journeys. Now this is where Viktor Frankl came to teach me that:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

This is the most difficult of lessons because it’s like what Oriah teaches:

“When we surrender we do not fight with life when it calls upon us we are lifted and the strength to do what needs to be done finds us.”

Over the years I have learnt to change myself to better suite my circumstances, and perhaps I was being prepared for this dark time. This epidemic somehow has shattered the illusion that we are safe, in a world where violence is a culture and faith is slowly losing its essence; security was indeed an illusion. It’s time to discover our humanness, the only way to do that is take a journey into ourselves and uncover our wounds so we can heal them, the journey is a terrifying one, but a journey worth taking believe me. One of the lessons that I keep with me during these times is the one Viktor Frankl imparted which is:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.”

I tend to believe him, the man survived the holocaust.

In conclusion there is an old Cherokee story where a man is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Written by Thembisile Masondo

Published by CSVR Trauma Clinic

This blog represents thoughts of therapist working within the CSVR Trauma Clinic. The focus is on understanding the drivers and impact of violence on individuals, families and communities to work towards violence prevention and the building of peaceful societies

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