At this writing, during our Pandemic Spring, many people in North America and Europe are noting that they’re growing concerned about the increasing levels of conflict they’re seeing around the issue of balancing health and economic interests.
These conflicting groups are generally seen as two separate groups who have conflicting ideas. Yet, in principle, these people all share the most critical priority: the welfare of themselves and their loved ones –and by extension, others and their loved ones too.
The reason this degree of conflict has risen up in society is because each individual is experiencing different levels of suffering. Each of us has differing degrees of loss. With different degrees of responsive resources.
We also differ in how much we know, and how much we don’t know, as well as how much we know that is actually incorrect –which is always a decent amount, because that represents our headroom to grow and mature as we age.
(There aren’t some people who succumb to the Dunning-Kruger effect and some who don’t. We all do, guaranteed. That’s at the heart of what the effect is.)
On top of those things, we all function in different areas of life, so we are each impacted in unique ways. And each of us began these experiences with different amounts of sensitivity to certain things, and insensitivity over others. It makes perfect sense that a good portion are suffering badly already.
Another thing we all have in common is some basic responses to psychological stimuli. So when we think of where scientists may have studied our current situation before we got here, it’s when they’ve looked at anyone who spends long periods of time in confinement.
Prisoners, submariners, astronauts, and scientists in Antarctica, (where they call it the A-Factor) are all impacted by what’ sometimes referred to as the Third Quarter Confinement Phenomenon. Because of this phenomenon’s effect, our current conflict is actually impersonal.
We are all impacted by the natural restlessness we all are feeling, in various forms. Some of those forms are leading to the conflict we see. But ultimately we’re not so much in conflict with each other. Rather, we are having conflicting feelings within ourselves.
By now of course, most of us will easily recognize the pattern the phenomenon leads our minds to follow. At first we get anxious and fearful and we’re just lost. After that, we settle into some new, modified routine because life demands it, and because it’s helping us, we genuinely feel better.
But then we hit that dreaded third quarter. That’s when we’re really feeling another pull to get things back to ‘normal.’ We can tell it’s based on our naturally-occurring, thought-based expectations because it always comes in the third-quarter of however long we’re isolated.
If we can change the time, but it’s always in the third quarter, then it’s not the time that does it, it’s our thinking. We start to identify and self-discuss the gap between where we are and even very reasonable expectations about our future. That comparison is made using words, in our thoughts.
Many travelers knows this feeling as when you suddenly become homesick. Every thought seems to be about what we miss. But experienced travelers know that is a normal phase that we just live our way through and it goes away.
It returns in smaller waves, further apart, until it’s just the occasional longing. But that first pang of it is wrenching and painful. Much of the West is currently in that state as a massive group. And it’s not likely to surprise anyone that researchers have not found that this state of mind is neither productive nor pleasant.
Emotional outbursts are common, and those can chain-react into other emotional explosions etc. etc. If we don’t turn our frustrated feelings outward, we can tend to turn them inward, where they darken our perspective and lower our opinion of ourselves.
Any of those effects will serve to steal our energy, all to no good purpose. Learning to manage this reality can save us a lot of suffering.
Obviously we have a limited ability to change the conditions that nature has placed us in, so our brains will have to function in this third-quarter phase whether we like it or not. So our best bet is to accept that fact and not resist it with our thoughts.
Consider this: astronauts leave the Earth with many of the capabilities of a mechanic, an engineer, a doctor, a biologist, a chemist, a physicist, a mathematician, an athlete, a sociologist, a psychologist, and they are chosen for their fantastic mental balance and strong leadership skills. Yet even they feel it.
If they can experience it and still be effective enough to keep them alive in the vacuum of space, then we can let ourselves feel it and we will get through this. Just don’t expect to do well when nature says we’re not supposed to feel that way. Removing that internal, thought-based resistance to our reality is what takes the suffering out of the pain.
Since we think our thoughts, that suffering is always within our control whether our thoughts will let us believe that in any given moment or not. But once we grow confident that we can always change our thoughts at will, then simply repeatedly shifting our thoughts toward more rewarding directions, in most circumstances, will dramatically change someone’s life.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.