Realistic Optimism In The Time Of A Pandemic By Dr. Mara Karpel

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

We’re certainly living in an unprecedented time of stress, fear, and grief. Many are grieving the loss of life as it was before the pandemic, some are fearing the loss of life – period, and some are mourning the loss of loved ones taken by this virus. So, how can we even speak about optimism, you might wonder.

Optimism, in the form of realistic optimism, is in fact, a way to build resilience during times of stress. The realism is accepting the existence of the darkness and pain, while the optimism is the belief that something beautiful might emerge on the other side of the darkness. Even a phoenix, rising from the ashes, has to accept the very painful reality of what she has been through.

Such optimism is not the belief that everything is made of rainbows and unicorns, or even that we can overcome every challenge that we face in the way that we dream about and long for. Nor does it mean subscribing to such clichés such as “everything happens for a reason.” But, perhaps, realistic optimism is the conscious determination to take a challenging, or even dire situation, and to create value from it.

We may not know what that value might be while in the midst of the darkness and the struggle. Rather this is a knowing that we will find a way to turn our adversity into something truly transformative on the other side, even if we can’t imagine what that transformation will look like. While some days might feel like a struggle just to keep our head above the rising tide, there are other days when we might allow ourselves to feel that the seed we’ve planted with the question, “How can I create value from this?” will germinate in the darkness and transform into so much beauty once it has the opportunity to drink in the sunlight.

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