Ask Dr. V, Staying Positive During Troubled Times

Venus Nicolino holds a Ph.D. in Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships. This week: staying positive during troubled times

Dear Dr. V,

I feel like every day is a struggle … I’m not necessarily depressed but I feel like every time I put on the news, I feel as though “dooms day” is coming! Sure, I’m worried about the economy but I have a good job that, at the moment, seems to be going well … it just seems as though the general climate of the entire world is gloomy. I can’t actually remember the last time I saw myself, or anyone I know in a good mood. What can I do about this? How can I remain optimistic when I only hear negativity?

Leslie from NYC

Dear Leslie,

I completely relate and empathize with the anxiety you must be feeling. These are indeed turbulent times we live in, and much is in flux in the political, economic, social, environmental and even planetary arenas. Add to this, the stress that goes with living in a big city and it’s easy to feel like the world is ending.

As I’m not an omnipotent divine entity (at least not my conscious self), I can’t answer your question with a 100 percent, “Yes, the world is ending. Hide!” or “No, everything’s fine. Go about your business.” I agree with Bob Dylan that times are indeed a-changing, but don’t go dusting off those Y2k survival kits just yet.

To address your question directly, in terms of “The Market,” which for many has become a holy altar, the sole defining aspect of their existence, let’s consider, what is the market, really? To me it seems to be a psychological process based on consumer confidence. And let’s face it, when we’re not feeling confident in any area of our lives, it’s bound to spill over.

Financial troubles are so upsetting because they strike at the most basic kind of fear: survival. We can feel threatened with the possible loss of our jobs, homes, medical care and, for some, even the next meal. Our cave dwelling ancestors might have felt similar angst when the food supply ran low and the mammoth hunts were going poorly. I don’t say this to make light of the situation, but to highlight that what we are all going through right now, in some ways, is nothing new. It’s the struggle for survival, but thankfully we have it a bit easier than our Neolithic forebears.

What’s the key to survival? Adaptation. The times are changing, so change with them. Perhaps reconsider what it really means to be wealthy. By adjusting our lenses we can take inventory of our lives in a whole new way. Yes, we need money to pay for goods and services, but I believe after a point, like anything else, accumulating wealth can become an addiction, where there is no need for more in the material realm. What drives the addict is the high that comes with “the getting.” Yet there is so much more to live for then the buying and selling and accumulation of material things. The love of friends and family, a healthy mind and body, even winter passing into spring. All the wonders we take for granted, how much value is placed on these assets?

I do think on the whole we are now in a cycle of major change, on all levels of our existence. But this does not mean that the sky is falling. It’s a time to be aware, honest and purposeful in your heart, thoughts and actions. You may find the security and safety you long for will come with this kind of living. Especially as an enlightened person living in a big city, you may want to take to heart Gandhi’s famous quote “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

It is possible that a positive consequence of your own deliberate living could inspire others to be purposeful in their own lives, thus counteracting the negativity you’ve been seeing. If you are someone who prays, you could ask for peace of mind, and just to be put where you need to be.

Our species as a whole has not been doing the greatest job as custodians of our planet or caretakers of each other. In fact, the dominant paradigm of the past few millennia has been a universal system of greed, avarice and oppression, with some glints of the true beauty of the human heart here and there. I believe that this trend, combined with advancements in technology and its cumulative effect on the planet, have us approaching a critical mass. The current system no longer works, and in truth has not worked for quite some time. The failure of the greed-sick institutions on Wall Street, and, in a more holistic sense, what you notice as the general melancholia of people shows this. We as a species are approaching an event horizon of change. Don’t think of it as the end of the world, but rather the evolution of our world and indeed, ourselves as human beings, into a more progressive, loving state of being.

If you subscribe to the belief that we all create our own reality through our state of mind to some degree, then why would one want to take in negativity when there is also so much good to focus on? You said you have a good, stable job.

You live in one of the most exciting and dynamic cities in the world. There is much to rejoice and celebrate in. The Great Story of Humanity will play out exactly as it is supposed to, and you have a very important, unique role to play in it, which not one other being on this planet is capable of: You.

With Empathy,

Dr. V

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to call or email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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