Craving the Familiar

(Presentation to young people beginning program in Madrid of Master’s studies and teaching, given day after Thanksgiving 2020)

Greetings and I hope you enjoyed Thanksiving one way or another. However you spent it, and I know you are all busy, there have likely been mixed feelings.  There has likely been some craving the familiar, and, of course, the Word “familiar” is related to the word “family”.   You are all experiencing being way from home at this traditional time  of family celebration., with the big holiday season coming up.   Of course the way Thanksgiving is observed varies  from family to family.  For some whose families do make a reunion of it, it is a time of enjoying  getting back together with loved ones, and for some  it may seem a bit of an ordeal to be endured.  Maybe there a few of you who are just as glad to be here.  Of course, this year is like no year before, and get-togethers may not have happened, and the nature of those that did was changed.  So some  of you may be feeling some sadness about that.

So, what is there to give thanks for?  You have come here and left a lot of the familiar behind.  You have so much to look forward to and appreciate, but at this time it might be easy to fall into regret.  Looking back at past can be tempting at any time, and now perhaps especially so.  The challenges of the present and future are stressing you to some degree.  For some, looking back in time and space may be to be  reminded of previous sresses, and to some looking back then and back there may seem a relative haven.  As we step out of comfort zones we can, indeed, crave the familiar. If you are feeling that way, especially today, don’t fight it.  Remember that what you resist persists.   Accept it as a natural way to feel, take some relaxing breaths and know that you will move on from here.  Learn to look back into the past so as to dwell on the memories that bring good feelings, and find out that you can enjoy and benefit from these feelings without sinking into nostalgia, which is wallowing in feelings of los and regret.  Anyway, as someone has said, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Look back at moments of warmth or humor.   Just think what having a laugh does for you.  I was talking to a cleint, an auxiliar ffom the US and now into her second year, about these things, and she said she even enjoyed remembering the family arguments, because underneath them was a feeling of togetherness.  So, cherishing these memories always with an emphasis on the upbeat feeliings and emotions is a resource as you go about getting familiar with your current situation.   And when you look ahead and try to visualize where you are headed, relax as much as you can and bring up-beat emotion into the picture.  The emotion can come from good past experiences, or from excited expection, or from feeling gratitude or however you hope to feel when you have accomplished whatever it is you are looking forward to.  In fact, if you repetitively envision an outcome while feeling the good feeling of actually accomplishing it, you build a neural complex in the brain  and so it is there like a memory – you have a memory of the future. 

So, now you are building up a new zone of familiarity, and then you will move on from that.  But by taking on what you are taking on, you are building resisliency.  As this world gets turned upside down, don’t you think resiliency is needed more than ever?  Everyone is going have to move on in some way.

So that built-in predisposition to hold on to the familiar is being reinforeced by the current changes in the world, even before Covid.  People are in survival mode, hanging onto the familiarity of past conditioning  and perceiving  those that seem different as threats to be fought against.  Polarization is becoming more extreme, quite obviously inthe US, but it is happening in the world in general.  We are all going to have to move on,and that is bringing on panic.  That drives most of the news you see, but there is a lot else going on, too.  Did you know about the Chinese character for their word for “crisis”?  It is actually made up of two characters, one for “danger” and one for “opportunity”.  You go through a crisis and either go down from it or somehow come out at a higher level, you don’t come out the same as you started. This holds for this world crisis, More and more people are deciding there has to be a better way.  For all the división and hostility on social media, there are Facebook groups and such where people are coming together to supoort positive development.  There is an explosion of personal and spiritual development approaches.  There are techological developments that could make great positive changes,  There are discoveries in medical and physiological sciences, some of which I have touched on in my presrentations.  Quantom pysics and science in general seems to be becoming the new mysticism.  But the media is too stuck in its old ways to take much note of all this.

Perhaps the big division is between the craving for the familiar and the craving for change and  a better world. The current world is making the craving for the familiar more and more desperate and the craving for change more urgent.  There’s a lot of emotion out there.  We are all feeling the effects of that emotion.  But as you learn to deal with those effects, you are building resiliency. 

 In my presentations I have given tips on dealing with stress.  They can be applied to the holday season.  At the start of today’s comments I suggested using good feelings from the past as a resource.  That auxiliar who got good feelings even from remembering family arguments had some suggestions.  Now feeling gratitude really lifts the spirits and physiology. She sugested writing gratitude notes, or notes of appreciation, to people.  This, of course, also increases the  sense of connection.  She brought up the effects on oneself of acts of kindness.    You are all undergoing separation.  Keep finding ways to reach out and help one another. She suggested keepng in contact with people back home that you would like to maintain contact with, but with the  agreement that there is no obligation, but one is free to make contact spontaneously.  Regarding helping one another or keeping up on old contacts, nother client mentioned the imporance of simply showing up, and really being there  She also brought up really being present with the everyday things of life and appreciating them.

I hope there has has been something here that can help you negotiate the holidays and move on. And  I hope I haven’t sounded too serious  This stuff is too important to be taken seriously.  Think about that a bit.  The world has gotten very serious.  It really needs more people, and they are appearing, who can look clearly at the things that are happening with some equanimity, and not get too caught up in the seriousness and thus become desperate.  Those of you who saw my first presentation might remember my comments on Bohemian Rhapsody.  One could even say you owe it to yourselves. and to the world, to have some fun along  the way  Coming here you are already moving in the  direction of increased resiliency and helpful presence, and I salute you.