The Squirrel’s Dilemma
To ramp or to tamp
In the Eye of the Storm
An individual response to the Global Crisis
April 14, 2020
Ashok Bedi, M.D., Jungian Psychoanalyst
Robert BJ Jakala PH.D., Jungian Psychotherapist
In a storm, the safest place is in the eye of the storm. My colleague BJ and I will share our daily reflections on this centering process from an Analytical perspective, sharing from the repertoire of our personal and professional experience. BJ is a psychologist and a photographer and will pick an image of the day that catches him in this collective crisis. I will amplify it from a Jungian Analytical perspective. We hope that this may offer you a baby step on the path to your own unique response to this chaos.
Although the introverted consciousness is naturally aware of external conditions, it selects the subjective determinants as the decisive one. It is therefore oriented by the factor in perception and cognition which responds to the sense stimulus in accordance with the individual’s subjective disposition. (Jung & Bollingen Foundation Collection (Library of Congress), 1976, p. 374)
The squirrel sits, eats, and watches the external while on the ground. It does not have the luxury of just eating but must always be aware of its surroundings. It keeps a “safe distance” to any passerby; It darts and climbs to safety when it feels threatened.
During this time of Covid-19, health officials tell us what safe distance is to stay healthy. They recommend certain behaviors to prevent contact with the viral enemy. Our usual sense of safety is not enough. Their guidelines require a diligence outside of our usual behaviors. Subjective and objective are called to work in tandem. The usual can jeopardize our health and/or life. Our awareness is heightened for self-protection.
When I look at the squirrel, I hope it is enjoying its food. I wonder if it is feeling satisfaction and gratitude for the experience of eating. In this time of being vigilant and self-protective against the virus, I need to remind myself to pay attention to all aspects of my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual life. I have more time to listen deeply to the subtle clues that encourage me to be/become me. I have time to listen, digest and embody the whispers I am often distracted away from. The ideas I have hidden away for a later time can now be a source of nourishment.
Neuroscience research has validated the timeless wisdom of India’s contemplative practices. We know that mindfulness involves being present to the moment.(Bedi, 2013) It activates the Relaxation response. (Benson, 1975). It activates the healing Alpha activity in our brain and prevents Alpha habituation. This keeps our nervous system centered and in the Parasympathetic zone of healing and restoration. It makes our blood PH to be alkaline necessary for healing activities. However, if we are in a potentially unsafe environment, our brain goes into the Vigilance mode or the Stress Response mode. This is the opposite of the Relaxation response. It activates the Sympathetic nervous system, the brain activity goes into the Beta mode of hypervigilant scanning of our surroundings ready for fight, flight or freeze response algorithm. The brain secretes stress hormones including Steroids, Epinephrine, Glucose and leads to a corrosive acidic PH. This reduces longevity and makes us susceptible to chronic health problems.
In the present COVAD-19 pandemic, we have this squirrel’s dilemma. To deal with the crisis optimally, we need to stay in the Mindfulness mode of centered, attentive, measured attention to each precious moment. On the other hand, we need to stay vigilant to the potential dangers in the everyday environment and maintain Social Distancing, Face mask, frequent hand washing for 30 seconds each time among other precautions. How must each one of us balance a baseline of Mindfulness with adequate Vigilance. This would be the union of the opposites, the Complexio Oppositorium in the Jungian lexicon. This balance must be struck by each one of us in our own unique way. The Type A individuals must tamp it down. The Type B individual must ramp it up. Each one of us has the opportunity to activate the lost continent of our Soul. When we move to the Center, we will get a glimpse of what a “Centered” feels like. The Squirrel never loses its playfulness, innocence nor its vigilance. That is the gift of our Squirrel ancestors. May the Squirrel Source be with you!
Some Points to Ponder:
What informs you use or store what you have?
How do you know when enough is enough?
How do you make decisions? Subjective or objective information?
If you feel threatened, how do you find safety?
What aspects of your spiritual life help you during this time?
Are you an Active or Passive type of individual?
In the present pandemic, have been able to move close to center from the Active or the Passive baseline of your personality?
How does your Squirrel nature feel?
Describe and Journal your Squirrel nature.
Photo taken in Los Angeles, CA.
Bedi, A. (2013). Crossing the healing zone : from illness to wellness. Lake Worth, FLf, Newburyport, MA: Ibis Press, a division of Nicolas-Hays, Inc.,Lake Worth, Distributed to the trade by Red Wheel/Weiser.
Benson, H. (1975). The Relaxation Response: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Jung, C. G., & Bollingen Foundation Collection (Library of Congress). (1976). Psychological types (A revision / ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D.