Make Kindness Your New Habit
Daily insights on life in the face of uncertainty, by psychiatrist and habit change specialist Dr. Jud Brewer
Today’s column is going to be a little different.
You may have heard about Kitty O’Meara, who O Magazine called the “poet laureate of the pandemic” when her untitled poem blew up the internet. According to O, O’Meara wrote the poem in one sitting, spilling over after months of anxiety built up from watching the pandemic brew on the news.
Here it is:
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
This poem reminds me of a psychological teaching about change that I learned when I was in college called thaw, shift, refreeze. It’s a metaphor for how when tragedy strikes, change can happen under certain conditions or things can go back to the way they were. This is especially important today, and you’ll see why in a moment.
Imagine a leaf frozen in a pond. In the spring, the sun’s rays warm the pond and melt the ice so that the leaf is no longer stuck in place. It can drift around. It can be blown to a different spot in the pond. The next winter, when the weather turns icy cold, the leaf refreezes. If wind can’t reach the pond, the leaf doesn’t move and thus refreezes exactly where it was before. If there is wind, the leaf might refreeze in a different spot. The stronger the wind, the more the leaf moves before refreezing.
Despite how hard this time is, we can clearly see how much…