Tune Your Station to this Hidden Truth

by Dr. Chad McIntyre

One of the most common things I have heard this year is how fast time has flown by. What I have seen is people embracing life again in 2023, traveling to places they have never been, taking risks on new opportunities, visiting family they have missed the past few years, and renewing their goals to live healthier lives. It has been an awesome thing to witness and a great vibe I sorely missed. In stark contrast was 2020, during which time I swear I could palpably feel the tension, the high stakes, the whirlwind of emotions, and the dimmed hope. COVID: “Before the dark times.” During a recent reflection on what now increasingly feels like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I got to thinking about the exceptions, the people who seem to be going with a different flow than everyone else, happy when the rest of the world is sad and vice versa. There is a truth hidden in the exceptions that is good to remember.  

For the vast majority of 2020, many people that would have typically had great attitudes, more likely to tell me about what inspired them than what they were worried about, became anxiety-ridden versions of the people I had come to know. I could relate to that. I had never felt so much sustained existential dread in my life as I did that year. One of my little clinical mantras is to be a shield rather than a sponge to other peoples’ energies, emotions, and pain. For those of us in the healing arts, it is a must-develop skill. I found out I was not nearly as well developed at it as I thought I was twelve years in. I was trying desperately to be a hopeful, health-conscious immovable object, but the pandemic’s many challenges were an irresistible force. Like so many others, I lived my life around COVID and it was a constant struggle not to feel like I was in quicksand.

Then, there were the exceptional few. I knew people whose lives were repaired by the very same things that tied myself and countless others in knots. Some who I had tried to help in my office, for whom we exhausted our referral resources, but who could seemingly not break their patterns were given the one thing they needed most by 2020: margin – the time to heal. When they would come into the office midway through 2020 looking as though they had it all figured out, on top of the world, I was blown away and extremely inspired (and, if I am being totally honest, a little jealous). All they had needed was empty space on the calendar, so when the schedule was forced to be reduced, they saw an opportunity standing there waiting with a bear hug.  

I have seen the opposite happen with others in 2023. The tide has turned and many in our society seem to be making up for lost time, but others have been unable to shake the dread, remain glued to the news updates and things of that nature, and are stuck in a vicious cycle of thoughts. For others still, the return to a more typically chaotic social rhythm has brought back the old accompanying hurdles.   

Whether it be the negative thoughts during a generally upbeat time or positive thoughts during an historically dejected time or simply going with whichever way society’s attitude is flowing, there is a common thread connecting each situation, and once we pull on it, an important truth becomes more obvious. The common thread is that each situation saw people live their lives around exactly what they were focused on.  I know many can relate to being dialed into COVID and feeling like they could not escape it no matter where they went.  Meanwhile, others saw that time as a chance to get quiet and deeply recharge their batteries.  Many focused on what deflated them, the exceptional few focused on something that uplifted them, feeling like less was so much more.  

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” It is one of those “it’s so simple, it’s hard to get” ideas. I think we need more reminders of it. Think of your mind as being in tune with whatever radio station is playing. If your primary focus is on something that brings you pain, then you have attuned yourself to the station playing pain’s greatest hits. Fear, doubt, and righteousness have played their way up to the top of the charts in the last few years. However, there are other stations playing more hopeful tunes, as well. Look at the people who ended up feeling better than ever in 2020, of all years. The number one hit on their station was “Just A Little Margin” by I Need Time and Space. If you have not tuned in to that station in a while, be sure to check it out.

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