When the World Won't Hold Us


When the World Won't Hold Us

Finding Agency in the Suffering

By Gabor Maté

September/October 2020


As the pandemic rages on, and we wrestle with the horrors of racial injustice, I’ve been hearing people say, “We’re all in this together.” But are we? We’re all in this together may be a call to action and awareness, but it’s not an accurate description of reality.

While it’s true that human beings are ultimately in this life together, it’s not true that we’re in it together in the same way. Clearly, while I’m sitting in my comfortable, leafy neighborhood in Vancouver, I’m not experiencing this situation in the same way as a person in San Francisco who’s living on the street, or someone in downtown Vancouver who’s struggling with a drug addiction. I’m not experiencing it the same way as somebody who’s stressed, burdened, isolated—all of which may be exacerbated right now.

We Are Our Beginnings

A lot of us carry a great deal of anxiety that we usually cover up or distract ourselves from, through work, relationships, going to the pub, watching sports, exercising. Some of these are good things to do, but they can also function as a way of binding or diverting our anxieties.

Now that there are fewer of those options for coping, people’s anxieties are rising, and that’s showing up in their behavior. It’s important to remember that anxiety was not born of the COVID-19 pandemic. It…

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1 Comment

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 4:53:05 PM | posted by Gail Barrett
Thank you so much for this timely and important message. I think you have noted something so very important. What we are experiencing right now is natural. Many of us feel that we are in danger, because of covid or racial injustice or economic issues, and the normal response to danger is anxiety. We can feel this fear, and sadness, another normal response to loss, without being traumatized by it.