When driving in fog it is advisable to put your fog lights on but, it is my experience, all too many of us forget. We struggle on regardless despite the simple fact that driving would be easier and our lives, and that of others, would be safer if we’d just turn those fog lights on.
At this present moment our lived experience can appear fogged, clouded by a sense of only slowly moving, reacting to risks as opposed to have the desired time to respond.
So much conflicting advice, uncertainty and indecision compounds this fogging of our thoughts, so the need to put our personal fog lights on couldn’t be more necessary, if we are to stay on our road and arrive at our destination safely.
Proverbial fog, or in this case, uncertainty, evokes fear. Fear manifests as anxiety and anxiety impacts on our ability to make a proper assessment of the situation and identify the right solutions.
Anxiety is a primary contributor to stress and the more stressed you feel the less capacity you have for rational thought.
Think of stress as flowing into our personal stress bucket that, if left unchecked, will overflow. Neurologically this stress is elevated levels of stress hormones; adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisone produced by the hypothalamus in response to the fog permeating our lived experience.
A full stress bucket results in your Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours (TFB) becoming increasingly negative, corrosive and unkind.
This neurological response to perceived fog is normal, we are not broken, rather our mind is doing what all minds do when experiencing prolonged levels of stress, it is stepping up to ensure our survival. Our Neanderthal past selves required these stress hormones to survive prolonged drought, famine, conflict or disease. This survival instinct, in essence, resides in the DNA that has been past on to our present day selves.
When we are overwhelmed, our stress buckets overflow and the only response available to us is to defer to those behaviours that have ensured our survival in the past.
Deferring to previous patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviour to ensure our survival may manifest as neglecting ourselves, or those closest to us, increased drinking, not sleeping or withdrawing from social interaction. Unfortunately these ‘fused’ behaviours only serve to compound that sense of being overwhelmed. They will not reduce the stress flowing into our bucket and the fog will not clear.
So what can we do to alleviate and subsequently break free from the fog?
It comes down to what you choose to notice. Noticing the fog will not make the fog lift any faster however, pulling off the road for a coffee, is something we can do. We can use that time at the service station to reflect on that meeting you just had, the conversation you want to have with your partner or simply use the time to catch up on personal emails, get something to eat or read a book.
Noticing, savouring and valuing that we can do something, despite the fog, puts us back in control. By being in control we exercise agency in the choices available to us and in doing so begin to reduce the amount of stress flowing into our buckets; we might even begin to turn the tap on our bucket, allowing stress to flow out, giving ourselves greater capacity to think, feel and behave in a more mindful way.
So, now what? The fog is still there but we are now changing how we respond; how we choose to think, act and interact whilst in the fog.
Our focus has now shifted, we are exercising agency despite the fog. The fog is not all we notice as we are now noticing, savouring and valuing the things we can do. We are beginning to accept, that from time to time, we will be driving in the fog. We have located our fog lights and turned them on, we have done something.
We have committed to an action, becoming defused from those previous patterns of behaviour that have confined us to the past.
We accept that fog is temporary and will pass on its own accord all by itself.
The use of fog as a metaphor for the current Covid19 crisis allows us to detach from the immediate reality of our personal situation and use this present moment to identify the small steps we can take now, this moment.
This commitment to action is the proverbial small step, it is a step that no one else can take for us or even prescribe.
We are, in essence, a problem solving machine. We have reached this point in our life because we have succeeded at solving problems; this present situation is just the next obstacle that must be overcome and escape the fog.
By removing ourselves from the flog, we can learn to defuse our self from those fused behavioural responses to uncertainty, allowing us permission to begin cultivating new ways of accepting facets of self, or events beyond our control. It is this change in thoughts, feelings and behaviours that will enable us to embrace, with a renewed agency, the cultivation of the transformative behaviours that ensure we emerge form the fog with a renewed sense of control and reach our desired destination.
Brett Rennolds is a qualified psychotherapist DSFH, HPD, MNCH NCH Supervisor and registered with the Complimentary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Brett specialises in a solution-focused approach, complimented by the principles of CBT, ACT, mental health first aid and hypnotherapy. He continues to provide therapy online, via an encrypted platform. For more information please visit his website.