The war in Ukraine is scary. And we can still move forward.
How are you responding to the events in Ukraine? I am hearing from many directions -- friends, colleagues, media, clients -- the war in Ukraine is disturbing or unsettling; people are concerned, angry, and very worried. I feel it too.
It has taken my attention, sometimes several times a day. I saw the inspiring talk of Ukrainian President Zelensky to the Russian people; I saw chaotic pictures of destroyed military vehicles amid city rubble; and I saw wrenching video of people urgently crossing at borders. And there are as many thoughts and feelings that come up for me as there are images and stories: worry and anxious thoughts; fear of uncertain changes coming; disappointment; anger; sadness. It could pull me in many different directions.
One alternative is to turn away and pretend it isn't happening. Another alternative is to listen to the parts of me that are activated and help them respond in a useful way. That's the path I choose.
There is a part of me that wants to reach out and help the people who are in harms way. As I get in touch with this part of me, I'm confused because I see that I don't know much about them, their circumstances, their needs and wants. This part is right, I don't know yet; I can begin to find out, using my curiosity and compassion.
There is a part of me that sees how overwhelming this situation is, that wants to give up. Four million displaced people is equivalent to the entire metro area where I live. It is hard to imagine everyone here, everyone around me for hundreds of miles, having to move immediately to stay safe, taking very little with them. And where do they go? As much as I might want to, I can't put up four million people in my apartment. I don't have enough blankets! As I try to wrap my head around the size of this situation, a colleague reminds me there are over 80 million people displaced around the world. Is it all too big for me? A part of me says I should just give up, that I can't solve this. This part is also right; I cannot solve this problem by myself. I can use my courage and patience and work with others and do my part. Together, we will certainly be more effective.
There is a part of me that is frightened; the images of chaos, damage, injuries, and death are scary at a very basic level. If this can happen, what prevents other assaults, big and small? A historian, Yuval Noah Harari, suggests that this war could take money and attention away from addressing climate change, which sounds scary to me in a different way. And this part is right too -- it is scary. I can use my compassion and courage to acknowledge my fears, comfort myself, and recognize that I am capable of moving forward.
Using these qualities that we all have inside us -- courage, compassion, patience, curiosity, and more -- allows me to acknowledge all the thoughts, feelings, and wants of various parts activated by this situation. I don't try to push these parts of me aside or manage them as I used to. In turn, these parts do not need to take over -- I don't need to hang on the news channels or get stuck on my phone. My parts aren't bad, they aren't even wrong. They just need me to bring the qualities of my core self to lead them.