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March 26, 2020
by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

Learning from Goldilocks

March 26, 2020 12:48 by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW  [About the Author]

This is not the blog that was, originally, intended.  Given the unfamiliar turn that has engulfed this planet, it seems prudent to comment on the hardship that has affected all of humanity as we know it.

Coronavirus.  This group of viruses was discovered in the 1960’s.  Included in this aggregation are SARS and MERS.  The current outbreak has caused a pandemic — a comprehensive communicable disease situation — that has closed down entire countries, like Italy.  The city of San Francisco is under a shelter-in-place order that demands that individuals leave their homes only when there is acute necessity.  It is not, at the present time, understood how this order will be discharged or what penalties will be placed upon those who are noncompliant.

What has this to do with Goldilocks?  When she (without permission) entered the home of the three bears she found food that was too hot or cold and furniture that was too big or small or too hard or soft.  Goldilocks had to search for items that were “just right”.  That is the point. 

As a society, many have lost sight of what is just right or adequate, or enough.  Now that retailers are closing stores and the citizenry has been asked to gather in groups of no more than ten at one time (more on that later), the time has arrived to focus on the strengths within.

Especially vulnerable to this disease are baby boomers and those who are older.  In the United States alone, we are talking about roughly 73 million people.  While younger individuals may catch the virus and are destructive carriers of the disease.  This, of course, in unintentional.  Additionally, we have no solid information that defines the age range of “young”.  There are no reliable maps to instruct as to what does and does not put us at greater risk.  No restaurants, but drive throughs are ok — why?

 If part of the outcome of this experience is that some have learned how to live with themselves, with limited diversions, that would be an excellent step forward in terms of human behavior.

Some may do this on their own.  Some via telecommunication, some with the assistance of the written word.  However it comes about, when done properly, there will be people who are more at peace with themselves and others when the world is, once again, open for “business”.

Mental health professionals are aware of the preponderance of underlying shame and fear in the heretofore untold stories of those who ask for help.  The larger epidemic that knows no limits is the plague of self-loathing. 

Those most likely to hide what they believe to be their true nature from others have distorted beliefs about themselves.  The fear that accompanies the resistance to introspection is based on minimal evidence.

Although those who reared us have tremendous influence over individual self-image, they were not all-knowing.  Being mortal themselves, they were simply doing the best they knew how to do.

There will always be a quantum of mystery as to how we become who we are.  Very few are actual sociopaths.  Estimates range from 1 -4% of the world population who are actually evil.  Chances are that anyone who is reading this does not have a dark and frightening chunk deep within.

To simplify, humans need love (attachment) and work (purpose).  It is self-defeating to limit the interpretations of those needs.  If you have a goldfish or garden or human that you attend to, it might be safe to say that the caretaking is an act of love.  To expand the discussion:  caretaking also includes purpose. The goldfish, garden, or human might perish without your protection.

The world has been presented with an undeniable murderer — a poorly understood virus.  This may not be an ideal time to embark on deep, long-term psychotherapy.  It is, however, a splendid time to make a deal with oneself.  It may be more powerful if the terms of the contract are written and can be reviewed. 

Commit to suspend self- abhorrence during this time of confinement and uncertainty.  Don’t worry, distrust of the self will be ready to jump right back in when the trauma is over.  Begin to notice when your monkey chatter (inner condemning voice) goes on the attack.  Be alert.  As soon as the haranguing begins, tell yourself to stop.  You might want to say that aloud.  You do not want to exhaust your energy going into battle with that old, familiar enemy.

 The most successful way to keep to the course is to practice mindfulness.  A simplified explanation of this exercise is to stay in the moment. It is imperative to understand that no one knows the future.  No pundit, physician, educator, or politician.  Keep the focus on the here and now — it is the only time that is at hand.

Try to live as healthily as possible during this time. Caving in to destructive impulses will make the recovery all the more difficult.  This is a time when it is judicious to function at optimal level.  Buffers that appear to offer relief in the short-term will compromise the speed and depth of the renewal.  Be aware of your behavior about risk-taking, drugs and alcohol, spending, and tendency to assume the worst. 

Stay in contact with a variety of individuals.  You do not need to listen to the naysayers.  They will only deepen your discomfort.  The electronic devices that are accessible are helpful in these times.  Do not allow yourself to isolate from human communication for days at a time.  Keeping a six foot physical distance from others is not negotiable. Simply going for a walk and nodding a greeting to those you pass will remind you that you are still connected to the human race.

This will, of course pass.  It is not possible to know who will be hurt irretrievably.  In the meantime, give yourself credit for all your efforts.  Do the best you can.  If you begin to grow angel wings you can expect perfection.  Otherwise, be kind to yourself and try to be patient with others.

About the Author

Ruth Gordon Ruth Gordon, MA/MSW/LCSW

I bring with me +30 years of experience as a clinician. My Masters degrees are from: Assumption College, Worcester, MA, Master of Arts in Psychology & Counseling/ and Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA, an MSW in Clinical Social Work. This is the 11th year I have written a monthly newsletter that is sent to approximately 500 individuals. The archive can be found on my website,

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