While the virus seems to be swiftly conquering our air, the tendency of humans to attach to and live in the delusion of certainty appears to be shaken with it. The pandemic has tragically, on an unprecedented scale, shown us how little control we really have in navigating our lives. With rampant loss of human life, health and interconnectedness, the consequences for the mental health of billions around the world seem bleak. How did we get here? Has the virus clamped down on our previously held freedoms? Or has it simply stripped away the veneer of our world’s carefully concocted human sense of control?

Each one of us might be experiencing a different cocktail of emotions right now, but it should come as no shock that what one is feeling is either directly or indirectly connected to one common human denominator—our lifelong struggle to establish certainty. This struggle knows no bounds. It is always there—always lurking behind each and every single decision you make in your life. The clothes you wear, the school you go to, the job you fight for, your investment in religion, the age-defined milestones you scream after and the tug of war you sweat over in relationships are all manifestations of the misguided hope that perhaps one day, you will carefully manipulate life in giving you the silver platter of the right diameter and shine. That certainty will somehow arrive if you follow the remnants of equally unconscious and lost past generations—their coveted ‘xyz’ defined parameters of tightly enclosing life in one’s hands. Life is not meant to be enclosed and neither can it be. For the one event or occurrence you were luckily able to experience with some certainty, there will always be a hundred others where this expectation will be decimated.

If you are willing to see it, this delusion has become pronounced during the context of this pandemic because we’re at a standstill. Not even in our wildest imagination had we seen something of this scale to come and challenge our misperceived immunity from loss, suffering and uncertainty. We are undergoing a collective trauma and the spectrum of reactions we see from different individuals are all valid and are people’s own unique ways of dealing with the devastating change of reality. There is no ‘correct’ way of being during the pandemic but a lot of our reactions seem to have common underlying threads.

Some individuals are in complete denial of the pandemic. The virus doesn’t exist for them and it is just another conspiracy. They might attach themselves to whatever knowledge source or information that claims to support this denial and will be unwilling to budge no matter what dimension of current reality you show them. This denial has everything to do with attachment to the familiar, pre-pandemic lost reality and is clearly a symptom of culture and upbringing that jumps hoops to distract or numb people from unwanted, discomfort inducing experiences on a daily basis. Culture erroneously dictates that any painful or disconcerting experience is immediately dispensable and there is something to be gained from pouncing to grab the remote to flip to another channel. Denial can be a useful, protective temporary mechanism to bypass a more damaging impact on one’s self; most of us have had some experience with it. There’s no denying that a head-on collision with a stark reality can be annihilating to many and denial offers a temporary escape from observing the rawness of the wound that lays covered up beneath the bandage. But why is it so easy to fall into this? Because we were never told to breathe through the rhythm of not being in control, dissolving our trust in our own selves to be able to survive the suffocation of a life that is always in flux. Even though our very stoically built armour—which we invest in over a lifetime—may shield us from the reality that dare not consume us, it is this very armour that will prevent this reality from ever touching and transforming us.

Some of us may not be in complete denial of the pandemic. We may have some acceptance. The virus is there and is devastating the world we knew. In this case, individuals aren’t irked by this rapidly-changing reality because they have swallowed the belief that while there might be uncertainty and suffering, they are absolved from it. It won’t touch them. Again, another delusion that we have been brought up with. Global suffering will only move them once it hits close. Until then, the self-created bubble of certainty persists. And it is only when, unfortunately, suffering finally knocks on their door the shock and bafflement on them being chosen might disrupt their long-held delusion of certainty.

These are of course just a few manifestations of the problem. You and I both know most of us have battled against uncertainty at one point or another, even if we don’t necessarily fit the scenarios mentioned above. If we didn’t pay attention to our constant running away from reality before, COVID invites us to see if we are ready to take the first dive into the chaos that envelopes us. We can’t run away like we used to. The music has momentarily stopped playing and we can’t dance anymore to get lost into oblivion once again. We are alone; scared; anxious; helpless. Looking on the outside—looking to the external world for sanity and comfort is not an option anymore. The external world has magically stepped away on its own to create space for all of us to finally look within and embrace our vulnerability—the only antidote to the indoctrination of the illusion of certainty. When there is a painful yet wholehearted acceptance of reality can we begin to shatter our dysfunctional paradigm of living a life designed to capture something that will never exist. While we all continue to experience this traumatic pandemic episode in our unique contexts, let’s start to question our resistance to the current moment whenever possible.