Blog 05/20 – Sibylle Maeder

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About our Blog 2020

After receiving very positive feedback on our blog contributions in the last years, we would like to continue this still young tradition of the Liechtenstein Academy Blog also this year.

Also in 2020, it is important for us to consider very different perspectives in order to offer you the most stimulating possible offer. This year, we have been able to attract six well-known guest authors, who, with no editorial filters, write about their personal thoughts. Look forward to new and surprising insights from Michael Bursik, complex issues, simply explained by Ulrich Schnabel, philosophical insights from Dr. Ina Schmidt, astute thoughts by our language and legal expert Carlos A. Gebauer, exciting topics around the many topics of working in the digital era by Sibylle Mäder as well as constructive considerations of our health expert Christoph von Oldershausen.

We wish you a stimulating read.

Your Liechtenstein Academy team

Two «viruses» – Thoughts and feelings in times of uncertainty

Since the middle of March many things have changed here in Europe and around the world. Only slowly are we returning to the «new normality». We have been hearing and reading about one virus – the coronavirus – every day for weeks. People have experienced a lot of suffering as a result: sickness, death, violence, separation, isolation, loneliness, financial hardship. I will only write about this in passing.

I am concerned about the other virus, the virus of negative thoughts and emotions, above all fear. It celebrates a boom in times of uncertainty. At first it was about the fear of illness and death. Now comes the fear of an economic crisis, job loss, financial hardship, surveillance, loss of individual freedom, and uncertainty about the consequences of COVID-19 or even a possible second wave.

I don't want to deny the fear its good sides, because it is an important companion of our life and has enabled humanity to survive until today. It warns us to be careful and protects us from danger. However, excessive fear can have a considerable negative impact on our quality of life and our health. The American writer, Mark Twain, once said: «I have lived through countless catastrophes in my life – very few of which have occurred.»

What counts is our way of looking at things, our thoughts and emotions, because life takes place primarily in our head, in our subjectivity. Whether we see the famous glass of water half full or half empty is up to us and our discipline of thought. Of course there are people who by nature go through life more light-hearted and happier than others. A British research study at the University of Essex by the scientist Elaine Fox and her colleagues shows that this could be due to the 5-HTTLPR gene, the so-called lucky gene. These people have a longer variant of the gene and tend to see primarily the good in life. Those people with the shorter lucky gene are more prone to anxiety, melancholy or even depression.
Nevertheless, our genetic disposition alone does not determine how we perceive our lives. We have room for manoeuvre and are not simply victims of our thoughts and feelings. We are much more than that and should not believe everything we think. How and what we think has a considerable effect on our psychological and physical well-being. It is advisable to bring this into our consciousness again and again.

In order for me and my own – often destructive – thoughts to come to my senses, I must first become aware of what is going on in my head, of the way I think. This requires that I become an observer of my own thoughts and feelings, and this in turn requires calm, reflection and discipline. Haven't the last few weeks, in which the possibilities of distraction were severely limited, provided the opportunity for this? Only with self-observation and self-knowledge do I have the opportunity to recognize unhealthy, life-hostile patterns and to counteract them in a corrective way.

In the last weeks of the lockdown I have observed different reaction and behaviour patterns. There were those people who found it hard to accept that they could not do what they had always done. Who missed all those things that were suddenly no longer taken for granted, and who lamented the absence of those who were. At the same time, the excessive consumption of mostly negative corona news has not contributed much to a more positive mood.
Then there were the other people who were curious and took pleasure in experiencing themselves, their family, their partners in a new way, in dialogues more often than usual, in rediscovering friendships, in being more creative, in learning new things, in spending a lot of time in nature, in moving around more often, in cooking more often and eating healthier food, in picking up a more detailed book again and simply in experiencing everyday life in a different way than usual. For these people this incomparable situation was an adventure in the best sense of the word.

Each of us has an inner freedom – or as Viktor Frankl called it – the «defiant power of the spirit». The way we think has to do with personal responsibility. It is at this inner place that we primarily decide how we experience our life – the past, the present or the future. Let's simply not give the two viruses a chance and enjoy our creative space!

Written by: Sibylle Maeder