By Isha Sadiq Haider
If I didn’t learn, I wouldn’t survive…
My subconscious mind kept smothering me with this statement while I was busy sanitizing the last set of fruits that my husband had recently brought back home. Having shooed my inquisitive toddler out of the kitchen in a frenzied state of paranoia, I managed to religiously resume my battle with the Covid19 virus that shrieked at me haughtily from on top of the orange I was washing.
“Just look at how pathetic you humans appear while trying to get rid of ME with your 20-second soap ritual! You may try as hard as you can, but I’m here to stay with all my clan!”
I could feel the virus mocking me sadistically every time I disinfected myself, my family, my home, or anything for that matter which had any potential for virus contact.
Managing multiple fronts such as working from home, executing humdrum chores, responding to the harrowing demands of an aggravated toddler whose psychological growth was thwarted due to the instigated confinement, and this nettlesome compulsion of not being able to have a decent conversation with family or friends outside Whatsapp or Zoom exacerbated my emotional vulnerability even further.
I knew if I wanted to survive all of this without ending up going berserk, I had to learn and develop myself cognitively every single day.
It becomes immensely easy to get psychologically debilitated in stages of loneliness and social deprivation that we are presently in. While some fare better than the rest as they ensure their daily plans include activities nurturing their self-actualization levels, a majority are left stranded with a void in their souls lodged with low self-esteem, passivity, loneliness, and feelings of failure.
Abraham Maslow (1943) asserts that humans have a plethora of ‘needs’ that they need to meet to remain fulfilled with their lives such as physiological, safety and security, social belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization.
By virtue of this minacious virus, our physiological needs are thronged with a minimalistic disposition, our safety needs are oppressed with a risk to our lives, our social belonging needs are repressed by imposed quarantines and our self-esteem and self-actualization needs are suppressed by lack of ground to persevere, perform, and prove.
Maslow expounded in his research how a lack of fulfillment of these needs may lead one to loneliness, clinical depression, and anxiety. Alluding to this hypothesis, rationality calls one to eliminate futile deliberations on components beyond control such as the safety and security threats that the virus puts forth, rather concentrate all energy on what can be done to enhance one’s cognitive disposition to an extent that other uncontrollable elements become secondary.
Self-development through learning anything of one’s interest, for instance, a new subject, skill, or art, can play a fundamental role in allowing one to overcome this sense of deprivation and to activate the functionality of the brain’s reward system. Research in neuroscience provides that neurotransmitters carry the chemical element ‘dopamine’ in the brain which impacts our bodies with increased contentment. Behavioral scientists have also theorized that people eager to learn and work hard had greater levels of dopamine in their systems as compared to those who slacked.
Consequently, power is vested within us to determine our perceptive outcomes in this time of social deprivation. During the current state of loneliness, constantly endeavoring to become better versions of ourselves will not only ignite utter contentment and reverence within us but more so serve as a barrier against becoming victims of our ego’s introjections of worthlessness.
Irrespective of our bodily state, the dynamics of our cognition play an imperative role in defining our realities to ourselves. This brings me to Archie Williams who was wrongly incarcerated for 37 years for somebody else’s crime. He could have simply broken down and given up on life but instead, he engaged in intellectual pursuits and cognitive development during his sentence.
‘Freedom is of the mind. It’s all about how we view life. I was physically in prison but I never let my mind go to prison.’
These words of Archie Williams are bound to resonate. Seizing the day within the existing limitations is exponentially better than brooding on what is beyond control!
To this end, while we are all gripped by this contagion, it becomes our duty to vicariously think outside the Corona box and meticulously pursue our cognitive capacities, so that when all of this is over, we come out of this invisible prison with gratefulness, not bitterness.
The author is the owner of two K-12 schools in India, one of which has been granted CBSE affiliation. She is an MBA in Information Technology & Finance with several years of senior legal advisory work experience in KPMG Kuwait. She is also a published poet and writer.