I am not sure about you, but I have been going for walks lately. They aren’t anything special. Just 30 to 45 minutes of walking around my neighborhood. It is interesting what I have discovered in this place where I have lived for nearly 30 years.
Neighbors! There are other people outside walking and riding their bikes too! (No worries. We are all several feet apart and we only shyly wave and smile at one another once in a while.)
Spring! I have never before seen all of the ways spring quietly comes into view. Before it was a brilliant week of flowering trees that I noticed on my way to work. Now, it is tiny shoots of green peeking out of dark soil that only later burst into moments of yellow as the sun silently shines on them.
Bears! I kid you not. There are bears in the windows of the houses that I walk past. The first time I saw these bears peering out at me, I was startled. What are bears doing in the windows?
Later, I found out that the stuffed bears are placed in windows for children to look for as they take walks with their families. The bears stand witness to the play children and families are experiencing as they make the days of quarantine count — not just in numbers, but also in experiences of discovery and fun.
Now, this is a tiny bit different than how I use the imagery of bears. When I want to describe the difference between an imagined danger and a real danger, I ask people to look for “bears.”
I use bears as examples of DANGER.
Real dangers: Not being able to take a breath. Being wounded in an accident. Falling down and not being able to get up. Choking on food.
Danger so big and so present, that when you see it, you should RUN away immediately and get help. Or you should prepare to FIGHT for your life.
I use this example because most of the things that people think about and that frighten them are not presently dangerous. They are not even happening.
The brain doesn’t know if it is a thought, feeling or real.
So, if you do NOT see an actual bear, not just a worry about a bear, or a thought about a bear, or a feeling that maybe there is a bear in the closet sitting beside your three-year-old’s monster friend…. In this very moment, you are safe from bears.
PAUSE, take a breath. You are safe.
Now, take a walk.
Look for stuffed bears who are inviting you to play with them.
About Elizabeth M. Johnson, LCSW, LMFT
Therapist and Clinical Director
Beth has been practicing individual, relationship and family therapies in the Indianapolis and Greenwood communities for more than 30 years. She completed her studies through Indiana University, including 13 years of supervision specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Beth also is an artist and writer and has a passion for creating art and offering creative opportunities for women.