As we go to press, our country is awash in sobering news, both at home (with Hurricane Harvey damages in Texas and Louisiana estimated at up to $190 billion, plus those not yet tallied from Irma) and abroad (as North Korea appears hell-bent on playing nuclear roulette)—at a time when we’re still reeling from the effects of torchbearing neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia.
If we are not merely to survive this turmoil but also affirm for—and work to bring about—a healed and whole world, our first step must be to develop rock-solid resilience amidst the chaos. Psychiatrist and intuitive Judith Orloff, M.D. (the subject of this issue’s “Listening in With …”), has made a career out of helping people do just that.
Nine years ago, in conjunction with the release of her book Emotional Freedom, I spoke with Orloff about resilience. With our country then mired in the Great Recession, the topic couldn’t have been more timely.
Orloff’s comments then resonate just as much today. In Emotional Freedom, which became a New York Times best-seller, Orloff recommended taking constructive action in response to stressful situations instead of reacting with negative emotions. She assured readers that witnessing their negative feelings with compassion—for both themselves and others—while also cultivating positive emotions could miraculously transform less-than-ideal situations.
“From a spiritual point of view,” she told me, “we can see each emotion as a trusted guide whose purpose is to enlarge our heart,” choosing to reframe difficulties as challenges that hold the potential to help us grow spiritually. “If you’re dealing with fear, the point is to teach courage,” she explained. “If you’re angry, the point is to find compassion. And if you’re dealing with grief, the point is to let grief work through you to find a level of acceptance and keep moving on to experience more and more love.”
Orloff and I spoke again earlier this year, after her new book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, was released. This book, too, offers advice on dealing with difficult circumstances—specifically for those who, like Orloff herself, are empaths. Their numbers are growing, she says, because as the added stressors of our modern world wear people thin, they become much more sensitive. The ability to withstand all kinds of crazy without losing our sanity is more vital than ever.
To that end, Orloff recommends such steps as staying in the present instead of worrying about the past or fearing the future, avoiding energy vampires by surrounding ourselves only with those who boost instead of drain our energy, engaging in activities that elevate our mood, and feeling gratitude for all that is going right in our lives and in the world.
From this stronger and more stable stance, we are better able to create positive change as we stay focused on being part of the solution rather than feeding the energy of the problem. The suggestion Orloff offered at the end of our conversation a decade ago remains prudent: “Find the light that you can bring forth, and work with that!”
Katy Koontz, Editor