By Roberta Hanus
…when I hear a word or a phrase that fascinates or is new to me, my ears perk up and I ponder the possibility that it may have greater significance than what was intended.
Today a client of mine described the situation in her life as a “hard re-set”.
I am a Jungian-oriented therapist and I listen to words in much the same way that I listen to dreams. Words, like dreams, are a symbolic language that can have so much more meaning and weight than what a person might imagine. So, when I hear a word or a phrase that fascinates or is new to me, my ears perk up and I ponder the possibility that it may have greater significance than what was intended. I don’t consider myself to be computer-savvy, so the words “hard re-set” got my attention. I asked my client “what is this?”
She explained: “a hard re-set is necessary when a computer or other device crashes or is otherwise unresponsive. A hard re-set ends all current software operations and is used to remove or wipe out all data in a system.“ (Italics are my emphasis.)
I believe that the socio-political conflict of the past several weeks and months are akin to a hard re-set. Like a sluggish computer, our core values are not functioning properly and the elimination of our previous behavior and data is long overdue. Our hard drive has broken down, collapsed after being paralyzed in its ability to send or receive information adequately. Certain bugs have been voted out, but still we’re pretty sure that since our democracy was hacked, it hasn’t been working smoothly. The software (i.e. our hearts and minds) has been infected by an insidious virus and the program we relied on to help rectify this has become unresponsive. Face it: the entire system has crashed.
My experience with a hard re-set is that afterwards, everything looks better, sounds better, works better, feels better. A hard re-set removes statues of slaveholders from our landscape, defunds police departments, and upholds legislation protecting the fundamental rights of every black, brown or LGBTQ individual. A hard re-set breathes new life into our economy with homes, jobs, food, and healthcare as a basic human right, not a privilege. A hard re-set is a nonviolent protest that advances our Democracy’s ability to function in the way it was built to function, meant to function.
From this symbolic perspective, the recent events of this year have been akin to installing a new browser, an essential component for the future of our country. A new hard drive that fosters an equal relationship with citizens throughout the world and depends with respect on the vitality, leadership, creative ideas and hardwiring of the passionate youth who have come forward to organize marches, coordinate communities and pump up the volume!
Listening to the words that an individual or a culture creates and then uses to define or frame the experience they are having is not only interesting, but fun. It also provides another dimension to the conversations folks are having.
Another oddball word is the ubiquitous “coronavirus”, named supposedly for the little crowns it has posted about its miniscule ball-shaped cell. Even as I write this, I envision our planet with the same impression: various monarchies popping up around the globe, each capable of becoming a dictatorship, lording over the public health of the individuals who inhabit its boundaries.
Corona as “king” or “crown” is representative of our democracy (or any other) — becoming so out of balance, it ends up representing only the 1% instead of the majority. I am amazed at the image of this goofy looking, red spiked “king of viruses”, yet it serves to deepen the symbolic dreaming that I believe in. I find it fascinating that while we call or identify a word one way, we unknowingly or unconsciously express something more expansive and foreboding.
Another word that has my attention these days is “asymptomatic”. The notion that you may be positive for the coronavirus but have never experienced discomfort related to it, is like what many people often say when they are told they have white privilege. They believe they are without symptoms. And when we are reminded that racism hides in every nook and cranny of our institutions, laws, and civil opportunities, we go on believing we haven’t been “infected”. Even when scientific research continues to prove otherwise, illustrating that micro-aggressions and otherwise overt manifestation of racism exist within our culture, denial exists.
Why people like to believe they are safe when racism has been a public health problem for generations puzzles me, but the same denial exists with regards to COVID-19. Apparently, we prefer to see only our “good” sides and cannot imagine having symptoms or behaviors that are both dangerous and life threatening. Our minds fool us into thinking that we are free and clear, so we prop up our asymptomatic identities and trust we can handle the road ahead.
It is amazing that we will do anything to survive when there has been a threat to our freedom. When our “freedom” to go “anywhere we want, whenever we want to” seems to be threatened, we proceed as if we can simply rewrite or wipe out the past.
My recollection of this country’s history is that the symptoms of oppression, denial and egomaniacal behavior came over on the Mayflower. Or as the guru I know once said: Wherever you go, there you are.
As the upcoming, yet unknown, dreamlike events of 2020 continue, pay attention to the words and phrases being used. One way you might do this is by pretending the person you are listening to is speaking a language you have never heard before. Let yourself “not know” the words you are listening to. You may find that behind every word that fascinates you is a land of possibilities just waiting to be explored. As each new word or phrase pops up in our lexicon, consider — like Dorothy after her house sailed through the sky and crashed into the magical land of Oz — “I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” Remember too that if we follow the yellow brick road of 2020 in front of us, we might just discover everything we have been looking for.