Q. The recent hurricanes, floods, droughts and earthquakes have been quite disturbing for me to witness and learn about. I find myself feeling afraid, confused and pretty despondent when I see such large scale calamities. I am grateful that I am safe and my family hasn’t been affected by these disasters and I also feel guilty that I am focused on my petty concerns and wants. Moreover, I don’t know how I would cope if something disastrous happened in my town. The future is starting to look more bleak and I am afraid about panicking.

A. Every week there seems to be some major calamity on the planet this year. Being present to these dire situations is indeed important and is emotionally distressing and even overwhelming at times. When these big events take place, we realize our smallness, ineffectiveness and lack of control in life. Most of the time we believe that we are in charge and that we will live forever. Actually, we are incredibly vulnerable and things can change at moment’s notice. This is the nature of being within physical bodies. It has always been so. However the ways of our modern society makes us believe otherwise.

These events are a wake up call to come into greater alignment with natural laws and to live to promote sustainability. If climate change is driving some of these natural disasters, then we can do something about it over the long run. Some issues are truly beyond our control and all of our ancestors had to deal with these issues too. This is why humans survive and benefit by being in a community. Suffering opens our hearts and we recognize that we deeply need each other. Then, giving and receiving help from each other is not a burden, but actually an integral part of healthy living. Just pursuing our individual desires and lives can only offer limited happiness and satisfaction.

It often takes a crisis for people to recognize this and to think in larger and more communal terms. To believe that you can deal with these challenges alone leads to panic and depression. To appreciate that life is temporary, a gift and an opportunity helps us bring our deepest selves to help a crisis and strengthen what truly makes us human.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com

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