What You Miss Most Is an Essential Clue to Who You Are
To paraphrase Anton Chekhov and/or The Spice Girls: Tell me what you miss, and I’ll tell you who you are.
Here’s a thought experiment. Clear your mind, close your eyes, and simply ask yourself: What do I miss most right now? Capture the first thing that comes to mind. Not the second thing, which will be what you think you should miss most. The first, automatic thing. And to be clear, I mean a specific thing in your own life, something you can control. Let’s assume that we all miss the world as we knew it, but that’s not in our circle of influence, is it?
In this current cultural stillness, we have a unique opportunity to see things differently — and maybe see ourselves a little more clearly. “This time we’re in is interesting because we’re spending less time and energy trying to look good and mirror societal ideals,” notes Kathleen Smith, a licensed therapist and the author of Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down. “The pandemic has drowned out a lot of that day-to-day noise that tells us who we should be and what we should want, the things that distract us from what we really value.”
I was surprised by how this experiment went for me: When I asked myself what I miss most right now, the first thing I pictured was walking in my local leafy park without a mask on. Huh? This is not what my logical, planning, sensible thinking brain would have said. My thinking brain would have told you: Surely, I miss the city: the subway, meeting friends in restaurants, streets being crowded and full of life.
My thinking brain has some ideas that I like. But many psychologists believe that your most immediate thought is also your most honest (it’s what drives psychology studies like the implicit association test), and it’s interesting to me to note that my gut reaction is just to want a walk in the park — a walk among trees and fresh air, a walk without planning, a walk full of possibility, a walk that might veer into a cafe or lead me to cross paths with a friend.
How can I use this piece of information to help me keep in touch with myself once the world becomes noisier again? On a practical level, maybe I remind myself that I…