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Forced Existential Crisis

Jennifer Grubb, Director of Counseling Services
Jennifer Grubb is Fountain Valley’s Director of Counseling Services who supports our community as a resource for social and emotional support. She holds a masters of science degree in mental health counseling and is a licensed and nationally certified counselor.

A crisis is exactly what is required to shock people out of unaware dependence upon external dogma and to force them to unravel layers of pretense to reveal the naked truth about themselves which, however unpleasant, will at least be solid.
—Rollo May

We are in a strange paradox—we have more information available than ever before, yet we continue to have so little certainty about ourselves. COVID-19, and the unimaginable changes to the world as we knew it, make it imperative to attend to the beings to whom these things are happening. In other words, we must address this forced existential crisis in ourselves.

As a mental health provider, my role is to offer questions in a way that encourages people to explore their own experiences. The hope is that by asking questions rather than providing answers, individuals will come away with a deeper understanding and self-awareness. I strive to guide people toward, rather than lead them to, their own answers.

We have no choice now but to address these central questions: loss, isolation, emotion, freedom, and meaning. We have no choice but to face what it means to be human and what makes it so hard. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t deal with these difficult times—maybe it just means that we have been given the chance to no longer repress the essence of being. As we collectively learn to “just be,” how do we manage finding the answers to life’s big questions?

Thinking about loss is a reality of our current situation, both literally and figuratively.
>>How can we invite grieving to prepare for life beyond this particular crisis?

Humans are social beings. Even if we enjoy or crave periods of alone time, we typically return to those social connections. Strong relationships foster mental and social support.
>> How are we finding ways to nurture those relationships to bring satisfaction and joy?

It can be tempting to block out pain and suffering, especially now. On the other hand, acknowledging, embodying, and processing emotions—even the hard ones—can improve outlook.
>>How can we welcome others to share their emotions, and how can we find comfort in doing the same?

Right now, so many of our choices are being made for us or dictated to us.
>>How can we maintain the ability to make choices AND offer choices to others?

Purpose can provide hope.
>>Despite our roles and the time allotment of those roles shifting for almost all of us, how are we able to redefine meaning for ourselves?

One such question I asked myself in order to give personal meaning to my work is “what helps people heal?” Those answers remain the guideposts of my approach to mental health counseling:

Be present.
Be patient.
Be gentle.
Be kind.
Be true.

With ourselves and with others.

As we reveal our own truths, we will be solid. Let’s tend to the beings to whom these things are happening, and we will heal.
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