Refusing to Reflect

May 25, 2020 - Mary Fran Bontempo

I never really imagined one of the blessings/curses of the current pandemic would be time to think.

Given our isolation, as well as a 24-hour bad news cycle, it’s hard not to think, unendingly, about the current state of the world and what may lie ahead. It’s almost mandatory reflection, whether you like it or not, and most of us would agree—NOT.

Ordinarily, I think of reflection, whether it’s self-reflection or more tuned to outside circumstances, as a good thing. We live in a world (or at least we used to) where it’s all action, all the time. Immediate responses required, immediate gratification expected, immediate action—sometimes without thought. So, when folks take the time to think before acting, or to reflect on choices made or options available, I’m generally applauding in the background. Wait, someone actually thought about something before commenting, leaping into the fray, or doing something that made everything worse? Well, thank God.

But these days, too much reflection can leave us anxious, stressed, and bordering on hopeless. The current pandemic is something none of us has ever seen before, and we’re more than a little stunned.

It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, having experienced exactly the same sucker punch when I learned that my son, my little boy for whom I would have done anything, was a heroin addict.

Of course, he wasn’t a little boy, but at the time, that was all I could think of. My sweet little baby, whom I’d loved, nurtured, and poured my heart and soul into, was a drug addict. How? When? Why? What did I do? What didn’t I do? Could I have stopped it? What about the time…and why didn’t I do something then?

Then, as now, reflection can become a hamster wheel, keeping us running in place, tortuous questions with no answers racing through our heads. It’s a cycle that never ends, and leads to nothing but what-if’s, why didn’t I’s, and if only’s.

There are few answers to those why, how and when questions. And truly, if a loved one is struggling with addiction, the answers really don’t matter, because the questions don’t. What matters are the facts of what you’re dealing with currently, how you can make the situation better for yourself and your loved one, and how you can release yourself from the guilt that too much reflection can lead to.

When you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of too much thinking time, stop. (I used to tell my kids to use a visual of putting up a stop sign in their heads. Try it; it works.) Redirect your mind to either think of a pleasant memory, or, perhaps better, nothing at all. Giving your brain a break from too much bad news—real or imagined, is a gift worth giving.

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at

Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.

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