Preparing for Earthquakes

EarthquakeI’ve been thinking about the two earthquakes that happened a couple years ago. The one in Haiti got a lot of media coverage; the photos broke our hearts. The deadly impoverished country was devastated and still hasn’t recovered to this day.

Many people weren’t aware that a quake of far greater magnitude shook Chile, the affluent nation running down the west coast of South America. The Chile quake was 501 times stronger than Haiti’s according to the Huffington Post, and yet we didn’t hear much about it because there was very little damage. Chile has had a long history of handling emergencies so homes and offices were designed to withstand disasters. The country was in all respects better prepared. By contrast, in Haiti there were no building codes, and Haitians had not been schooled in how to react. Although the earthquake was so much stronger, the damage was minimal in Chile.

Of course, there is a lesson here that it would behoove all of us to be physically prepared for emergencies. There are easily download-able lists on the Internet of items we should have in our cars and homes for emergencies: bottled water, snacks, blankets, candles, etc., and it’s a smart thing to do. It’s prudent to be prepared as Chile was.

But what I’ve been thinking about is the lesson these earthquakes have to teach us about our emotional lives. People whose lives are stable are like Chile; that is, they are more easily able to deal with an emotional “earthquake,” than people whose lives are not.

For example, I often suggest to my single patients that they focus on having enough platonic friends first before they focus on finding a partner. They will be more emotionally prepared for the “earthquakes” of dating if they have enough emotional support in their lives and aren’t waiting for their partners to provide that stability.

If you develop emotionally supportive networks around you now, they will be there for you when life brings you an “earthquake,” as it inevitably will. Life brings emotional suffering to everyone at some time in their lives. Someone you love will die; someone might leave you; you may have financial difficulties. These events are universally devastating, but if your life is stable, you can survive the earthquake as a prepared country such as Chile did, rather than be rocked to your core and barely able to recover like an impoverished Haiti.

© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth

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Catherine Auman is a Los Angeles psychotherapist specializing in transpersonal psychology, also known as spiritual psychology.

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