What is this feeling of displacement and how do I deal with it?
A presentation to the Catholic Business Network of Baltimore
By: Matt Anthony
We’ve all experienced it. That moment when an event you’ve planned, or something you assumed was going to happen, goes awry. It can be triggered by something as simple as a flat tire or a sick child. You miss an appointment or you have to cancel a night out, and you end up frustrated and out-of-sorts.
That feeling is displacement, a disruption from the norm or the expected. It occurs when something that you are relying on is removed in some way. And our experiences of displacement start early in our lives. My 6-year-old son HATES it when something is snatched out of his hand (which, unfortunately, is pretty often). It sends him into a fury. He had a plan for that exact crayon! How dare you take it from him!
Of course there are major, life altering forms of displacement. These are things like separation or divorce, job loss, significant health issues, or even the death of a loved one.
It was on the evening of my wife’s birthday fourteen years ago that my doctor called (a call that I was expecting) to tell me that I had a brain tumor. At the time, we were blissfully enjoying the early years of our marriage – and then, suddenly, our plans and dreams were put on hold and cast into serious doubt.
Yeah, you can say that we felt a bit displaced.
Since then, one of the key things that I have learned about displacement is that, while it is often triggered by an outside event, displacement is really your internal response to that external event. And it is how well we are able to deal with the disruption in our lives that directly impacts our feelings of displacement.
We all know that human beings, generally, are not thrilled with change – especially unexpected change. We also don’t like losing control of something that we expect to be able to control. And, as I’ve mulled over this for the past couple weeks, I’ve begun to think that our experiences of displacement actually start before that external, triggering event.
So, are there ways that we can prepare ourselves for these unexpected disruptions? We should all understand that there will be significant external events that cause feelings of displacement that, no matter how ‘prepared’ you may be, will hurt. But a better understanding of displacement may help you deal with these moments. My point is this: You control more of your experience of displacement than you may realize.
Right now, we are all experiencing a common trigger of displacement. Covid-19 has, without a doubt, sent people reeling. It is truly a massive ‘WHO MOVED MY CHEESE!?!’ moment. But, while Covid-19 is the common thread, each of our own experiences of displacement are as unique as we are as individuals. So, a coping mechanism that works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next.
To get through this without losing our minds, we need to get a better grasp of our own feelings of displacement and try to recognize the opportunities that may be unfolding in front of us. In order to do this, you should ask yourself where your primary feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty are. It is your professional life? Your personal life? Your spiritual life?
As I reflected on this idea of displacement, I found myself thinking about a random passage in scripture. Matthew 6: 25-31 – otherwise known as the ‘lilies of the field’ passage. I kept thinking about it, then dismissing it, then it would pop back in my head again. So, I found it in my bible and read it – and I came away with the same thing I always take from it. “Yeah, that’s a nice idea. God loves us so much that we can give up everything and He will take care of us.” Well, there is no way that I am going to stop worrying about feeding and taking care of my family. And I am certain Jesus doesn’t expect me to stop worrying about this either. And for those of who who’ve lost your primary source of income, I know that you are worrying about how to pay the mortgage or rent – and how to feed those you love, too.
So, why did the Holy Spirit slip this passage into my head? Well, I decided to read on…
“But strive FIRST for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and
all these things will be given to you.”
And there it was. Simple as that.
When I sponsored the CBNB meeting last August, my remarks included this: “we are all uniquely designed and created by God. And we are created for a specific purpose.” If we believe this and make this purpose a priority (if we ‘strive first’ for this), then this passage from Matthew doesn’t sound so crazy or out-of-touch. Jesus is simply asking us to try to put God’s plan for us first. Give it priority in your life.
As a life-long Catholic, I am kind-of ashamed to admit that I don’t know 90% of the prayers that all good Catholics should know. So, in my effort to make up for this, I’ve come up with an easy-to-remember 9-syllable prayer. And I try to say it (and mean it) every morning.
“Lord, let your will be done in my life.”
If this comes true, then I’m pretty much set. Right?
Have you given much thought to what God has intended for you? In this time of quarantine, there have been many instances of people discovering things about themselves – or about the world around them – that they hadn’t seen before. These are moments of grace that God wants us to experience. They help us move closer to the people we are called to be. What have you discovered about yourself?
On Sunday, March 22nd – the second Sunday that churches were closed – my family gathered in our living room for the live-stream Mass offered by our parish. The Gospel that Sunday jumped out at me. It is a story we’ve all heard many time. You know, the one where Jesus MacGyver’d a cure for blindness using his spit and some dirt. Pretty amazing stuff.
One particular line jumped out at me – one that I’ve heard but never given much thought. The disciples asked Jesus what caused the man’s blindness, the sins of his parents or the man’s own sins?
“He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)
Who do we blame for our displacement? We naturally turn to practical reasons for why crappy things happen. The practical answers offer moments of hope, consolation. Perhaps they give reason to the unreasonable.
But when I heard that line in the Gospel, the script was flipped for me. Rather than asking who is at fault for this pandemic or whose massive sin caused THIS, perhaps I should be asking how God’s works can be revealed through all of this.
We are uniquely designed and created by God to be right here, right now. We need to ask ourselves: What is God asking me to do in this time and place? I believe that your way through this (and any other) displacement starts with this question.
If this is something you want to discover about yourself, perhaps you can come up with your own home-made prayer. Or you can borrow mine, if you’d like.
A sign that your prayer is being answered may come in the form of you feeling ‘nudged’ to do something. Don’t ignore that nudge. It just may be something that will lead you out of your displacement, because there is no greater feeling of peace and fulfillment than finding out what you are meant to do and doing it.