COVID-19: The Perpetual Tunnel

Whenever we’re in the dark for a long time and lose our sense of time and direction, our fears may point us to what’s “bad about this” and what’s “not working,” and life quickly becomes a wild and unstable ride.

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Analogies and metaphors have always helped me make sense of things I couldn’t understand; they have built bridges between gaps in my knowledge and experience over the years.

Lately, I’ve been equating the COVID-19 pandemic to the experience of going through a tunnel (which most of us have been through before, whether by train, subway, car, or another vehicle).

When we first enter a tunnel, we are temporarily cast into a period of darkness—and for the time being, we have limited access to light and a sense of direction. This transition is palpable and obvious.

But we don’t panic. We wait it out.

We know that at some point, we will get through the tunnel and come out “the other side.” And when we do, we’re usually not surprised where we are. We expect a different scene than we left when we went into the tunnel, especially if we’re traveling through mountains or long passageways.

Now take the tunnel experience and compare it to the current COVID-19 pandemic…but with a twist. We’ve all entered the tunnel, but we’re still in it—a perpetual tunnel—and in addition, what awaits us on the other side is unknown.

We don’t know which direction we’re going (i.e., how things will be after this), and we don’t know when we will come out the other side.

Now can you understand why some people are panicking?

Whenever we’re in the dark for a long time and lose our sense of time and direction, our fears may point us to what’s “bad about this” and what’s “not working,” and life quickly becomes a wild and unstable ride.

But here’s the difference: While we might still be in the tunnel, we’re not standing still. Even if we feel stagnant, we’re still moving—just at a much slower pace than what we’re accustomed to.

We’re moving. Even when we’re still in the dark.

And with that understanding, what can we do in the meantime? We can wait. And we can remember that like anything else that enters our experience, this, too, shall pass.

We are still growing, changing, and adapting, whether we’re conscious of it or not. And we’re still learning.

We’re learning to slow down.

We’re learning to practice patience (some doing this better than others…).

We’re learning to focus our attention on what’s good and what’s working.

We’re learning to have faith, stay the path, and trust the process.

And if we can learn to trust when we’re in the dark, imagine what we can do when we’re back in the light.

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is a life transition coach, best-selling author, and founder of The White Box Club™ — live coaching and resources for people in career transition. Find his syndicated blogs on Thrive Global, Medium, and The Huffington Post. Learn more at


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