These are unusual times. Much of the western world is now barricaded behind their front doors. In some countries list Spain and France the police are forcing people inside.
You might be feeing concerned, anxious, hopeless, fearful or many other emotions. In this post, I want to talk about 3 elements of the psychology of change that can give you insight on how you are feeling, and then five questions on to deal with this.
Surviving the lock-down
I have spent time working with people who have been in prison, and many have a similar set of emotions - bewilderment of going inside, a fear of the unknown, uncertainty about relatives, and a freedoms lost. The vast majority are guilty, but there are some who aren't, and a number who don't see the same story as the jury. They can stew in the situation, or make the enforce incarceration a positive change for their lives.
What makes those people in prison survive are:
- Acceptance of the situation - you can fight for 'injustice' but you're still restricted. Prisoners who are polite, respectful and serve others cope better
- Exploring the opportunities in the constraints - you can still thrive but with a new world - trying new learning, hobbies, friendships - Prisoners who grab the opportunity of education, learning and personal growth are more likely to do well after.
- Create meaning for themselves in their situation - Victor Frankl looked at those who survived the holocaust, and they were people who created meaning for themselves and community. People without meaning were crushed and were quicker to die of malnutrition etc. Many prisoners discover faith or other philosophies of meaning and that can give them a positive outward focus.
- Taking responsibility to drive their change - the prison system's default answer is 'no', so the only way to move things forward is through resilience and determination. Taking ownership of what you can do in the constraints, rather than expecting the 'system' to solve the problem means you're more likely to get the outcome you need.
Coping with your dip
Much of the Western world is going through lock down. We are losing our freedoms and risk losing loved ones too.
When confronted with change, we all go through the following staged. During the Covid-19 crisis, you could see each country going through this curve - denial that the virus will affect their country, putting into some restrictions and frustration that the number of victims are rising, then a depression on full-lock down with the fear of the size of the pandemic. Perhaps we are still in that place.
On a personal note, consider where you are on this curve, and recognise there is the experiment, decision and integration elements out the other side. We might not be in the worst of the problem, yet, but with any crisis there will be an end, and people survive and thrive.
5 Questions to take ownership of the your change
Five questions to ask yourself:
- What resources do I have around me that can help me take the opportunity that this crisis gives? For example - time to study, do DIY, spend time with the family, learn an instrument, or art etc
- What is this crisis teaching me about my character? Are you anxious, resilient, optimistic, helpful, and friend in need etc
- What is this crisis teaching me about what is really important in my life? Now you are having freedoms taken away from you, what have you taken for granted, and what do you hold dear? Do you really need the car, or the size of car? Do you really need new?
- What do I need to do now to survive this? - Perhaps it is to realise what luxuries in life you can do with out, to reduce your expenditure. Perhaps it's making a real difference with your current employer to keep your job, or know where the demand is and move towards that.
- What do I need to do now to thrive after this? - What training can you do now, what relationships do you need to foster, what kindness do you give out, so that it comes back later? Watching the companies that succeed in the upturn, they often invest wisely during the recession, compared to cutting back too far.
Making this crisis a positive stepping stone
This is a significant emotional event in most people's lives. Each one of us will lose something through it, but it can build and empower each one of us as we come out the other side. Many people can get fixated on the pain and loss in a significant emotional event, and get stuck emotionally and developmentally. This does not diminish or belittle the loss - you may lose loved ones, or may never be the same again. It doesn't condone what feels random and unfair - or the injustices that may crop up during this crisis.
Are you ready to embrace the opportunity that this change brings for your personal development and growth?
Two useful resources:
- The Book - "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering" - by Tim Keller
- Training on "Smart Thinking for Times of Crisis - Influential Leadership" - By Ross Hardy, who used to support people on the edge of Beachy Head cliff in their crises.