An article on individual responses to times of crisis, and a free personal assessment
Wanderer above a Sea of Fog - Caspar David Friedrich (1818) In the Public Domain
“Find a way to transform your anxiety into action” - Aanchal Dhar
FEAR ACCOMPANIES CRISIS, THREAT AND UNCERTAINTY
We can make headway by reducing ego, being honest and gentle with self at the same time as making tough, disciplined choices.
Part of this means being brave and determined - There is a way forward during this pandemic.
Another part is the overcoming of fear.
Another part is the philosophy of seeing each other through, rather than seeing through each other.
And still another part is letting go and letting come what is new and uplifting.
When faced with crisis and threat to humanity (such as the coronavirus) most of us are initially reduced to a state of fear (a common denominator) that serves to melt away individual differences.
Fear of loss, real or expected or imagined – whether of health, money, control, a loved one – is real suffering. These fears may be magnified by unhelpful media (social and other), by too many tiring Zoom conferences, by too many emotionally-draining uncertainties and unknowns, by our own untamed minds.
At this particular time in our lives we are all challenged more than ever perhaps, to rise above our fears, to gather ourselves, and move towards a higher purpose. This requires that tell ourselves different stories, and use the power of an intent that is consciously followed through.
The Friedrich painting that introduces this article captures this point of being faced with obstacles, challenges and stormy weather on the road ahead to a destination that is less than crystal clear – and the loneliness and inner work that we need to do to muster the will, energy and actions needed to go on the required journey. A journey where we curb our rush to DO (strategies, agendas, processes, technology) and add a meaningful dose of BEING – for ourselves and our people (who enable all the doing-tasks anyway).
(Of course if we are in business we need to be agile, to jump-start a fast feedback loop mode of operating in an ever-changing business world, and so on …. But people must continue to be our top priority throughout the sort of crisis that we are experiencing).
And people (every person unique) in different situations, with different personalities, temperaments, resources and needs, do respond in different ways. A one-solution-for-all simply won’t work here.
THERE IS A PATH WE CAN FOLLOW
A path from being a victim in a psychic prison, to learning to accept, cope and move forward, to reach a situation of positive growth that can lead to beyond self-actualization (serving of others) is available.
Let’s face it, that path has always been there – as life’s very unpredictability and variability nearly always exceeds our ability to cope with and overcome every circumstance.
Dr Sarah Mckay, an Australian neuroscientist, underlines how much we fear the unknown and long for predictability. She offers sage advice in a downloadable PDF on her website:
She believes as we do, that all of us can take charge of our own attitudes and choose steps that will move us along the path that lies ahead.
Gabrielle Treanor has produced a wonderful model. A template that we and those we mentor, coach, counsel and relate to, can use to good effect to take stock and navigate their path forward.
used with permission
In undertaking our journey, we are called upon to make important life choices within an overall matrix (decision framework), aimed at what state we would ultimately like to aim at reaching :
So we can choose the state we wish to strive to attain (from victim mode in an ‘impossible’ and unfair situation, to a state where we flourish no matter what. The place we will reach is dependent for the most part on the determination and strength of our response. (It is probably better though, to refer to these ‘stages’ as ‘states’. We all jump in and out of different states all of the time. This is not necessarily a linear model! Nor is its purpose to place anyone into a ‘box’ that defines them)
THERE ARE THINGS WE CAN DO AND BECOME
If we find ourselves in the trying to survive/ victim state at any time, this may have been brought about by a wide array of variables coming together – the particular event or threat, a specific ‘button that is pressed’ that reaches a wound, a memory, an attachment circumstance … or it may be an accumulation of happenings that bring us for a time to ‘the last straw’.
So we can try and tame our lizard brains, panic state, evolved human way of imagining with anxiety or remembering with regret and resentment. Without being harsh on ourselves. And we can take little steps to help us get through one little step at a time.
We can soothe ourselves by taking heed of Kristin Neff's helpful self-compassion practice:
- Be non-judgmental of yourself, be kind to yourself
- Be aware that everyone is in the same boat/ this is the human condition. Everyone suffers. Nobody survives easily all of the time. You are not alone!
- Simply accept painful thoughts mindfully without over-identifying with them
If in the coping/ surviving/ accepting state you may work at ‘playing positive mind-tapes’ to yourself (personal pep-talking), reaching out to a trusted friend or support group that provides psychological safety but not criticism.
Use self-discipline and live deliberately in the present moment. Constantly remind yourself of what you can’t control (which includes the unknown and the unpredictable) and you need to let go of; and of what you can control and do something about proactively.
And if you are in the growth/ flourish state, have a growth and learning mind-set, be grateful for that and reinforce it at every opportunity. A truism is that when feeling down you make a point of lifting someone else up you help yourself. The same applies when you are financially challenged – invest a little money, time and emotion in someone else. Whatever is threatening to pull you down, find a way to help someone else. To give. A prosocial, other-oriented mind-set is a surer way to happiness, a surer way of empowering yourself than is hedonistic pleasure, possession, position, positional power …
None of this comes easy to most of us. The road ahead will continue to be full of ups and downs, and the following may provide some ‘back of mind’ perspective that we can learn from as we travel:
WE CAN LEARN FROM GREAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE LEARNED FROM THEIR CRISES
Elisabeth KÜbler-Ross did amazing work with the dying, and she developed a model that serves also to describe the typical stages of dealing with loss. Not necessarily linear, after at first being stunned – basically immobilised, we tend to go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - before moving back into the flow of life and being ready to grow as a result of our experience.
Patangali alerts us to the power of having a clear, higher purpose for living in a meaningful way.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be”. (Patangali. 2006)
(It is valuable tapping into motivational fingerprinting – a methodology we use to assist people to discover their basic motivational thrust or area of unique giftedness, that when activated puts them into their ‘flow zone’. They then know clearly the nature of the situations or events that trigger their motivational thrust, the subject matter that most attracts them, their preferred relating role in a team or group, and mastering their special gifts or abilities). (Miller, AQ and Mattson, R. 1977)
Kazimierz Dąbrowski, a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, developed the Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD), and described the psychological factors that he believed to be related to positive growth outcomes after a crises or trauma, in those individuals who experience the trauma intensely, sensitively, and with full alertness. His work was a forerunner of the concept of post-traumatic growth.
Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy is primarily an existential motivating force - our search for personal meaning. Hope in the future provides stability in the present.
Beyond (and a part of self-actualisation) may come an enlivening, inspiring realisation. A simple yet profound realisation. As happened to him in his concentration camp ‘lock-down’ situation,
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set to song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which ‘man’ can aspire”. (Frankl, V.E. 1984) And our focus abruptly shifts away from self, and towards others.
So putting this all together: the depth of our initial response, our capacity to move forward, and our individual rates of growth (and magnitude of growth) all differ, as do the degree of actualisation or transformation that we may ultimately reach:
And we are fragile beings, full of foibles, faults, fallacies, frailties and fears. And full of potential.
“We live in a world of fragile things: fragile selves, fragile psyches, fragile loves. One of the most distinctive features of human existence - what makes it recognizable as human and what gives it its characteristically bittersweet quality - is that we tend to be acutely aware of its precariousness even when we are more or less courageously focused on taking advantage of the various opportunities that it affords”. (Ruti, M. 2009)
A RESOURCE/ ASSESSMENT
This article is background to and post-reading for a comprehensive self-assessment that will direct your understanding and choices you make in determining what you would like your own journey to be, and to not sinking, but swimming (at least some of the time!) in the waves of change and uncertainty that wash over us.
The assessment is available at: https://culturescan.biz/50-questions/
Bibliography and References
To assist people during this time of upheaval, change and adversity, to help facilitate the development of appropriate mind-sets and resilience, we have recently posted articles that cover aspects of coping during the Covid-19 pandemic. Certain of the questions included in the work-from-home assessment were triggered by these articles:
PERSONAL VALUES AND PRACTICES
MINDFUL STRESS MANAGEMENT
SNAP OUT OF IT!
THE PRACTICE OF READING FICTION FOR KNOWLEDGE
A MORAL RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS
(We have also contributed a chapter to the Knowledge Resources publication “Managing During the Covid-19 Vortex”, and contributed to the upcoming "Virtual Storytelling Conference: Storytelling in a World Shaped by Coronavirus-19" that takes place in mid-May)
All of the above material contains suggestions and tips on how to cope better, in both crisis and ‘normal’ times, and with the challenges of work-from-home that have arisen with the advent of Covid-19. You may wish to explore them after taking the online work-from-home assessment offered above.
Other advice comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Rosner, B. 2020. March) and Søren Kierkegaard (Rosner, B. 2020. April). See the links in the references below.
Frankl, Viktor (1984) Man’s Search for Meaning Rider, London
Miller, Art and Mattson, Ralph (1977) The Truth About You; you were born for a purpose Fleming H. Revell Company: New Jersey
Rosner, Brian (2020. April) Coping with coronavirus anxiety: Four lessons from Søren Kierkegaard ABC Religion and Ethics 30th April, 2020
Rosner, Brian (2020. March) Coping with coronavirus disappointments: Five lessons from Dietrich Bonhoeffer ABC Religion and Ethics 30th March, 2020
Ruti, Mari (2009) A World of Fragile Things: psychoanalysis and the art of living SUNY SERIES IN PSYCHOANALYSIS AND CULTURE Henry Sussman, editor. State University of New York Press
Rutte, Martin (2006) The Work of Humanity: project heaven on earth citing Patanjali (in Seeking the Sacred: leading a spiritual life in a secular world. (ed. Mary Joseph) ECW Press, Toronto, Canada