The COVID – 19 pandemic has exposed some very soft spots in our being. Initially, I thought that working from home and simplifying our lives might be a very positive thing. It was my belief that this might help people focus on what’s important and less on the things we can’t control. I was only partially right.
Just think about how your daily routine changed in the last few months – simple things like finding toilet paper at the store or catching a quick lunch were no longer so simple. In fact, these easy tasks became quite stressful. Casual interactions became cautious interactions. All that was comfortable was now uncomfortable. And we all became subject to stress!
When a human being is in a stressful situation, psychologists tell us we default to two basic instincts – an intent to learn or an intent to protect. We each assess the situation and determine the most appropriate path. In learn mode, we take action to understand, analyze and then move forward avoiding similar confrontations in the future. In protect mode, we stand up, face our fears, and address stressful situations head on. We fight.
COVID has forced us to be in protect mode. There was no simple way to hide from the virus because we couldn’t see it, we weren’t sure where it was, but we certainly knew that it got in the way of everything we wanted to do. While the directives were to pull back and stay safe by avoiding people, those instructions flew directly in the face of a very important human characteristic, and that is we need human connection. And though many of us diligently tried to use the telephone or Zoom as a replacement, by and large those means to maintain connection seem to have fallen short.
It is difficult to pick up a paper, turn on the radio, or watch a TV program without witnessing firsthand just how angry people are. It doesn’t matter what media outlet that you tune into, it’s likely that someone is pointing a finger at someone else and telling you why they are wrong. Anger does that to us. It causes us to act without thinking and speak before listening.
Yes, we’re in full-on fight mode, battling over even the smallest of things. And while the prevalent topic of the day is not a small matter, the ironic part of it is that very few if any people will argue at the wrong that was done. The fight is over. The why? Well, we may never learn what that was.
Have you ever watched a bunch of puppies playing? If you have, you’ll recognize the word dog pile. If you’re a bit older you might even recognize it as a game which was played on the playground (Not allowed any longer) I believe sometimes we humans get involved in dog pile too. Not physically, but mentally. We see, read, or hear something which causes us to react. Instead of defaulting to the learn mode, where we would better understand the issue, we tend to do the human dog pile. We believe without verifying, we validate our information by repeating it, and we firm up our beliefs by listening to and reading only what we agree with. And that’s a problem. Because even though we know better, the protect/fight mode prevents us from doing so.
I feel like we all need to be taken to the woodshed to have the lessons of our mother reinforced – “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
This month’s message is simple. We all need to stop and reflect on where we are today and focus on where we want to be. We’ve suffered through a very difficult time, both personally and professionally and we need to leave it at that. We’ve learned from what we’ve experienced how we need to apply that to the future.
We need to find our center again.
We need to regain our balance.
We need to be better.