I haven’t written a newsletter about our COVID situation for some time as I’ve been wondering what optimistic words I could write to give us all some inspiration. We have been in lockdown six with it’s various restrictions for several weeks now and I know how hard this has been for people. Admittedly, it’s been hard for me too particularly because I so miss the freedom to see my adult children, my friends, and family. The freedom to go shopping whenever I want to even if I don’t buy anything. And the freedom to leave my 5 km radius just because.
My husband and I have agreed that there are times we don’t see our loved ones or go outside our immediate area for weeks on end and we are fine. But during lockdowns, the perception of having no choice can really cause psychological distress. In addition, we are in the midst of bringing our vaccination numbers up as a way forward out of lockdowns. But, this too, is causing great distress for people for so many reasons. Many people are considering their options carefully about whether to vaccinate or not; maybe for medical reasons, for spiritual or religious reasons, ethical or philosophical reasons, or even on political grounds. Whatever reasons we have, they are very personal ones.
These consistent lockdowns and this vaccination topic are so controversial on commercial and social media, that it raises a hornets nest of responses from people on both sides of the fence. It’s clear people have so many uncertainties and concerns, especially with the long term effects of the lockdowns on our economy, people’s livelihood, our own mental health outcomes, and the real possibility of the vaccine passport given they have been introduced in many countries overseas.
I am very mindful that there is a “them and us” argument going on in the social media. All the for’s vs against’s. All the pros vs cons. And all the documented vs the alleged evidence. With all this that is bombarding us on a daily basis, I’ve been mulling over what could I say that might provide comfort.
I listened to a workshop recently given by The Victorian Department of Health (1). One of the medical presenters – sorry I forgot who – said something very poignant. The presenter was specifically referring to how to support those who were hesitant or concerned about our COVID/ vaccination situation. She was mindful that people’s hesitancy or concerns were important considerations for these individuals. My take on her view was that we need to accept others have different perspectives.
From a psychological framework, perspective is a point of view. To attain a perspective about any topic, it involves weighing up a set of assumptions and beliefs about the topic. The views we have about a topic essentially come from information we have collated during life from the time we were a child. Perspectives can change over time as more and or different information comes our way as we mature, read widely, get educated, travel the world, and so forth.
Sometimes people’s perspectives are strongly set in one direction on particular topics. But, for other topics, they can be open to appreciating the various points of view. In the end, pending on the circumstances, we need to identify with a perspective if it’s important to moving forward with our lives. Hence, some people are finding themselves at a crossroad at the moment, given the political decisions being strongly encouraged in the community regarding lockdowns and or the role that COVID vaccinations may have in getting back to our treasured way of life.
Unfortunately, the last 18 months with the COVID situation, it has brought with it much angst and suffering, for so many reasons, including the political issues it has raised. Our lives, as we knew them, have changed significantly and, for some, it is no more. Our only way forward is to choose from a set of criteria life will present us in the coming weeks and months. We might not like the criteria because it looks different than before or it doesn’t match our perspective. Therefore, this is were the angst comes from; when the choices offered don’t match our point of view.
So, what can we do about it?
Victor Frankl (2) wrote: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response”. In that space is also our perspective, which will influence whether the response we choose is powerful for us or not. To identify and work through your perspective on any topic that gives you angst:
- Write down the points of view you have.
- Consider them carefully.
- Debate them.
- Weigh up the pros and cons.
- Express your feelings and emotions.
Frankl also wrote: “In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment if finds a meaning”. By meaning he was referring to our interpretation of the situation.
- So, write down the things you value most.
- What significance do they have?
- How do these compare to what you wrote above?
- Which values are not negotiable and which are flexible?
- What are the reasons for this?
- What are the fears, concerns, and worries?
- What actions moving forward match your significant values most?
Victor Frankl was a famous psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust. He wrote a very pertinent book about his observations in the concentrations camps. Essentially, he reported that those who endured the concentration camps with emptiness, suffered more psychologically than those who found meaning and purpose. The perspectives varied and, despite both views were justified given their own personal reasons, their psychological outcomes differed.
Hence, the goal, psychologically, is to be very clear of our perspective and values, and what meaning and purpose they provide in our lives. Once we do that, we can be clearer about our choices that help us move forward. It doesn’t mean we will always like the situation we find ourselves in but we can find comfort that at least it matches our perspective.
My intention with this newsletter is to validate people’s angst with the challenging situation we find ourselves in during lockdowns, restrictions, COVID concerns, and vaccination decision making. Choose according to your perspective, find meaning that supports your values so it no longer feels like suffering, and accept that others have different choices and points of view.
1. Victorian Department of Health Webinar for Healthcare Workers – part 2.
2. Frankl, V. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press: Boston.