Developmental Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Psychology

Pandemic to Possibility

What just happened!

Our world is undergoing a battle-response towards nCovid pandemic. So far, there has been more loss than rescue. The level of devastation in terms of loss of lives, while not comparable to other modern-day pandemics such as, HIV/AIDs or yellow fever pandemic, has been so rapid and unchecked that it has mocked every element of control over our safety and well-being. The devastating impact of this infectious virus has led to emergence of a new way of life and ‘oxymoronic’ words (and #hashtags) have found their way into our every day language, such as social distancing, flatten the curve and new normal.

Throughout history, as humans spread across the world, infectious diseases have been a constant companion. Even in the modern era, these outbreaks have been a constant and yet it causes prolonged, relentless stress that often leads to combat fatigue. So how can we learn to manage stress due to a perceived threat, and create possibilities for the future?

The malicious serpent

I am scared of snakes and so are you, and so is the person sitting next you. I can say this with certainty not because snakes are regarded as slimy, slithering creatures worthy of fear and disgust, but because it is a fact that fear of snakes is common in all primates – not just humans! This fear-conditioning is caused by creation of memory of fear which can be achieved merely through photographs of other people’s experience of a snake. This fear-memory is so primal that even a picture of snake then serves as as fear stimuli! Such is the way our brain controls our reaction to crisis – by triggering primal fears of loss and harm, causing unlimited stress.

Courage is knowing what not to fear.

Plato

Let us change the narrative!

Norman Garmezy, a developmental psychologist and clinician at the University of Minnesota, met thousands of children in his four decades of research. But one boy in particular stuck with him. He was nine years old, with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. Each day, he would arrive at school with the exact same sandwich: two slices of bread with nothing in between. At home, there was no other food available, and no one to make any. Even so, Garmezy would later recall, the boy wanted to make sure that “no one would feel pity for him and no one would know the ineptitude of his mother.” Each day, without fail, he would walk in with a smile on his face and a “bread sandwich” tucked into his bag.

The boy with the bread sandwich was part of a special group of children. He belonged to a cohort of kids—the first of many—whom Garmezy would go on to identify as succeeding, even excelling, despite incredibly difficult circumstances. These were the children who exhibited a trait Garmezy would later identify as “resilience.” 

We do not describe the world we see. We see the world we can describe.

Rene Descartes

In this series you will learn how to build resilience by changing your perception, forming habits and becoming emotionally intelligent. This resilience in the face of any uncertainty will help you recover from setbacks, push forward in face of adversity and effectively manage stress.

Prominent psychologist Edward Thorndike famously coined ‘The Law of Effect’ that states, responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation. This ‘law’ of human behavior focuses on reinforcement of certain conditions as the key to changing human behavior or shaping. To see past the fear and confusion and to create resilience during crisis, we must first create conditions that lead to positive behaviors, and then reinforce those behaviors with rewards.

Times of crisis, of disruption or constructive change, are not only predictable, but desirable. They mean growth. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear the most.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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