For The Long Haul...

Issue 63

As expected, the second wave of Covid 19 is upon us, second waves are a concomitant factor in pandemics due to lockdowns being unsustainable, changes in weather and frankly, behavioural lapses.

Lockdown has had a significant impact on the mental health of the nation for good or for ill. On the plus side some have experienced a reconnection with their home, quality time with families, acquired a new skill or developed a way of working differently. The digital agenda of working ever more remotely through the use of technology, has been accelerated by something like five years and now Zoom-type conversations, comparatively rare a year ago and now the norm.

On the downside however, some people had to go out and continue to work in exposed situations not just frontline workers, but manufacturing, transport and many other workers whose workplace simply can’t be relocated to the spare bedroom.

Add to that age, ethnicity and other factors observed around Covid and we are in a situation where there is common experience, but it impacts us in diverse ways.

Crisis intervention theory indicates that people are most adaptable during acute crisis. The government’s latest response (I did say it would all end in tiers) with the precursor warnings from Public Health England, has thrown a damp squib on the optimistic hope the virus will abate sufficiently to allow a certain return to some form of normality, particularly in terms of economic activity. Recent government advice has reality tested this and brought a lot of people crashing down with the grim reality that we face living with Covid for some considerable time to come.

We are moving from an acute phase of crisis adaptation to one of a chronic, arguably endemic state. Necessary adaptations will have to be made for some considerable time ahead. Uncomfortable tensions will occur within families, in workplaces, social settings and more between what are considered reasonable rules juxtaposed against perceived infringements on freedoms. The diverse manifestation of Covid in the population will result in anxiety by some and denial in others leading to a healthy debate as to what to do for the right. One can be certain the government will get it wrong. This is not just because of leadership issues and attempts to run an administration primarily based on herd loyalty, but the fact is that any government of any ability, is perforce making the best of a bad situation.

Crisis Intervention Theory also suggests that in the short term, extraordinary personal resources, be they tangible or emotional can be “paid forward” and these are not inexhaustible, in common with the national debt and economic recovery, have far-reaching consequences for personal recovery.

It is now truly important that we adapt our mindsets to the long-term here, developing ways of thought that allow for a sustained response to the challenges ahead. In all of this, exploring the nature of acceptance may make a difference.

Here are some examples:

Accepting uncertainty: This is almost a given in entrepreneurial studies and management science, but people often seek more certainty than is attainable. We have to accept increasingly that we live in a world that brings as many threats as it confers benefits. Whether it’s Covid, climate change, manipulation of the Internet for political ends, or the behavioural conditioning of people for the market through global communications platforms, our times are uncertain.

Accepting paradox: In a rights-based society, we demand autonomy yet increasingly seek the accountability of others, we have the best health of any generation yet we have a global pandemic, we have fewer wars in the world than ever before yet see more atrocities on our screens. Paradox is part of life and utopic and dystopic perceptions are co-present elements of this.

Accepting complexity: Life is ever more complex and rarely involves simple answers. Like it or not, intense and detailed debates await in the times ahead for us, whether it’s Covid, climate change, the post Brexit era, gender identity, race, the list goes on. Simplicity may seem virtuous, but it yields few durable answers to complex questions. Accepting ourselves and others: We are all in this together. Certain free market forces over many decades have encouraged for many a culture of egocentrism, selfdifferentiation, unique lifestyles and choices that assuage our existential concerns. This is stressful, impacts on people’s selfimage, creates winners and losers and kills compassion. We need to consider how to better re-connect to each other in authentic and open ways.

Accepting finiteness: All things change and ultimately end, including ourselves. This is not a recipe for fear, “bucket lists”, depression or misery. It is about a celebration of being hereand-now.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have concerns where people gratuitously espouse positive thinking instead of a balanced reflection, suffused with grounded realism when considering the realpolitik of living and trading. The truth is elation and misery are stablemates and a balanced ‘middle path’ accepting this is pretty much the only way!

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