Following Content Also Features as a Guest Blog Post from Practice Balance.
Right now, COVID-19 is making its way through the US. Early on, as a physician with airway and critical care expertise, I could recognize its potential to cause significant morbidity/mortality and overwhelm of our healthcare resources. It’s obvious now that this is no “zombie apocalypse” joke, as I texted my parents over a week ago, urging them to cancel all upcoming travel.
Psychology of a Pandemic
In light of campaigns on social media and governmental mandates on travel and large gatherings, people are making efforts to flatten the curve. But the psychology of all this is fascinating to me.
There’s a herd mentality.
A hoard mentality.
A serious blame game.
Ignorance of the severity at hand.
And all-out denial.
The tone fluctuates from information sharing and safety tips to politicized rants and panic.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Last week, I spoke at the White Coat Investor Conference. Yes, a conference. In the midst of increasing cancellations, travel restrictions, and a state of national emergency (which was announced half way through the meeting). This was a group of doctors. Doctors that understand the potential severity of this virus, and the idea of flattening the curve. Yet when spread of the virus really blew up, most attendees were already en route.
Some attendees and speaking faculty stayed home, some showed up. I happened to be living in the city of the conference, and I’m on sabbatical from my clinical job, so I went to speak and kept to myself in my room much of the rest of the time. I saw some lectures in person, some by live stream.
The judgement is and was REAL. The conference organizer was judged for continuing with the conference. I and others were judged for going and presenting. Right now, everyone is judging others’ actions all over the place.
It made me particularly uncomfortable. One of my Big Five Aspects – Agreeableness – is very high; I avoid conflict at all costs. I don’t like controversy, and I don’t like people to not like me.
Recognize we’re all different in order to work together
Just as I don’t like controversy, other people don’t like wishy-washy. People’s life experiences and personalities cause them to act and speak in different ways, and we each need to remember that. When I was sick in the hospital after just having major brain surgery, my husband spent a great deal of time at home. I understood, but others expressed concern that he wasn’t by my side holding my hand 24/7. While my predominant Love Language is Words of Affirmation, my husband’s happens to be Acts of Service. He was dealing with his own anxiety over my illness and expressing his love for me by taking care of things at home, making food for me, and caring for our dog during those difficult times.
What we need right now is compassion. Compassion for others… knowing that their actions, while possibly different than those you would choose, are coming from their own individual perspectives and “default settings” in how they respond to stressful situations. If you know yourself, you know how unique you are. So why would your neighbor, your coworker, or even our government officials be any “less unique”? We’re all humans. And we’re going to have to embrace our differences in order to get through this very trying time.
Blog Post Excerpt from Practice Balance.