This global pandemic is a catalyst for our collective fears and insecurities to surface. For the first time in our history we have been forced to pause and acknowledge these group wounds.
A collective fear is like a wound that runs through society that everyone can feel but no one wants to look at, talk about or do anything to heal. As a society we are not equipped with the resources to collectively face these fears, so instead, we hope with time they will just go away.
Unfortunately fear does not go away on its own, instead it tends to grow and mutate. Our fears are fuelled by rumour and gossip, news and media reports that are bias or taken out of context, false or misleading statistics and government directives which are poorly implemented or are misinterpreted.
The consequence of these collective fears has become an overgrown pink elephant that sits silently in the room being ignored by everyone. However when something like a terrorist attack or a global pandemic triggers the elephant it suddenly behaves hysterically, irrationally and selfishly. (As we witnessed when supermarkets were overwhelmed by panicking people buying toilet paper and canned goods.)
Collective fears tend to spread like wildfire and in a flash, even the most rational kind hearted people can be swept up in a group hysteria and start behaving completely out of character.
The interesting thing about this pandemic is that it's not an event that is happening on the opposite side of the globe that we are watching live updates on our televisions every hour.
This pandemic is an invisible non-discriminatory visitor who is standing on your very doorstep politely knocking at your very door asking to be acknowledged.
As a society we are feeling a mass community dissolution and divisiveness leaving each of us a little more unnerved, anxious and uncertain. Our nervous systems are working harder to process our higher than normal baseline stress levels just to remain productive.
so What collective fears have been triggered by this virus?
I can think of a few
1. We fear the loss of our rights and freedoms.
2. We fear for our own financial safety or fear the loss of the lifestyles we have created.
3. We collectively fear death - either our own or of others.
Supressed fears often manifest themselves at inappropriate times like when we are attempting to step outside our comfort zone causing paralysis or during life threatening situations causing us to panic and become irrational which prevents us from helping ourselves or others.
Beneath many fears there is an unknowningness. It is not always the fear we think we are afraid of, but fear of uncertainty itself.
We fear what we do not know and we fear what we cannot control.
So with this in mind, we don't necessarily have to face a fear head on. We can collectively take steps to acknowledge our fears and begin an open dialogue with the objective of reducing the grip that fear has on us.
What would this type of honest and open dialogue sound like?
Admitting that the fear exists begins to lesson its impact (naming the fear.)
Where in my body can I feel this fear? - can I recognise this sensation if I felt it again?
Objectively examining the fear with rationality and curiosity - distilling facts from myths
Getting to the core of the fear - through self questioning - what specifically about this makes me/us afraid?
By collectively owning our fears we are able to rise a little higher than the fear, thus building our inner strength and resilience, the fear may still be there, but it no longer blinds our vision or clouds our decision making ability. We are able to feel strong emotions but are not overwhelmed by them. In a crisis situation we can still see options and during times of chaos we are better able to adapt to change.
Are you ready to have a conversation?