How are you getting on with the much-discussed ‘return to normal’? Does that mean continuing to work from home, or a return to an office; does it mean resuming commuting, above all do you have choice and autonomy in the new normal? I’ve yet to meet anyone who can simply answer ‘Really well’ – and if that’s you, do let me know!
Which is why I was pleased to read a recent article by Amy Cuddy in the Washington Post, which offers wise insight into what could be happening. It’s easy to feel suspicious of yet another shiny new syndrome, yet there is enough lived experience and explicit psychological detail here to help us see that (for example) the reality of ‘surge capacity’ might be an important factor playing out on many levels, both personal and professional.
“Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations”. The key phrase here is ‘short-term’ – this has been going on for a good 18 months and isn’t over yet. It’s a perception that derives from military campaigns, and in some senses we’ve all been at war with the virus. It’s an interesting parallel. And must be of great relevance in the NHS, for example.
Pandemic Flux Syndrome?
Also interesting is Cuddy’s observation that
“many people are experiencing a starkly different set of feelings — blunted emotions, spikes in anxiety and depression, and a desire to drastically change something about their lives. If this sounds familiar, you might be one of the many people experiencing what we’ve begun to refer to as “pandemic flux syndrome.” It’s admittedly not a clinical term, but it seems to capture something about the moment we’re living through”.
And she goes on to suggest: “Maybe the ‘return to normal’ in general underwhelms” which can cause disappointment, anxiety, even depression. Hence ‘pandemic flux syndrome’. You’ll find the article here and Amy Cuddy’s recent podcast with Brene Brown on the same topic here.
Information and Denial
All of this sits well with Information as a Component, particularly under its new, multi-dimensional descriptor of ‘absorbing the facts: data, denial and social context’. To me this article offers new data and usefully challenges my own denial about the gap between what I ‘should’ be feeling as things open up, and what’s actually going on. And I really like the idea that we are in a ‘liminal’ space at the moment, balancing with more or less ease between what’s evolved over these months that suits us and we’d like to continue, and the demands implicit in what’s coming up next.
The more I consider this new dimension of Information, essentially ‘absorbing the fact of denial’, the more light it throws on my own thinking, and of course on that of others. Instead of seeing denial simply as a negative to be dismantled, I’m beginning to understand how much we sometimes need to deny or hold off various realities, either to get past them or to work out ways to accept them.
What a rich new perspective this Component of Information offers. What do you think?