What if?…

by Gillian Campbell

6 Mar, 2020 at 2:59 pm

As I write today it seems Coronavirus is impacting on people across the globe and each client I speak with is trying to calculate, predict and plan options around a variety of unknowns.

As human beings ‘not knowing’ can ignite a plethora of inward mindset boxes, and often unhelpful thinking patterns can emerge.  Today I thought I would share some of my unhelpful thinking styles and how I’m realising my inward focus actually makes me less resourceful and far more stressed than is useful, at a time when rational thinking is needed.

  • The Mental filter: This is me metaphorically putting on completely opaque sunglasses which filter out rational thinking.  I start to only notice what my ‘emergency’ filter wants me to, and I dismiss anything that doesn’t fit.  This filter strips away rational, systemic, practical thinking and replaces it with stress filled, panic based thoughts.  I become suspended in a space of overwhelm and unknown and stop actually moving forward resourcefully. I get caught in the media stories, the what ifs, all the unresourceful evidence to ignite my fears…

Alternatively, I can take a breath and ask; Am I only factoring in the bad things?  Am I filtering out the facts?  Am I purely focusing on the bad things for me?  If I take off the doom and gloom glasses and stop seeing how bad it is for me can I see differently? Can I see the global/systemic/ external implications and needs?  Can I see people who going to be far worse off than me that may need help?  Can I see a more realistic picture that will bring more resilience and peace to me and those around me?  But most importantly can I also see how I can help.

  • Catastrophising; This is when my imagination becomes a disaster movie script writer. I imagine and believe that the worst possible things will happen.  Now when a government says plan for the worst it is important to think through the practical and rational elements of the situation.  However, if I allow my mindset to move to ‘catastrophic’ before there is a true emergency all I will spread is a sense of panic and disaster.  What am I like to live and work within this space?  What are my clients, team, my family picking up from me?  Am I recruiting others into my catastrophising box maybe just so I feel justified for being in there?

Actually, in this moment, can I stop and see the impact of my disaster movie thinking. Can I move back into the reality of right now and then think through options.  Can I stay responsive to collectively support anyone around me who is genuinely unable to feel safe? Can I climb out of the disaster movie and live in life able to see just what needs to be done?

  • Binary thinking: I feel that in times like these I can slip into a way of thinking that paints everything or everyone as either bad or good, right or wrong, safe or dangerous moving my mindset to exaggerate extremes.  I see me become competitive, combative, me vs. others in my need to protect me and all that matters to me. Others become threats to my plans, my safety, my needs, or they have something I need, and they are useful to me.  But what are the consequences of me potentially alienating, manipulating or creating foes from those around me? I disconnect, separate myself, I isolate myself in every sense of the word.

If I pause, remember that each person around me is unique and complex.  They have their own needs and are probably already out of their own comfort zone finding their way in this uncertainty. Seeing them as people again, I can reconnect to the fact that we are facing this challenge together, surely better united than separate or competing and alone.

If I can ignite curiosity towards my own unhelpful thinking patterns and the way I see behaviours in others, maybe I can find compassion and understanding in their actions before I judge and separate. If I can suspend my unhelpful thinking patterns and keep myself responsive, maybe in a global moment like this I can stay responsive, collaborative and care for those I love whilst in turn seeing where I can help others.

If you turn outward to this global crisis, how might you be able to help too?