Years ago I had one of those reality-dawning-horror moments. A friend of mine had died at the cruelly young age of 28. It was grim. Having spent a fairly normal amount of relatively comfortable time in denial I unexpectedly found myself being admitted for tests to ascertain whether or not I had developed the same cancer.
As I lay in the hospital scanner I wondered if this was the very one she once lay inside. I could hear her heart thumping along with mine. This was fear. The real deal. Because despite my relative maturity, despite my professional experience and all the other things that often don’t really count, I still believed up to that moment that I was immune. It wouldn’t affect me. It couldn’t happen to me – could it?
But yes! Of COURSE it could happen to me. I wasn’t special. #RealAF ( ‘scuse language)
Special no, but lucky? Yes. I remember and feel the relief still as I type. It didn’t happen to me.
We all have an unconscious cognitive bias called Uniqueness Bias. The “I’m different, it doesn’t apply to me, I’m cleaner, smarter, more in need…”
The reality is though, that neither I nor you are special. We both keep forgetting this. We have no more ‘right’ to anything than anyone else does. This means we’re not entitled to break COVID19 restrictions just because we’re lonely, or simply bored. Our uniqueness bias will make us want to “cheat”. And I know that underneath we’re afraid, we’re sad, we’re hurt. We’ve lost control, our freedom is curtailed – temporarily. Our normal avenues to fun are cordoned off. Our ability to earn and feel a sense of achievement and personal power is either greatly reduced or completely gone.
Our needs are not being met in the way that we are used to.
We are reliant on a government to support us, a government we may not have voted in. So we are needy, vulnerable. And we do what most do when needy and vulnerable – we lash out, we complain, we blame.
It’s all very understandable.
My husband asked a woman to step back from him in a supermarket recently. She reacted with rage and complained him to the staff. They witnessed it and shrugged saying – they’re the rules. She marched back, called him a “pr**k” and stormed out of the shop. It stung, but he got it. Tensions are running high for some.
We are seeing a lot more traffic on the road these days. People are parking along the barriers to the beach car parks. Clearly, many people believe the restrictions don’t apply to them. That they deserve to get out, they are different somehow. Those of us who are following protocol can judge them for being selfish, ignorant. Or we can see it for what it is – an expression of needs not being met and these needs over-riding the need to look after others. It’s infuriating or sad or both. Either way it’s happening. We can’t control what other people do. But we can choose our own behaviours in in doing so we can, in fact we have, literally saved lives. IMAGINE!!
This morning I read a piece by a clinical lead in the Mercy. She lives in Cloyne. She can’t hug her kids because she’s protecting them and us. Are her needs less important than yours or mine? Her’s is one of several similar stories I’ve read or heard.
I don’t like asking people to do things. But here I go:
Please abide by the remaining restrictions. We are actually, truly, all in this together. No-one’s making us do this, it’s a joint effort to protect ourselves and each other. Those conspiracy theories are just that – conspiracy. Not fact. There are no mannequins in the hospitals, 5G is not evil, no one is falsifying data here.
Yes, this will cost us a fortune. Yes we’re annoyed and fed up and feeling the grief, loss and stress. There are ways to manage these difficult feelings. So much help is available for free – it’s really wonderful to see. We all deserve that and we all need it. And other people deserve our respect and care. Just as we deserve theirs.
This is temporary. Let’s stay home a little while longer. Let’s be patient, careful, decent human beings. You’re not unique in your suffering. And I’m not either.
Big PS: I really want to add that if you’re in an abusive situation, this requires more than simply patience. Please know that Women’sAid and Sexual Violence centres are still available and working for women and men. Lockdown does not mean you need to stay away from people that can help you.