It looks like we are inside the curve here in Australia. We are still struggling to understand what its like inside the curve, even as the measures start to settle, and we fall into some sort of rhythm. How do we make sense of it?
This is what I am trying to do. Yes, this is totally out of our realm, our experience, but are there experiences we can draw upon to help us anticipate what might come next. As Kate said, as recovery people, we are used to dealing with ambiguity. In recovery, from time 0, people are terribly disempowered, and their situation has highly uncertainty. They have no idea what the future holds for them. The familiarity of everything they take for granted is gone. Their decision making goes from hour to hour, to day to day, to week to week. Does this sound familiar. To most of us, it will.
We have to take these lessons and apply them to the current context, even as the threat continues to unfold. Its where we apply our psychological first aid pillars, safety, calming, connection, self-efficacy and hope. Its just at a societal level. This is how I am approaching the public information that we are putting out. We hope to help people make sense of the situation and manage through, by covering these five critical areas. Information is critical. We are treating it as a separate intervention, lifting it out of being “just comms” to being aid, a lifesaver. This is hard, because you can’t see, hear or feel it necessarily. And you can’t take a photo of it.
In recovery we don’t talk about timeframes, we don’t know when recovery ends. Sound familiar. The recovery process is messy, it is changing, dynamic, confusing, not straightforward. Sound familiar.We help people make decisions, and draw upon their social capital, their resourcefulness, their problem solving. By giving people information, and validating their experience, we can help normalise what people are feeling, and help them take control.
So much control has been taken away from us. This is disconcerting. We have not had this. Perhaps we can learn from those that have fled authoritarian regimes, how to live in a framework where you have little control. Those that live under threat, in besieged towns and cities might also be instructive. The colleagues and friends I worked with in the 90s from Sarajevo, who spoke about the relative safety of being in their homes, but as soon as they went out, they weren’t sure if they would come back.
There are the anniversaries, or the marker events, those things that might cause us stress, that might remind us of how things were. A changing of a season. Mothers Day, that reminds us of the things we can’t do, to be connected with those that we love or want to be with. We need to understand these, and anticipate them, and meet people when they get there with the right guidance.
Our challenge here, is that it is on a societal level. Again, as Kate said, its not something that impacts a group of people over “there” and we go and “help” them. This is what a local government recovery manager experiences when the cyclone/flood/fire devastates their local community. They live it and breath it. This is what we are feeling too.
For those of us who can still remember how to drive a manual car, this is where you drop back a gear, down to third. Immediately, you slow down, the car grips the road more, you feel in control of the engine, and the direction. We need to use this time to recalibrate and adapt, and take control
There are things that we can control. This is what we can focus on. The clothes we choose in the morning. The music we play. What we eat. What exercise we do. What we read or watch. Who we ring? What sort of person we want to be? These are the building blocks of how we make sense of it all.