Priorities Shift in the Age of Social Distancing

Maslow's Hierarchy
This pyramid reflects Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, which suggests that until the base need is met, humans will not concern themselves with higher-level needs. Those will be likely ignored or neglected, resulting in a dissatisfied human.

Nearly all the articles on this site are self-contained and can be taken individually. However this time of pandemic, of Coronavirus and Covid-19, have shaped our world very dramatically. We have seen a whole new set of challenges (and possible opportunities) present themselves, and this article serves as a segue into possible solutions. This arose from a conversation with a colleague recently who said, “Hey, you do that NLP stuff to help make changes happen quickly and easily, right? Why don’t you talk about the social challenges we’re facing during this pandemic?”

Why not, indeed? So I planned a set of articles that would coincide with a book that I believe will help people cope with this challenging time. The book itself would be concise and inexpensive, something practical and easily utilized. So that’s where this begins.

Most of us have had some exposure to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Maybe not since a Psychology class in college, and we may have chosen that class as an elective that seemed easier than Home Economics (a questionable assumption, in my opinion). Meaning that we weren’t all that focused on the subject matter in the first place. Without delving too far into it, and at the risk of oversimplifying things, let’s just establish Maslow’s Hierarchy as a list of human priorities.

By way of quick review, most of us would agree that being loved is important. Though we would prioritize finding and enriching our love with another person highly as long as we had already met our basic needs. If you don’t have a place to live or food to eat, you are not likely to prioritize finding true love over those concerns.

Accordingly, I recognize that during a time of uncertainty, like being home-bound during a quarantine, we might not speak of finding love too loudly. Consider that through all the conflicting messages hitting us daily—is the virus man-made? Is it a form of chemical warfare? If I catch it, will it kill me? Is this the end of civilization as we know it?

Sure, at this point, seeing (we hope) the end of the worst, these questions might seem melodramatic, but think about where your mind was during that time. It was scary.  Uncertainty can be a frightening thing. Add to that facts that themselves are scary, and you have the conditions for real trauma.

Massive unemployment came like relentless waves pummeling us as we tried to reach shore. Companies shut their doors, whether voluntarily or under orders from the government, with no idea when or if they might reopen. Stimulus money approved by Congress to (hopefully) shore up the economy revealed to the rest of us what economists already knew: Yes, consumer spending makes up a huge amount of our economy. But if that shot in the arm is to make any real difference, it has to be one massive shot. Far more than even an enormous stimulus package could achieve.

So it is (or was) a time of great uncertainty. Many of us were laid off or furloughed, not certain whether we would even have a job when this finally blew over. The cascading effects of that, including loss of health insurance, hit many families hard.

I review this ugly set of circumstances for a reason. I want to remind us all that at some points in life, things can seem hopeless.

I’m writing this for two reasons. At this moment, people around me are still scared. Most are honest, admitting that they don’t know what to expect. Others are in a state of lovely delusion, believing that we are being continually told the truth and that everything is going to clear itself up, as if by “a great miracle.” That’s a quote. I trust you remember who said it, so I won’t belabor the point.

So I’m first of all writing to those of us who are frightened, offering hope for one of the most beautiful and satisfying of human emotions: love. Though the second reason is that this crisis, like every one before it, might seem like the end of the world in the middle of the chaos. Though that always passes. We all know it will, though in the thick of the craziness, we often overlook that these things always pass. So I’m also writing this to remind us all of that fact. This will pass.

But crisis is nothing new to humans. Just look back at our human history and you’ll find one crisis after another. Sure, in hindsight, many of them seem less horrific. Others, though our memories still see them as terrible, were clearly finite. They passed. Then we healed. And life went on. The values, the things we hold dear, the things we seek to bring into our lives, are still there for us.

So, though I don’t mean to be negative, we will face crisis again in our lifetimes. And when we do, I want all of us to take some of the most pertinent ideas we’ll examine on this website and in an upcoming book on the subject, and use them to find comfort, contentment, and…love.

Wait. Love? Are we forgetting that we are in a crisis situation right now?

Why is finding love any different now, or during any crisis? Because of prioritization, we get caught up in more pressing issues like safety and survival. Those are always going to win in that contest. But once the government urges you to stay at home, once your employer orders you to work from home, once you have your supplies intact, then what? Chances seem pretty good at that point that you’ll survive, that you have enough food and water, your Internet is still functioning, as is your tv and cell phone. So it’s not quite “roughing it” in the traditional sense. As long as your cable is working, or Netflix, or whatever you use for your movie and television show entertainment, and as long as you have good books to read, you can remain occupied and entertained. Perhaps even enriched.

My heart goes out to you if you lost your job during this time, of course, and I’m hoping you managed to sign up for unemployment benefits so you can yourself meet those aforementioned needs. Survival. Food. Shelter. And then onto entertainment, information access, keeping your Internet access live, your phone and utilities on. If not, you are somehow reading this, which means you are more resourceful than you realize! Let’s put some of that resourcefulness into meeting those other needs we all share and begin our climb up Maslow’s Hierarchy!

So with those needs met, we begin traveling up Maslow’s Hierarchy and addressing higher-level needs…eventually getting to love and connection. If you’re fortunate (or not so, as the case may be) to have your love/friend/partner/spouse (they may all in the same person if you’re truly fortunate) living with you, you may not have to go far to meet this need. Then again being in close quarters with the same person for weeks might not turn out to be as idyllic as I’m suggesting. I’ll withhold judgment on that, and we’ll even explore later on a few ways to deal with that situation if and when it becomes challenging. Look for future articles (and the upcoming book) to offer additional strategies.

There is another possibility of course: you have a love, but that person does not live with you. Finding ways to feel connected can become challenging in times like these and we’ll look at some ideas as well.

Though for the rest of us, this means finding someone to love when “dating” or even “meeting for coffee” is simply no longer done. We may investigate online meeting as well as dating. And while yes, some of the horror stories are true—there are scammers out there who don’t really want love but want someone to give them money—not all are. Or no one would ever bother with it. In fact the majority of challenges anyone faces in online dating also exist in the physical/real-time dating world. Though the format of meeting online, including the existence of email, video chat, and texting, makes it possible to meet someone and potentially create a great relationship before even meeting in person.

Just imagine, you meet someone, start to build something, and then meet once the crisis has passed. Just as in the real-time world, sometimes that first meeting lives up to the prior discussions and sometimes it doesn’t. We’re all adults and we know this is a possibility. If we fear it, we don’t stand a chance of finding that person who may very well be ideal for us—and us for them.

So here’s a challenge for you: If you fall into only one of the three scenarios I’ve mentioned—and for your peace of mind, I hope you do—why read the other two? Certainly, you could begin with the section that specifically describes your situation right now. But I would urge you to consider the others because at various points in our lives, we are apt to find ourselves in the other two situations. At some point.

It would be a good idea to consider some of the life- and relationship-skills shared in the other two sections. You can be ahead of the game right now.

Convinced? Okay, let’s begin exploring.

Copyright © 2020 Chris Gingolph

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