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Back to normal: Why we have to accept, this will not happen



This has become a cliché that our politicians, officials, experts, even family, like to lean on – the ultimate, elusive reward.

Maybe it’s nostalgia for the world in January, a place where everyday life was more like our past decades. Maybe this is an attempt to show control, to go back to a time when change was not so universally imposed on us.

But January is long gone and will not return. And, psychologists will tell you, it’s only bad if you can’t put up with it.

We are slowly learning whether this year’s changes are permanent. If the work – for the lucky one among us – will stay from home. If we visit the grocery store less, but we will spend more. If we find that wearing a mask in the subway is just a part of life. If handshakes and hugs will become less common. If most of your daily interactions will take place via video conference (not in person).

“Five years change in six months”
; is a common slogan for the pandemic. The interruption ruined the lives of lost jobs and relatives who live alone or may have died without saying goodbye properly.

Still, severing ties with January is not necessarily a bad thing, psychologists say. The danger comes from re-seeking normalcy, instead of dealing with how to deal with what lies ahead.

Quarantine fatigue: Why some of us have stopped being vigilant and how to overcome it

“Politicians who pretend the ‘normal’ is around are fooling themselves or their followers, or maybe both,” said Thomas Davenport, a prominent professor of information technology and management at the president at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. .

“People who suffer from tragedies eventually return to their previous level of happiness,” Davenport said in an email. “But I think COVID-19 is a little different because we still expect it to end soon. So there’s no need to change your attitude towards it permanently.”

The tendency of people to believe that change is temporary and that the future will again resemble the past is often called “bias towards normalcy.”
People who do not adapt to change believe that what they remember as “normal” will come back and slow down the change in their daily regimes or perspectives. Those who refuse to wear masks may be guilty of a bias toward normalcy, Davenport said, as they see this invasion of life as a fleeting fashion they don’t have to embrace.

Hard to adapt

However, brain circuits prefer to survive: Although some of our minds may be inclined to resist change because we think disasters are a fleeting event, another stronger part of our brain quickly embraces the new.

Refusing to wear face masks should be as taboo as driving while intoxicated, says the head of science
“Hedonic adaptation” is the complex name for why we survive: It is the ability of the mind to quickly accept something in your environment that would have stopped you weeks earlier. Originally designed to protect people from predators, it is firmly connected – so we don’t constantly see all the relatively new things as threats and miss the newer, bigger ones.

“When both good and bad things happen, you first have strong emotions,” said Sonia Lubomirski, a prominent psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside. “Then you adjust and go back to the starting level. It’s much more powerful in positive events. People don’t fully adapt to the negative changes in their lives.”

The benefit of hedonic adaptation is that it works in all directions. Changes that change your daily routine one month may be so quickly reversed the next, when they are no longer relevant. “It can adapt to the mask like the new normal,” Lubomirski said before releasing the mask, “and then adapting back to the old normal.”

The behaviors we adhere to are those that are embedded in our daily lives that are “triggered automatically,” she said. “If it’s a real habit, it can actually be maintained. Now we wash our hands more often without even thinking. It’s something that can definitely stay with us.”

How to find resilience during a coronavirus pandemic

It’s the same with the previous generation, who grew up during the Depression and are still particularly picky about not wasting food or anything. This is a habit that stayed with them.

However, short-term changes are easily eliminated. Lubomirski recalled an open-ended academic meeting he attended in Montana last summer, where Covid tests were conducted and protocols were maintained.

Within minutes, the behavior of those present had turned back to the prepandemic closeness to each other.

“We all came back as if the pandemic was not happening,” she said. “Everyone was kind of happy. I didn’t even notice I was doing it until later.”

Life is essentially a series of changes and adaptations, she said, and the latter is something that people do well. People tend to bet more on what they are experiencing at the moment, Lubomirski said.

She remembered a vegetarian friend who started eating meat again when the pandemic made it meaningless. Another friend dyed her hair without explanation. “She’s like” Because she’s … I’m just going to dye my hair blue. “

“We filled it,” she said. “It’s so wonderful, or it’s so awful. But it tends to go back.”

Our chains tend to undo our doom of doom. “We’re actually more resilient than we think.”

As with everything, we will realize how resilient we are and the future may seem normal again, no matter how different it may be.

Nick Patton Walsh is an Emmy Award-winning international security editor at CNN International, based in London, which focuses on stories from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan and the surrounding region, and Latin America.


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