Moorings in a Time of Crisis

April 30, 2020 By Katherine Tyler Scott

The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is just beginning to sink in for many. Most of us have never experienced a world changing event of this magnitude; few of us have had this degree of moment-to-moment societal upheaval in which everything feels upended and in which there is little or no sense of having control. The word unmoored comes to mind.

To be moored is to be tied to a place of stability and anchorage. Moorings secure what is within, so they don’t become adrift. They provide safety and protection from damage.

Our current condition has strained and frayed, and in some instances cut what has tethered us and given us a sense of safety - what we usually depend on in times of crisis. With this transition, we are left in a space of unknowing and uncertainty. The institutions that have framed our identity and claimed our commitments such as schools and churches and community organizations and groups are shuttered contributors to isolation and disconnection. They too are faced with concerns about survival. Those fortunate enough to be able to work from home, have needed to renegotiate the boundaries between our personal and the professional obligations Our usual routines and ways of spending time with family, friends and colleagues have changed instantaneously.

As the shock begins to lift, we are confronted with the fear and anxiety about what the future will be. We have many questions; some of the answers emerging are too painful to process. We hear facts juxtaposed with fabrication daily – we have enough tests/we don’t have enough tests; the virus will return in the fall/ the virus won’t return; we aren’t prepared/we are doing great, etc. The brutal numbers cannot be ignored- the number of people who have gotten ill, the number of hospitalizations, the thousands (young and old) who have died.

For years I have written and taught about change and the difficult challenge of managing the in-between time, but a pandemic of global proportion has evoked new questions. I wonder whether what we have learned from the disciplines of sociology and psychology about change might be of use in helping us survive and ultimately thrive.

I wonder what moorings are needed now. What can we depend upon for a sense of security and safety, for safe harbor when feeling tossed about like Odysseus struggling to return home? How will we deal with the constant imminence of danger, the trickery and treachery of those in whom we have placed trust, the immeasurable loss of loved ones and strangers, ego-centered leaders capitalizing on our vulnerability and providing a view of the future based on delusions of grandeur; how will be handle the angst at ridding ourselves of the illusions and delusions under which we been believed in national superiority and/or perfection? So many of these questions can only be answered as we live through this but there is one we must tackle now and throughout.

What moorings do we most need now?

  1. First is having accurate and complete information from reliable, competent experts about what we are facing, the current and projected impact of the virus, and a knowledgeable assessment of the adequacy of the actions being taken to address the problem.
  2. Following leadership we can trust to tell the hard truth while being genuinely empathic. Those who take license with the truth and spin the facts to suit their own interests endanger the public’s health, something they have sworn to protect.
  3. Affirming leadership able to temper the strong cultural belief in individualism with the concern for the common good. This is never an easy task, but it is impossible if the leader lacks integrity that comes from a core of beliefs that guide their decision-making.
  4. Trusting leaders who exhibit humility rooted in an acceptance of their own gifts as well as their limitations and who believe in something greater than themselves; something tor someone that holds them accountable to a higher power, entity or idea are better prepared to see and articulate the suffering in ways that convey genuine care and concern
  5. Expecting leadership that can hold the space we are in ways that calm anxiety without feeding false hope that strengthens faith without contributing to denial.
  6. Relying on faith. “Whether acknowledged or not God is”, is something Carl Jung believed. What I understand in this is there is the transcendent in life; there are things that occur that are beyond our understanding and whether we can see them or not does not mean they don’t exist. It is humbling to remember that you are not the center of the Universe; there is something greater than yourself.

What keeps you moored?