Dealing with the Psychological ‘Flu’

Note: this post was originally written and placed on another website platform long before the current crisis with COVID-19. It has a recent publication date due to my change to a new web platform near that time. Please read in psychological terms and with understanding for this timing. -Dr. M

During a training on compassion fatigue, I had a great experience. The presenter (Eric Gentry, Ph.D.) was talking about an important set of tools for treating the problem: resiliency skills. He used an analogy that perked my ears right away—because it was so much like (but better than) what I said to many short-term psychotherapy patients. Those patients were dealing with workplace troubles, tensions, high stressor levels, and high workloads. Most were not working on compassion fatigue, but more along the lines of burnout, anxiety, and conflict.

My Version of Resiliency Feedback:

“Your workplace has the flu. There is flu virus floating all through it, on the surfaces, on and coming out of the people, and so on. Some people are more infected than others. In your workplace there will always be something draining or upsetting. Just like that, in the world there will always be some virus or another. Our job here is to help you recover from this episode of the flu and then immunize you against further infections. This is because the workplace flu and all its mutations are not going anywhere, unless you get quite lucky. And, unless you get quite lucky or quit, you can’t stay away from work forever.”

What was better about Gentry’s statement was that he was considering fixing, prevention, and a general strengthening of a psychological immune system.

This is also instructive for today’s world. Lately, many people have the social ‘flu’. They insist they hate their flu infection, and they do mean it. But somehow it is also important to lay claim to having the ‘worst’ flu and to know precisely who gave it to them. It is so bad, they state, that it makes them powerless unless they can punish the carriers.

How are We Going to Manage Interpersonal Pathogens and Grow?

The bottom line is that while the environment may contain psychological toxins purposefully or unintentionally introduced by other people, our best response is not to stay home unless the carriers are removed. The best response is mainly to develop better psychological immunity through practice. If you are having trouble warding off the mental and emotional toxins of others, contact me today to boost resilience and inner security.

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