Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Two)

Decline, deterioration, loss & reversal are part of life

What did President Bush do the day after he left the White House? What do US Presidents do the day after they leave the White House? What does an Olympic Champion do the day after winning a gold medal? What do we do the day after climbing Mount Everest?

Coping with the sudden gap of purpose & connection is a tough task

Well, we come down the mountain again and actually the descent is more dangerous than the assent. But at least when we are coming down a mountain, we are physically busy. In normal affairs, the sudden removal of busyness, status, purpose, connections and toys, is devastating. The loss of a job, the loss of ‘pole position’, just plain getting older is a loss at so many levels – not least, our sense of identify. How do we cope with it?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible often becomes a shadow mission

John Orteg, describing church leadership in the States, used a good phrase. Deteriorating as slowly as possible is often our shadow mission. We’ve lost our purpose and we are hanging onto old ways. Stagnation makes us bitter and it is awful to watch in others. We oscillate from pity to contempt.

Sadly, some people don’t even have to lose a job or come to the end of an exciting project, to slip into “deteriorating as slowly as possible.” They sleepwalk through life in deadly early retirement, going through the motions and not even terribly aware that they are slipping away.

To fall in love with life again

Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his father who was growing blind “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Professor Kay Jamieson’s husband gave her this encouragement on his deathbed: “You will fall in love with life again.”

Hope has little to do with external success. It has everything to do with loving life

None of us can live without hope and a sense that growth in is possible. But sometimes we confuse hope with trappings of success.

Hope does not mean controlling outcomes. Hope does not mean having status, control and perquisites of our past life (though we may miss them dreadfully).

Hope is a growth in our spirit. It is a sense that what we are doing now is an important task that only we can do for our communities at this time and in this place. It is sense that life will blossom in new ways taking us by surprise and delighting us.

Psychologists help people fall back in love with life again

When we have suffered a hard jolt, psychologists play an important role in helping us find our life’s purpose again.  So do good religious ministers, good teachers and respected mentors.  Even the smallest child can help us find our way again.

Sadly, though, we have had successful lives, or just live in rich countries or work in successful countries, we can begin to drift.  Before long, we are sleep walking. We are not in love with life any more.  We have become zombies, without hope – without the sense that life will still surprise us.

Are you living a zombie life :  I’ve put John Orteg’s Symptoms of Deterioating as Slowly as Possible in Part Three.

The hidden strength of a good friend in today’s shocking world

We live in times when there is plenty to shock us

I have an old-fashioned habit of switching on the radio to catch the news.  It really is a habit I must break because the quality gets more variable by the day.

Today, a little tired from a full Friday night’s work, I feel particularly jaundiced by gibberish that is put out by the (frankly) pale, male and stale – with a few opinionated women thrown in.  The ranting is pretty bad today because some people in the establishment have taken abrupt status drops and are feeling pretty sorry for themselves.  Some have been around bad things that would shock anyone.

And we find out who our friends are

It is in times like this though, that we really find out who our friends are.  Our friends don’t egg us on. Our friends don’t invite us into the public domain to rant and rave and say the incoherent and often unpleasant things we feel in the midst of grief and in the grip of chagrin.

We need our friends to lead us quietly away to grieve in private

Our friends lead us quietly away until we’ve had the chance to grieve with the people who are part of the same tragedy.  Our friends help us sort out what happened. Our friends help us to think out the consequences.  Our friends help us to work out what is dark, what is untimely, what is embarrassing, what is unfair, and what just is.  We don’t want to do that on the radio.

We can be sure that we adding negative consequences to negative consequences when we rant incoherently in public in our immediate shock.  Our friends should not let us.

Can I COUNT ON you?

In times like these, I hope I can COUNT ON YOU to lead me quietly away.  I hope I can COUNT ON YOU to put an arm around my shoulder.   I hope you can COUNT ON YOU  to make me a cup of tea and something easy to eat.  I hope I can COUNT ON YOU to listen but not remind me later of things I said but made no sense.

I will calm down but I hope I can COUNT ON YOU to give me time to make sense of outrage and not attack me while I am in that state nor make me into a public spectacle.

And if you were not to be COUNTED ON

And if it turns out that I COULD NOT count on you, and that you did not protect me when I could not protect myself, then I know you are not a friend.

I will not blame you for the outrage that led to my grief but I will know that you are not to be COUNTED UPON.

In times of shock, please

Lead me quietly away to deal with my outrage.  People who were not there and who were not part of the outrage will only see the jumble in my mind as incoherence.  Talking about my confusion in public doesn’t explain anything to them or give dignity to my predicament.

Lead me quietly away, put an arm around my shoulder and make me a cup of tea.

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Financial Crisis Watch: We are up to sulking?

Psychologists have a good 5 point rubric for understanding our reactions to grief, and anything unsettling.

First, we can’t take in the bad news.

Then, we get angry and look for someone to shout at.

When that doesn’t work, we sulk and bargain.

Failing again, we are confused, dejected and flail about without a plan.

Eventually, thankfully, we fall in love with life again.

Working, living and leading the bereaved

When we watch someone dealing with the death of a loved one, these stages are very clear.  Because the death is a fact, it is clear that they are having trouble absorbing the new reality into their life.  We do it easily because the person didn’t play such a big role in our lives and we have less to rearrange.  Our time will come.

Adjusting our identity

When the loss is something more nebulous, like our identity (not our credit cards but our sense of worth), then it is harder to see that someone is travelling a painful path. We just see someone who is being ill tempered, confused, difficult.

When the little boy asked Obama this week, “Why do people hate you?, Obama took great pains to explain to to the 9 year old the grief that his opponents feel in losing the election. He has the political maturity to understand why people are difficult and work with them anyway.

How long does it take to move through the grief cycle?

As a distant observer, I’ve been watching the underlying changes going in the States. Because I am not so close to the action, I watch dispassionately to see what is happening and to learn something that is not written up well in the psychological literature.

How long does it take for a population to adjust to stunning and inescapably bad news .   .   .  .  like Bank crashes, like the assumption of power by a new generation (Gen x)(if you are a Baby Boomer), by the invention of science we did not learn at school?

At lot has happened in the last two years.  When will we find our way out of the grief reaction?

2006 – We couldn’t believe that we were overspending.

2008 – Once Lehman crashed, we railed at irresponsible bankers.

2009 – We don’t want to work with the incoming President, redesign our banks, work with Nobel winning scientists even though they are already in the WhiteHouse.

When will we move into depression, and when will we fall back in love with life?

I suppose we must expect a period of depression and dejection soon.

And after that, we can get on with the job of using new developments in science, reaching out to other countries to build a new world order, include more people at home in the decision making and in the benefits of a strong economy, use the internet to make everything easier and work out the rules of a newer more respectful economy.

Why some people stay cheerful in spite of the recession

Psychology of loss and gain

Economists who study behavior will tell you that we value something we lose, much more, than we value something we gain.

This is a pertinent emotion during a recession.   Most of us will lose something.  We may not get the  increase in salary we worked so hard for, or we might make less profit.  We might suffer a large loss, such as our job, or our business.  Some of our possessions may get repossessed.  We could even lose our houses that we saved and skimped and spent many weekends working on.  What chumps we will feel!

Loss is devasting, and distracts us from possibility.

Tom Peters today passed on a fabulous anecdote about Kurt Vonnegut,  Joseph Heller and a hedgefund manager.

“At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough.'”

Amen!
And thank you, John Bogle!
(And Judith Ellis.)

Coping with loss

It’s really difficult not to focus on loss when it happens.  Indeed, we shouldn’t move on too soon.  Grieving has its place.

I find the advice from the 5 stages of group formation useful: forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning.   The leader’s task during ‘adjourning’ is to help an individual break their tie with the group, and to proceed back into the world quite happily as an individual.

Applying that advice to the horrible events that happen in recessions, we have three broad steps.  We need

  • Signal that change is going to happen in sufficient time
  • Plan a rite of passage (like a graduation ceremony)
  • Get people visualizing life without the group (or house or whatever).

No, that’s not quite right.  To talk about ‘life without’ brings our attention back to what we have lost.

Endpoint

We need to talk about our story, all the good times we have had, and gradually get to the point that we see jobs, companies, businesses, not as the end in themselves – just as ENOUGH.  They are there to help us get what we want.

What do we want?  And how are those projects going!  Incredibly hard to focus on those things when confronted with loss – the economists tell us so!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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