I am 65 years old, and in this long journey, never have I experienced ‘helplessness’ as I did when Covid 19 struck us. Our enemy was a virus i.e. invisible to the naked eye, from a stranger you meet at the market to your friends and family, any person could be the carrier, bringing this virus to you. This uncertainty caused many undesirable emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, apprehension, worry, helplessness, hopelessness, frustration and so much more. Covid 19 has challenged not just our way of living, but also our basic life philosophy, our daily routine, and our deep-rooted beliefs. We have been compelled by this crisis to think ‘new and different’ and accept this ‘new normal’.
In psychology, a phenomenon called ‘Belief in Perceived Control (PC)’ has been studied for a long for its role in mental health. PC is the degree to which one believes that the events in our life are in our control. One person may base this sense of PC on his/her belief in God while a non-believer in God can believe in making the right choices based on informed logic. To understand its significance, all you need to do is to think of how you would feel if there was zero predictability in any efforts made by you. For example, when we work hard, we do so with the expectation that this effort will lead to some gains, or when we work towards becoming a good human being because we believe in the doctrine of Karma! Our beliefs don’t change easily, but when the challenge is as big as the one posed by Covid 19, it can shake our faith in some of the closely held beliefs.
During the last ten months, there have been reports of a much higher incidence of clinical cases, depression & anxiety. While a lot of factors contribute to these mental health issues, PC is one such very subtle, almost invisible reason which if practiced correctly can help us fight these issues to live a healthy life.
Every life situation has some controllable/positive and some uncontrollable/negative dimensions. I have observed as a psychologist that for different reasons, some people get stuck to negative, uncontrollable thoughts which ends up making them weak and helpless. For instance, the information about Covid 19 in the past 10 months, which reached us through various means. Those who stayed connected with the negative aspects only became pessimist and hopeless about the future; these people are likely to have experienced much more anxiety than those who explored the promising data as well, which showed the ways to deal with the situation.
I believe that the basic motivation to look into ‘solutions’ comes from other factors, the underlying belief in PC, that is, believing that no matter how bad the situation is, we can find ways to deal with it. Such thinking creates an optimistic mindset, thus leading to the required action.
There are volumes of research in psychology that show people with low PC see any crisis as a threat, experience more negative emotions, and spend more time in dealing with these emotions; while high PC people see this as a challenge, experience emotions like determination and remain motivated. To have a strong belief in Perceived Control is a CHOICE. Yes, I believe that our mind power is immense, if it decides to take charge, actions do follow! You can create a ‘New Normal’, where you experience happiness, satisfaction, peace, love, or the emotion you choose for yourself!
-by Dr. Ameeta Parsuram