There has been a lot of talk and some action about “opening” lately.  Most of it has been focused on opening the economy, or more specifically businesses.  Some are clamoring to get back to life “as normal” while others are concerned that such a move would endanger our individual and collective health. This debate, if you want to call it that, is taking different shapes depending upon circumstance, geography and is greatly affected by leadership of lack thereof.

While the pragmatic question of opening the economy rages on, it reveals an equally important personal question also around the issue of “opening.” 

This report from the CDC, The Psychology of a Crisis, suggests that during times like these, when we most need to be open to the ideas and experiences of others, we often do just the opposite.  Among the common responses during a crisis are:
– Oversimplifying what we hear: often missing the nuance of the situation
– Holding on to existing beliefs
– Looking for additional information that confirms what we believe
– Denying of the potential harm to ourselves or others
– Seeking special treatment for ourselves or those close to us
– Stigmatize others who behave or believe differently than we do
– Creating or spreading damaging rumors directed at others
– Encouraging an unfair distrust of others

Generally speaking, I like to consider myself an open-minded person. But reflecting on the list above, I see myself in too many of them. This has been a time when it has become all too easy to judge others for behavior or attitudes inconsistent with our own.

Looking from my perch of privilege that so far has allowed me to be remain unscathed by the crisis, I can espouse the benefits of sheltering in place for as long as needed.  

But would I feel the same if I was unable to feed my family?  Or if I lived in an abusive household?  

I run a small business whose work is made more relevant by the crisis and is well acclimated to done virtually. But what if I owned a restaurant or event business?

My family is healthy, but what if a loved one had an underlying health condition that put them at particular risk?  Wouldn’t I want everyone to stay at home as long as possible?

I can continue to home school my children as we have both the time, technology and schools that have allowed a relatively smooth transition. But what if I had a child with special needs or a school that was under resourced and my child was struggling to keep up? Wouldn’t I clamor for a return to school?

In difficult circumstances it is natural that we all turn inward to protect ourselves, our families, our dreams.  But with this can come a shutting out, a closing down.  

All this at a time when it is more important than ever that we remain open to see the pain and the possibility, the fears and hopes of others.

Regardless of how long parts of our lives and economies may be closed, let us all strive to keep our hearts and minds open for as long as possible.

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