Coronavirus is experienced as a threat at many levels. As PM Lee Hsien Loong rightly explained: fear and panic can do more harm than the coronavirus itself.
We have been observing the effect on people, especially in the business and corporate side, and we see two main trends:
people who are not afraid, and sometimes to the extent of being perceived as reckless,
people who are worried and concerned, sometimes to the point of being perceived as causing unnecessary disruption in an already tense situation.
Let's be clear. This outbreak is creating a stress factor on people, health, financial stability, economy and so many more levels.
As a coaching organisation, we trust in people and we encourage people to follow what feels right to them. Always.
It is also our job to help distinguish within our concerns what is the result of a situational worry versus what is the aftermath of past fear since fear should not rule our lives either.
Singapore learned a lot and is now responding in a globally acclaimed way to the Coronavirus situation out of the experience gained during the SARS outbreak. At the same time, we also see people still remembering SARS and behaving now based on that past incident, while it is a different disease and the government’s response isn’t the same.
So how to distinguish a situational worry from past-gained anxiety and why is it important?
Interestingly enough, the German language has two different words while in English we mostly refer to the words fear, concern, worry indistinctively. “Furcht” is the word to describe the fear originated to trigger the fight-or-flight mode to avoid a situational danger. “Angst” is the word to describe the emotional aftermath that may linger, even once the situational danger is over. Because this emotional imprint remains, the person starts to behave in ways to avoid that feeling at all costs even when the situational danger isn’t present, as such. Hence, Angst, when it exists, is always an offspring from Furcht.
Let’s take a few examples.
As briefly mentioned earlier, human beings have in their genetic codes a pre-programmed fight-or-flight response when facing danger. It protects us when seeing a fast-driving car going through red lights and we stretch an arm to prevent someone from crossing the street. This is a typical response of Furcht.
Someone, who experiences Furcht without creating Angst will simply move on. (S)he will not even think of that incident anymore after a few days at most.
However, someone who experienced Furcht and Angst will be the type of person who within the next days, weeks or even for a very long time, will never walk the street right away when the lights are green but will take seconds to double-check that no car is coming before crossing and/or (s)he will be clinging to the thoughts that cars are dangerous nowadays. One better be careful.
When you are in the sea and you see an unusually big wave and you start swimming and running in the opposite direction. This is Furcht. If after that incident, you don’t dare swimming too far away or solely go into the sea when there are no waves at all, there is Angst.
Why is the distinction between Furcht and Angst important?
One should never question Furcht and always trust their instincts when it arises. Especially if you are in a dark street and Furcht appears at the sight of a weird stranger. It usually means your senses picked up something that you are not yet aware of but it is giving you the signal to be alert.
Also, if you rarely experience Furcht, that isn’t necessarily a good sign. You may be putting yourself in a dangerous situation without knowing it and that unawareness may turn you into a danger to others.
However, if a person realizes the emotional response is more often than not Angst, following Angst might turn (s)he into an overwhelmingly anxious person seeing danger where there isn’t or taking protective measures, which may be unreasonable considering the situation at hand. Not only is the person experiencing the emotional discomfort more than needed but the person may become or be perceived as causing unnecessary distress for the people around.
So what’s the link between SeeAre running a workshop on Managing Difficult People during the Coronavirus Outbreak?
We too, as an organisation, we had to ask ourselves: are we considering cancelling out of Furcht or out of Angst?
In order to make our self-assessment, the following was looked into:
Singapore government discourages any unnecessary large group activities since it went into Orange DORSCON. SeeAre workshops to the public are usually limited to 20 people max, while on average the attendance is of 12-16 pax. As long as the government allows children to attend school in class, we estimate that our workshop size is still acceptable. Meanwhile, we closely follow MOH Guidelines.
SeeAre will be screening for people with fever. In case of fever, you cannot attend and we will provide a refund only for those. As such, attendees have the assurance that the people in the room are not having the major symptom of coronavirus.
Is the content of the workshop of importance in times of coronavirus outbreak? We definitely consider it to be a yes. Considering that as described at the beginning of this article, there is a polarization of responses to the outbreak and each side will experience the other as difficult. Be it you being an employer or an employee, you being a family member struggling with the response of other family members, this workshop will provide you with the tools to understand and handle better the situation, knowing that the current situation will not disappear within the next few days.
As an organisation alike individuals, our Furcht is legit and made us think through what is the response to give to the current situation. We saw that if we would simply cancel while there is yet no need to, this would be an Angst response.
Remembering the words of PM Lee, if fear and panic can do more harm, providing tools to keep in check that harmful threat is in our opinion critical. Hence, we decide to maintain our workshop.
Here more details on the upcoming workshop on “Managing Difficult People” happening in the evening of 4th March at International Plaza. For enquiries, feel free to send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org