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How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
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Crystal Park, Health Psychology


Health Psychology

Crystal Park


Crystal L. Park is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She studies multiple aspects of coping with stressful events, including the roles of religious beliefs and coping, stress-related growth and resilience. She is the Co-Author of several books, including Empathic Counseling and Co-Editor of The Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

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Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant positive societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

Well, first of all, I have to say that, frankly, we may not see any changes whatsoever in the in the long run, or even in the medium run, because the people tend to kind of revert to their baseline pretty quickly after major positive and major negative events, for the most part. But on a more hopeful note, if we do see something positive, perhaps it will be that we recognize that we are more adaptable than we have often thought of ourselves. And in this time of the pandemic, people have done a lot of amazingly creative things to meet needs that were unable to be met in the usual ways, and have been remarkably adaptable to a whole new world. And so perhaps some of that sense of being more resilient and adaptable will persist. Another thing that may have happened is that we’ve had a realization of how interconnected the world is that people and places around the globe are connected. And perhaps this will have even some hopeful, positive effects on our ability to manage climate change. Because of the interconnectedness of the world, you know, what happened in China affects the whole world, what happens in different parts of our own society affect an entire society.

What kind of wisdom will people need to capitalize on the positive societal and/or psychological change after the pandemic?

I suppose that having an ability to be self – reflective, and to keep in mind the sorts of things that people have gone through is part of what might help people to capitalize on this positive change.

Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant negative societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

In our own data, as well as the data of others, what I’ve been seeing is a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty and the sort of common in people turning more conservative, people being more [and I mean, that in the sense of the sort of terror management circle the wagons] being concerned with your own in group and less concerned with the welfare of others. It’s a sort of natural tendency when people have scarce resources or feel afraid and see more of that which in some ways does come out politically. And another, maybe connected place where we’re seeing some potential negative longer term effects are in people’s willingness or ability to trust in science. Sometimes I think that we may have lost a couple thousand years of human progress in the way that the misinformation and lack of information and lack of respect for scientific ways of knowing have been brought about as a result of this pandemic and the polarization of it. And so that’s something that I am actually quite concerned about, as are many other people.

What kind of wisdom will people need to master to overcome major negative societal and/or psychological changes after the pandemic?

First of all, maybe having compassion for others. We have certainly seen lots of places around the world where people have had compassion and help others through the pandemic. And hopefully, that’s a countervailing force that will take away some of the the rough edges of that conservatism. And having diverse perspectives, foresight, long-term thinking, those sorts of aspects of wisdom are clearly going to be needed, and hopefully, not in short supply, to help people as the world returns to some new normal, after we are past the pandemic.

What piece of wisdom do people need to make it through the pandemic?

What I would say is that discernment process, the old, figuring out what you can change, figuring out what you have to just accept. We’ve seen in our data, again, with several of the COVID studies I’m involved with it, that there are a lot of ways that people can be a agentic and change their situations for the better. As well as having to accept, having to note,  nobody wanted this, nobody likes all the restrictions on their behavior, and movement and so on. Just a lot of acceptance, a lot of things that people need to do that they didn’t want to do, but but being able to sort of lean into that. So that’s really a process of discernment, which I think is kind of the core of wisdom. And maybe getting that practice, through this pandemic will have made people more wise and resilient. That’s my hope anyway.
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