As I write this, Singapore is just coming out of its circuit breaker, a period of unprecedented measures of enforced social distancing. Even when the post-circuit breaker phase three ends, life as we know it will have changed. We have been told to be prepared for a “new normal”. What this may mean and how long it will last is uncertain. I call this being in limbo—a tentative state of being in-between, neither in the situation of the past nor in some desired state of the future.
For many, this limbo state is not a comfortable one. It imposes restrictions on our freedom and calls for adjustments. It robs us of our sense of control over our lives. It is also uncomfortable because we do not know how long it will be.
If your life feels somewhat beyond your control and in limbo, here are some suggestions.
Firstly, acknowledge that this situation is not of your doing. It is not your fault, or even that of your favourite scapegoat. Accept it as an act of God, which basically means that there is no one to blame for it (conspiracy theories aside).
Secondly, do not attribute its negative impact solely to yourself. This is a pandemic, infecting millions and affecting the livelihood of many more millions around the world. You are not singled out or targeted.
Why is adopting these perspectives important? Well, we usually try to find explanations and causes for bad things that happen to us. This is a survival response—if I know that eating shellfish upset my stomach, I should stop doing so. But what happens when our need for neat explanations is not met and we feel that our world is unpredictable? We should not throw our hands up in despair. Instead, let us hold on to the belief that the One who created all things has His reasons for why things happen; that He is in control and has not abandoned us to our own devices. And importantly, that we are still His beloved.
Then there are individuals who tend towards a persecuted mentality, always feeling the world has something against them. Such a view, if not moderated with reality, can lead to a sense of heightened anxiety, insecurity or an embittered personality.
To free ourselves from such negative views, what perspective should we adopt instead? We should not bury our heads in the sand or feel that the problems are just too big for us. Doing nothing at all makes us feel completely helpless. Instead, take up the challenge to be part of the solution, no matter how big or small a part it may be. So, if we cannot meet one-on-one, we can meet online. If we are saddened by the fact that some have lost their jobs, we can offer practical or material help. This virus cannot block us from doing all this; the only virus that can stop us is taking a defeatist stance.
Being in limbo does not have to mean living on the brink of disaster. It could mean embracing life with fresh opportunities, if only we let go of what we have known and accept what the future brings.
Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.