Updated: Aug 5
You’ve all seen the memes. “No matter how hard things get, don’t cut your bangs.” I haven’t, and mine are getting pretty long, so after much thought and prayer, I may have to remedy this situation. All joking aside, the message behind the meme is pretty clear: when things are crazy, don’t make any rash decisions!
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A few weeks ago, I took the Enneagram test. I’ve been asked many times in recent years what my “number” is and not known what to say. I know that on the DiSC, I’m a D/I with a little S and very little C who married a strong C/S? But I need to be able to connect with people who are excited about the Enneagram, so I had a little time and took it. I’m a 3/7 with a strong 8 wing. My lowest score was 9, and you guessed it – I likely married a 9.
A new thing I learned from this test is that someone with my personality needs to look others in the eye when we speak because I garner so much from non-verbal cues.
But quarantine has removed the ability for me to look people in the eye when I talk to them. Emails, texting, even pixelated video chats, provide very little feedback to someone like me. Before quarantine, I didn’t even realize how much I rely on non-verbal cues, but it is a lifeline.
In the absence of the ability to read someone, I find myself incorrectly assigning motives and emotions to words on a screen. Someone types, “It really doesn’t matter to me.” What they mean is just that – they have no preference. I interpret it through my own lens and it sounds totally different. Then I try to figure out how to respond to a problem I just created in my mind, leaving others bewildered.
Quarantine is messing up the ways many of us relate to one another and uncovering weaknesses that we’ve been able to manage for many years, possibly not realizing they exist. When we are stripped down to the essentials, forced into confined spaces with others in a way we might not see as ideal, irritated and raw from either working too much or not able to work at all – things are likely to get difficult. We rub against one another in new ways and find that things are not so smooth. We may want to run away, but where can we go?
I did a little social media research (it’s not like we have scientific journals to call upon during this crisis) and discovered that these feelings are quite normal! We’re all feeling our way through the best we can. Relationships are breaking up because they can’t handle the stress of 24/7 with their significant other, forgetting that this situation is entirely artificial and it’s not normal to spend that much time with anyone other than a newborn! People are quitting their jobs and making other big decisions during a time of extreme stress.
If you find yourself despising the person you live with, ready to give your children to their grandparents for a month, upset or irritated with colleagues you’re trying to communicate with in new ways, at odds with your family over their lack of social distancing or stringent rules about it, and desperately wanting to drown in a gallon of ice cream, give it a little more time. Don’t make any big decisions.
Now is a great time to consider old coping patterns and why they exist. When we realize we have a weakness, we can work to get stronger in that area. We can establish new, healthy ways to handle those circumstances. It might be tough at first, requiring us to be very intentional about how we respond. Soon though, it will become a habit and we might even start to do it naturally.
I’m trying to view the weaknesses that have been uncovered as a gift, rather than a curse. I didn’t even know they were there before, and now I have the chance to set them right. We can emerge from this crisis stronger, healthier, and much more equipped to handle times of stress.