It’s helpful to break up change into a three-part movement: beginning, middle, and ending. You know the you are in the beginning of a change when you obsess about how things used to be. Clearly, the old ways are over, but you can’t help referring to them as if nothing had changed. The middle starts once you have have given up on looking back. The future remains hopelessly out of view and the past has been wretched away, Leaders don’t lead; most people sit around looking hopeless; and a search for ideas is about the only thing anyone talks about. The ending begins once leaders sort out how to cope with current problems and everyone races towards the light at the end of the tunnel. William Bridges refers to this three-part change as a transition.
A delusional moment occurs when caught in the middle of a transition when people prematurely believe that they have reached the ending of a transition and begin acting on that belief. It is not the same as an ending because the length of the middle phase is uncertain and multiple paths to the ending still exist. Think of a battle where the enemy still poses a mortal threat, but the leader of one army simply decides to stop fighting. The delusion itself poses a threat that cannot be ignored.
Unfortunately, we appear to be stuck in a delusional moment in the corona virus pandemic where individually and corporately people want to declare premature victory. The individual delusion is that life can return to norm without consequence—kids can go to school, young people can party, masks are uncomfortable and need not be worn. The corporate delusion is that a vaccine is just around the corner and will be available to everyone—no hard decisions required.
Several reasons can be given for the reality and threat posed by this delusion. The first is probably the most important —the corona virus is an invisible threat and the costs of taking precautions are real. Real jobs have been lost; real disruptions to life have been suffered. Yet, many people still do not know someone who has been sick or died. Television fatalities seem unreal and many people no longer watch the news or read a newspaper. As a consequence, the lives lost are heard about second-hand, often through social media, which itself has a fake news feel to it.
The second reason why this delusion is a real threat is that the heightened vigilance required to take precautions is exhausting. Myself, even though I am a writer and need not go out in public often, my public excursions are important to maintaining my own sanity. The idea that “no man is an island” to themselves is not just a literary illusion. We need each other to retain balance in our lives. Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, observed that the stress of imprisonment was too much for camp internees and they sometimes committed suicide by attempting to escape—a variation on the suicide by police motif.
The third reason why this delusion is a real threat is that it sets us up for a second and third and fourth wave of infections. The second wave of the Spanish flu in 1918 killed many more people than the first and its was aided by bad political action. Governments denied the threat posed by the flu because of the First World War being fought at the time. Today, denial has political legs because of the U.S. Presidential election—who gets elected and not elected really does matter and competence in pandemic management is a real issue.
The Good News is that we are not alone. Christ died for our sins proving that God loves us and will never leave us alone. We do need need to succumb to the delusions of our day, as the Apostle Paul wrote:
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37-39)
My most frequent prayer is: Lord, why did you bring me to this time and place? What do you want me to learn? Some blessings come to us wrapped in an enigma.
Bridge, William. 2003. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Cambridge: Da Capo Press.
Frankl, Viktor E. 2008. Man’s Search for Meaning: A Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust (Orig Pub 1946). Translated by Ilse Lasch. London: Rider.