From numerous directions, in and outside of my practice, I have received the call for some positive psychology – a weekly pick me up based on both anecdotal and scientific evidence. This is my answer to that call, to lighten our collective moods during these trying times.
The grass is always greener…
Being an expat in Jakarta myself, I get asked the following question more & more frequently, following recent global developments: How are we supposed to feel a bout our home countries rolling out comprehensive Covid-19 vaccination programs, while Indonesia seems to be lagging behind? And on a more personal level: If you could go back to the Netherlands to get your vaccination today, would you?
These are fair questions since we are all concerned with our own safety and most of us have indeed set our hopes to getting through this pandemic on vaccination – using a trustworthy vaccin. Allow me to answer the second question first with a resounding No. I would not take the opportunity to jump on the first available plane towards Amsterdam to partake in the vaccination program in my home country which, at least to some extent seems to be more effective compared to the Indonesian program. I say so firstly because, even though it may be my turn earlier on, I may be taking my vaccination away from someone else down the line. Secondly, being an expat always carries with it the sense of being a temporary guest in a new country. And yet, for many of us the Big Durian (Jakarta’s affectionate and well deserved nickname) has become our new home. We have settled in through good times and bad, found a home, work, schools, friends and perhaps even new love. Our new home may not be perfect but it does provide for us with novelty, adventure, immersion in culture, climate, cuisine and quirks – and it will also provide us with a way out of the pandemic. Additionally, Jakarta may provide us with valuable lessons in patience, compassion and perseverance. Lessons we have already learned in seemingly endless traffic jams, macet!
Perhaps most importantly, let’s not forget that this is a pandemic: a global event with all people fighting the same good fight. And us expats perhaps even more so than others, are global citizens. Regardless of where we are at the time, we may choose to continue to do our part. We do so by staying updated on recent developments, protocols and recommendations, by continuing to adhere
to social-distancing and mask-wearing advice. Let’s continue to keep ourselves and each other safe throughout these trying times.
It is only natural that we focus on what is most precious to us in the face of a threat to our wellbeing: ourselves and our loved ones, and we aim to provide the safest and swiftest way out
from under this threat.
This natural reaction allows us to rationalise our sense of urgency and self-importance above others when it comes to vaccination programs and being first in line. It also allows us to neglect the common knowledge that a good proportion of the entire world population must be provided access to this same vaccination program in order for it to reach its full potential – and our lives returning to normal.
Pretty green after all
Earlier in this series we discussed the value of perspective taking. Let’s have another brief exercise shall we?
Again, it is a common and understandable natural reaction to feel envious seeing other countries have successful vaccination programs in place, bringing down infection and mortality rates dramatically, especially with the wellbeing of our loved ones in mind. Why should we be the ones made to wait our turn? Perhaps it may bring some relief to our envy if we consider all the people even less fortunate than ourselves. We are made to await our turn, simply because we can. Surely, continued isolation, boredom, disappointment and distancing may carry a toll, but for many others the luxury of staying in a safe home in physical and economic shelter is only to be dreamt of. Many among us have to make the choice between risking a Covid-19 infection and providing for their families on a daily basis. Naturally this brings with it higher rates of infection among the least fortunate, and directly of influence to ourselves, the potential of newly mutated strains of the virus itself. Logic would even dictate that we should vaccinate those least fortunate first: the people without the option to adhere to common safety protocols, in order to stop the spread and potential mutations of the virus.
The previous paragraph is not meant to inspire a guilt-trip over the envy we experience when seeing other people receiving their vaccinations and being protected from our common threat – perhaps even returning to “normal life”. It is meant to inspire a level of introspection and the
counting of our daily blessings. Our grass may not feel as the greenest around, but with some tender care, patience and compassion it may yet start to feel very green indeed.
A fear of the unknown
One of the most common frustrations expressed related to the manner in which the Covid-19 pandemic is being tackled is the lack of clear-cut information and policy. This is a complaint we find wherever we ask, regardless of the country. The modern-day complexities of planning and distribution for such a large scale vaccination program are unlike any we as a people have faced in our lifetimes. That does not take away however that the additional sense of insecurity raised by lacking information and opposing sources drives us to new levels of frustration and fear, we want to be rid of this living limbo as soon as possible. More on the fears of the unknown and what we can do to help ourselves in the face of businesses and schools opening up once more next week. Finally, we would like to share a valuable resource sharing all the latest numbers, facts and policy updates for Covid-19 in Indonesia: Jackie Pomeroy runs a most comprehensive Facebook group page:
We are confident that you may find the answers to many of your questions. Would you still have any further concerns however, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and we will cover your topics during the weeks to come.
With special appreciation to Jackie Pomeroy for all the good work.
Do you need help?
Are you or someone you know in need of a sympathetic ear or even professional counseling?
Please do not hesitate to contact us directly.
Sasja Breit, Director, Clinical Psychologist.
Disclaimer: PIIC does not own the rights to any of the shared stories, images or quotations, for references please contact us.