By Denis Korn
In my last post I talked about Normalcy Bias – the mental state by which people cling to perceptions that are familiar and comfortable – and because of this state they can be in denial of the reality of the circumstances around them. In some situations and contexts Normalcy Bias may be appropriate; however, in planning for emergencies denying the truth can be disastrous and often deadly.
After acknowledging that there are mental states and attitudes (see Attitude is a Decision) that are necessary to properly plan for emergencies and catastrophes, I want to address the emotional and spiritual aspects of emergency and disaster planning. Most of the information, guidelines, lists and resources for preparedness focus exclusively on the physical “stuff” required to be adequately prepared for an emergency. While this is obviously important, it is only one component in the preparedness process when looked at from a holistic perspective.
What is emotion? The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary gives us this definition:
2 a : the affective aspect of consciousness : FEELING b : a state of feeling c : a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.
This is very pertinent as you engage in planning for emergencies. The relevant point here is that the preparedness planner experiences a conscious mental reaction experienced as a strong feeling that is accompanied by a behavioral change. While this appears rather self-evident, it must be pointed out that the emergency planner must be aware of their feelings and behavior and its impact on the decisions made on the physical component of the process.
What are the effects of one’s emotional condition and the correctness of their actions? I have talked with many folks about this issue and have seen and heard of the unfortunate results of decisions made that were a result of not being conscience of the influence of their emotional state. Understanding the power of one’s emotions and acting responsibly can have a positive impact on taking correct action – losing control of one’s emotions and behavior can be destructive.
As I have discussed so often while teaching Critical Thinking in the college classroom, people habitually react to a challenging situation rather than critically evaluate and reflect appropriately. The quality and effectiveness of their decisions is often significantly compromised.
What is the spiritual component? The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary gives us this definition of spiritual:
1 : of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit : INCORPOREAL [spiritual needs] 2 a : of or relating to sacred matters [spiritual songs] b : ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal [spiritual authority] [lords spiritual] 3 : concerned with religious values 4 : related or joined in spirit [our spiritual home] [his spiritual heir] 5 a : of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena b : of, relating to, or involving spiritualism : SPIRITUALISTIC
For many the spiritual factor is the most important facet of preparedness and the point from which one begins the preparedness process. One’s spiritual faith and belief forms the foundation for action. Reliance on God in the decision making process is fundamental – trust in God’s guidance in making one’s decisions is essential.
I believe the spiritual component encompasses the following aspects:
- The ultimate outcome of the emergency scenario is in God’s hands
- God directs the process
- The purpose of the disaster or catastrophe is of a spiritual nature
- The difficulties and suffering in a disaster affords one the opportunity to choose to come closer to God
- One’s faith and trust in God is tested, and gives one a chance to assess their relationship with the Divine
- We are not to rely on our own understanding
- The importance of earnest prayer is profoundly evident
- We are to love, support, assist, provide for, console, teach and inspire our family, neighbors, friends and strangers during the most trying of times