‘A New Greatest Generation’: How Our Natural Resilience May Surprise Us
Despite profound psychological consequences for many people, the outlook is not entirely grim for everyone, history and science suggest
Anxiety, fear, and anguish are coursing through the world as we witness mounting numbers of sick people and deaths, frontline caregivers fighting for their patients’ lives with inadequate resources, and an unprecedented economic crisis that’s touching everyone and shattering the livelihoods of many.
We’re all feeling it to some degree, and for those most directly and traumatically affected, the mental and emotional consequences will be severe and long-lasting, psychologists fear.
“These are unprecedented times in modern science and history,” says Jason Moser, PhD, associate professor of psychology and director of the Clinical Psychophysiology Lab at Michigan State University. “I don’t think we really know what people will look like after this.”
Yes, it’s impossible to overstate the seriousness of emotional scars from Covid-19, note Moser and other scientists who study post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological woes. Yet these same experts have a surprisingly rosy outlook on general human resilience and how well most people might function in the aftermath of this crisis.
In general, the scientists tell me, people have an untapped reservoir of resilience that will get many of them through, even as the post-pandemic world might look dramatically different than life at the beginning of 2020.
“Humans are a highly adaptive species — as are many others in the animal kingdom — so we’ll figure out how to get to living in a new world and be okay,” says Moser, who has published multiple studies on human emotions and cognition and the ability to rebound from adversity. “If other research is any indication — from, say, active war zones, mass damage and death from natural disasters — most people will be able to move back to life pretty well. Not completely normal, but adapting to the ‘new world’ well and getting on with their lives.”
People tend to be as resilient as they need to be, says Thomas Rodebaugh, PhD, director of clinical…