Relationships, You & Your Family

The Great Realisation

The Great Realisation

A Sunday Times article on 30 January 2022 covered a trend dubbed “The Great Resignation” (also known as “Lying Flat”) sweeping some countries. It noted that Singapore’s manpower data do not indicate that this phenomenon has hit our shores—yet.

“The Great Resignation” involves waves of employees—primarily professionals, executives and even skilled workers—quitting their jobs without plans for the next. Many have reported that their decision was prompted by feeling extremely fatigued and “burnt out”. Some do not make a conscious decision to quit; I heard a BBC World Service interview with someone who simply stayed in bed one morning instead of getting up and going to work. That day was followed by more days, soon becoming weeks. For many who quit, there is a pervasive feeling of being depressed, having nothing to look forward to and resignation to whatever comes their way.

I want to turn our attention to another kind of resignation—a response to entering the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, not seeing an end to it, and coming to grips with the awareness that it may stretch indefinitely. I call it the Great Realisation.

As human beings, we crave for some certainty. More importantly, we want to feel we have some control over our lives. In counselling, we use the term “agency” to speak of this sense of control.

When we lack agency, some may feel despair. For instance, we may feel we have little control over our studies or careers—that no matter how hard we study or work, success is elusive. Or some may have little agency over their personal safety, such as those living in fear of their violent partners. They may feel totally helpless or trapped, and see no way of escape.

Of course, no-one has full control over every aspect of our lives. We cannot control the weather and its impact on our social plans. Neither can we control our friends and loved ones and how they respond to us. Those who try to control others’ behaviour and emotions can feel frustrated as well as cause others to be frustrated with them.

Knowing what we can and cannot control legitimately and appropriately is an important ingredient to getting along with people. Learning to live with events that we cannot reasonably control also helps us not to be burdened by excessive fears and worries.  The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the realisation that we are not in full control over our lives—over how we work and play, or even how we worship.

But what if your wants are reasonable, when it is not about taking your usual overseas holiday but about being treated with respect and you are denied it? Or when you are saddled with caring for frail and needy family members but feel overwhelmed? When personal agency is unavailable or inadequate, there is an entire helping community, including social workers and counsellors, who can render support and assistance to those who feel alone and at their wits’ end.

Finally, as believers, we can and should tap upon the source of all help. As the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” reminds us, we have Someone to whom we can turn for “all our sins and griefs to bear”. This then is the realisation that we are not helplessly alone.

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.