Finding Hope and Listening Deeply With Others Amid COVID-19
An interview with Dr. Chomphunut Srichannil on lessons from Thailand's response.
Posted Aug 09, 2020
In Thailand, COVID-19 measures have proven effective at keeping the disease at bay. Through government work and public cooperation, many have been able to stay physically safe. However, work must also be done to encourage mental health and build resilience. Here are some ways to find hope and listen deeply with others during this pandemic.
Chomphunut Srichannil, Ph.D., is a Lecturer in the Division of Counseling Psychology, Department of Research and Applied Psychology, Faculty of Education, Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand. Her area of specialization is counseling, mental health, and qualitative research.
Jamie Aten: How would you personally describe the COVID-19 situation in Thailand?
Chomphunut Srichannil: The COVID-19 pandemic reached Thailand in early January 2020, and new confirmed cases rose quickly in late March. The number of new cases has gradually decreased since mid-April, and from mid-May to this late July there have been no additional cases found within the country. Up to July 26, the total cumulative cases of COVID-19 in Thailand is 3291, with 3109 recovered cases, 124 active cases, and 58 deaths. It seems to me that Thailand was able to effectively control the spread of COVID-19. This effectiveness seems to be the main result of strict control measures implemented and cooperation among the general public.
JA: What are some ways understanding Thailand's COVID-19 situation can help us live more resiliently?
CS: As I mentioned before, one important aspect that seems to help Thailand cope with the spread of COVID-19 quite effectively within a fairly short period of time is “cooperation.” From my observation, most people in Thailand have seriously followed the preventive measures. Basically, it is a very common sight to see people wearing face masks and using alcohol hand rub. Such cooperation reflects the active coping response to the pandemic.
In my view, we actively do what we can do to prevent ourselves and others from the virus because we strongly hope that such acts of cooperation will help us all survive the pandemic. In a deeper sense, we believe, like other things, this pandemic too shall pass if we make our best effort to make it pass. In this pandemic time, I think optimism and hope are key for us to be able to live more resiliently. Optimism, such as a belief that this pandemic and its impacts are temporary and can be solved, at least in part, by our own actions, reinforces our desire and hope to overcome the situation.
JA: What are some ways people can cultivate resilience amidst this pandemic?
CS: There are three different but related ways that may be used to cultivate resilience during this current pandemic. One of the most significant ways is to create some hope. To find hope in the face of adversity is to see new possibilities within our new reality. We can develop a sense of hope through meaning-finding and supportive social networks. Finding some positive meanings in this difficult time can help us see opportunities in the midst of crisis and thus be better able to tolerate and overcome adversity.
Actually, some people may find positive meanings of this stressful event through their supportive social networks, such as their family, relatives, friends, and community. Supportive social relationships can also cultivate a sense of connectedness and bring about hope during this pandemic. This means that in order to live more resiliently, we need to focus more on the possibilities than the impossibilities, the new reality than the old past.
JA: Any advice for how we might use what you have learned to support a friend or loved one struggling with a difficult life situation?
CS: As a counseling psychologist, I believe in the power of deep listening. It can be a powerful way of healing and cultivating hope in times of difficulty and uncertainty. We may not have a job to offer our friends who lost a job or we may not have enough money to give to our loved ones who are in debt, but we definitely have ears to listen to those who are in trouble. When life gets tough, our mind is often full of negative emotions such as frustration, disappointment, pain, anxiety, and fear. I believe that what most of us need during such difficult times is to be relieved from those negative emotions, and only a quiet mind can calm down negative emotions.
The main challenge is that when hearing people talking about their problems or expressing their negative feelings, what we often do is offer advice—telling them to do or not to do various things from our own perspectives. In contrast, what people normally need in times of stress is not advice but understanding. Advice in itself is not inherently unhelpful, but advice before understanding is unhelpful. Providing advice without understanding one’s actual concerns may lead to increased stress and frustration. So, to be able to listen deeply, we have to be fully present with others and listen to them with intent.
JA: What are you currently working on that you might like to share about?
CS: I am currently working on a research project that seeks to understand how coping with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic is represented on Instagram. According to my observation of some data, engaging in pleasurable activities such as cooking and gardening seems to be frequently represented on Instagram as a way that offers simple and available routes for coping with boredom and stress during long home quarantine. This implies that focusing on positive and pleasant aspects of the new reality is believed to counteract its negative and unpleasant effects, and tells us that in the midst of darkness, just a bit of light can give us hope and energy to move on. Our challenging responsibility is thus to find some light in the middle of darkness.
Srichannil, C. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and Thailand: A psychologist’s viewpoint. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(5), 485-487. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000808