Long queues outside banks, no money in ATMs, disruption of daily life etc, etc, are some of the continuing complaints about demonetization that one has become accustomed to hearing about almost on a constant basis. People talk about stress, about being frustrated with empty pockets; there is fear and apprehension in the minds of some about what the future might hold. However, in life, many events can be turned over and reevaluated in terms of the positive gains rather than the negative outcomes. These positives can be in terms of stimulation of new ideas, introduction of new values and gaining useful insights. With demonetization, in one stroke, people saw huge amounts of cash being turned into trash. Bundles of notes that were extremely valuable became useless paper, in the aftermath of one command from the highest authority of the land.
Let us face it, whether it is; paper money, or even gold and diamond, the value put on them is what French philosopher, Pierre Bourdieu calls a “cultural arbitrary”. None of the things that we hold in such high regard have any intrinsic value by themselves, outside of the system in which they function. As the famous story of Midas we all read in childhood taught us, one cannot eat gold or drink it and no one would wish one’s loved one turns into a gold statue, no matter how valuable. It is a known fact in history that the natives of America exchanged gold for glass trinkets and other baubles that the Europeans brought with them, as for them gold did not have much value being available in plenty. They were more attracted to the novelties that they saw coming in with the new people coming in boats to their land. What we learn from this event of demonetization is the fleeting value of material things and the intrinsic value and continuity of relationships and emotional ties. Thus any crisis or time of stress brings out the intrinsic value of human relationships, empathy and compassion. These are the times when people can stand with each other, share and sympathize. I have seen people standing patiently in line and passing time by chatting with each other and even creating a positive atmosphere by cracking jokes or simply by engaging in light conversations. It is possible that some new relationships have been forged while spending long hours in the bank lines.
It is true that some people lose their temper and even become ill but that is not the common pattern. Lots of people had put aside money and planned for the future and with this sudden loss in value of their wealth may have seen some of those dreams crumble or plans come to naught. While a degree of preparedness is essential it is also to be learnt that unforeseen circumstances may always crop up. To be mentally strong and resilient is an essential quality for leading a healthy mental life.
So how does one cope in such a situation? Some things to remember in the aftermath of an event such as this, which appears uncontrollable and unpredictable, are:
- Assess and differentiate between the factors we can control and the ones we cannot. We cannot control things such as the weather, macroeconomic events, the fact that there is limited cash post demonetization, and so on. What we can control is our response to such events such as how we manage our emotions, how we plan for the future etc. Don’t waste emotional resources on things you can’t control but rather work on things that you can. Focus on what can be done.
- Short term versus long term: Most situations/problems are finite and will pass.
- We tend to catastrophize about the situations. Catastrophizing takes a current situation and gives it a negative, fatalistic spin. Catastrophizing occurs when we look to the future and anticipate all the things that are going to go wrong. That is most likely not the case, as things will settle down sooner or later.
- Human beings are resilient, which means they have the ability to withstand a lot of pressures. We must believe in that. Focusing on that helps dealing with the situations.
Resilience and capacity to cope and adapt to situations of stress are qualities that helps one remain calm and face many exigencies of life without losing one’s balance. One need not be always born with these qualities but one can inculcate them by training and consultation with mental health experts. Thus to be successful in life is not just about being efficient or intelligent or talented but it has also to do as much with being able to cope, to adjust and to be resilient in the face of adverse circumstances. These are the qualities that have to do with the building up of the resources that one has within one’s self.
Also, one can find solace in relationships and love and care. If one finds at the time of distress that there is no one to turn to because all one’s life one has relied only on material support, then it is time to reassess one’s life choices. It is time to reflect that one has probably put all one’s eggs in the wrong basket. There are other alternatives too. If one really finds that a situation of stress is getting out of hand, then one can get professional help. The most important thing is not to give up, not to become pessimistic and never think that there is no solution to any problem.