Collective threat examples are WWII, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and the most recent, COVID-19.
When lives and livelihoods are threatened, human populations pull together. In one sense COVID-19 levels the playing field because everyone is experiencing some level of inconvenience, anxiety, and no one knows how it will all turn out. That’s not to say everyone experiences this crisis through the same lens however since some thrive and still others stand in line for food. But we all share a sense of the unknown.
A collective threat means that we have to pull together to figure out how to resolve the situation and move forward for the good of the group. A sort of herd mentality evolves because we need people to follow certain rules in order to keep people safe from harm.
We have to count on others to do their part and not desert the herd and put the rest at risk. That ultimately can bring groups closer because people come together to support some subset of the population that is suffering or struggling more than others, for example.
In this situation, typical social norms are often suspended, allowing for more wild and creative solutions. What’s “acceptable” suddenly becomes “anything goes” as long as it’s within the guidelines of not risking the lives of others. This is where rare opportunities arise that might not be available at any other moment in our own limited history and why we see people singing out of their windows, men dancing six feet apart in the street, and educators delivering graduation signs to senior students robbed of their pomp and circumstance.
Because distancing pushes us further away physically, we have to make the effort to find other ways to connect and coordinate. Thinking through the steps to get something accomplished takes a circuitous route through our heads because we don’t have it all figured out yet. The US was woefully naive and unprepared which is why it took us more time to pivot and react. That has caused a serious gap in critical support services.
For those already on the edge emotionally before this COVID crisis, the isolation and lack of expected support services might put them at greater risk. Which is why it’s more important than ever to reach out to others who might be more isolated. Make that call today.