2020:  A Year of Resilience!

By Shlomo Maital

   Each year, Gallup conducts a Global Emotions survey across well over 100 countries.  The survey assesses, by country, negative and positive emotions. The results for 2020 are revealing.*  (See Graph).

* https://www.gallup.com/analytics/349280/gallup-global-emotions-report.aspx?thank-you-report-form=1 

     Negative emotions (did you experience yesterday pain, worry, sadness, stress, anger?) globally are up.  But not solely due to COVID!  In fact negative emotions have been on the rise since 2007.  Why?  According to Gallup:  Corruption, hunger, income and wealth inequality, lack of freedom have driven negative emotions upward for 13 years.  Gallup concludes:  “While 2020 set a record for negative emotions, the trend actually started almost 10 years ago.”  Build back better is not an empty slogan; while building back from the pandemic, there is a long list of bad flaws that have long needed fixing. 

    Positive emotions (were you respected, well-rested; did you smile, laugh, learned or did something interesting or enjoyable, yesterday?) have been stable for the past three years and are above 2007 levels, despite everything.

    Here is what Gallup concludes:  “2020 may eventually go down in history as one of the worst years ever, but the results on Gallup’s Positive Experience Index suggest many people remained resilient through the planet’s dark days…. Providing evidence of people’s resiliency, the results on most of these items changed very little from the previous year. People were just as likely to say that, during a lot of the preceding day, they experienced enjoyment, felt treated with respect and learned something interesting, with the percentage who said they felt well-rested even increasing one point.”

    Of course, there are failed states whose results show annually desperation: Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Tunisia. 

     But overall, we learn from Gallup how incredibly resilient human beings are.  Nor would you know it, watching cable news and reading the newspaper or online news sources, which compete to report ever-more-shocking bad news. 

    Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before.  Have we underestimated it, in human society?

    There is even something called post-trauma growth (not to be confused with the ubiquitous PTSD, post-trauma stress disorder),  in which people, after experiencing trauma, find deeper spiritual and intellectual meaning in their lives (witness the ‘great resignation’, people leaving dead-end jobs and rethinking their lives).

     Never underestimate the power of the human spirit.  Given a chance, it is boundless.