Crises, by their very nature, are characterized by a feeling of being overwhelmed, as we are faced with situations that call for responses above and beyond those which we normally have to face and for which we have developed the coping skills and strategies we need to deal with them. In times of crisis, we are taken outside of the “comfort zone” of our experience and competence, and so there is the potential for the sense of self-esteem which comes from that competence to be compromised if we are left floundering and unsure of ourselves. In this article, I explore how reciprocity—being able to give back as well as to receive—can contribute to the rebuilding of our self-esteem, but I also suggest that its potential for empowerment is often overlooked or undervalued when there is a high level of pressure to deal with situations quickly. Those of us who work in the “helping professions” derive some of our own self-esteem from being able to competently remove people from danger or despair. If, however, in responding to our own desires to be useful and valued, we create or reinforce dependency in others by denying them an opportunity to feel valued and useful too, we run the risk of reinforcing the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness that crises can so readily engender. This article, therefore, argues the case for developing a fuller and clearer understanding of reciprocity and the dangers of it being neglected in the heat of the crisis moment or in the aftermath.
Research Professor. Director at Learning Change Project – Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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