I am a serial radio listener and own a portable FM radio which is nearly
always in my ear. But a couple of months ago I cut my radio listening down
to a minimum. The business commentary and constant negative analysis of
everything to do with the economy was genuinely getting me down, especially
if I woke up to the doom and gloom. But I am starting to get the sense that
there is a move towards the first steps of a recovery. But the first step
isn’t a quick fix, rather it is about accepting the reality of what is going
on. Optimistic, I know. But I really believe people might have realised the
trouble we are in collectively, and have taken a decision to do something
about it, rather than looking backwards, I get the sense that people are
gathering themselves ready for pushing on to the future.
When I first went blind in 1998, I became aware of something called the
Kubler-Ross model. It’s not too scientific, so don’t worry. It was created
by a lady called Dr Elizabeth Kubler Ross who created 5 stages of grief. For
Kubler-Ross, the stages were originally designed for the terminally ill. But
I found great solace in it when I first lost my sight, and I believe that we
can all find parallels through it as we negotiate this economic cycle.
The first stage Kubler Ross looks at is denial. When I lost my sight at 22,
I simply couldn’t believe it was happening. I was in total denial. And I’ve
seen this denial happening in businesses of all sizes. For example, in the
financial world, who could have predicted the collapse of some of the
rockstar brands on Wall Street like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch?
Hundreds of thousands of people who work in the big finance houses simply
could not believe it was happening. Commentators were the same. In fact, the
denial was actually in place for years before the various company collapses
and it is the denial of the facts that has led us all to the economic
disaster that we are now facing. And the banks are not the only ones who
were in denial…we were all at it!
The next stage is anger. Soon after the denial, as the reality starts to
sink in, we look around for someone to blame. I did it when I went
blind…got angry with the people close to me, the doctors, the charities,
the government. I was angry and blaming them for what was happening. It is
the same in the recession. We’re all all angry and looking for someone to
blame. And it is why I decided to stop listening to the radio – it was the
hunt for the people to blame that was getting to me. Understanding what
went wrong and who was responsible is of course useful if things go wrong.
But blame for blame sake doesn’t usually fix the current problem.
Third, is bargaining. We all do it. I used to go to sleep and hope that some
kind of miracle would happen in my sleep. I thought I might just wake up and
be able to see. Sometimes I opened my eyes and did think I could see. But
miracles and bargaining haven’t worked for me yet and it isn’t going to
work for the economy. We’ve got to make changes not just
wait for them to happen!
Depression. This is the penultimate stage for Kubler Ross. After all of the
anger and the recriminations, depression is what she found. I think it is
dangerous to use the word depression loosely and as such I don’t think I got
depressed. I did feel sorry for myself but I remained in control of my
decisions. In an odd way, there was a comfort factor in lying in bed with my
head under the pillow. I was unable to interact with anybody, family or
Every morning, you hear depression mentioned in tandem with the economic
crisis. The morning radio reports have been filled with the negative stories
but, in my experience, this is not the end (and I acknowledge those who are
actually depressed which is a medical condition which is not what I am
talking about). For the vast majority of people there is a choice, not an
easy choice, but a choice all the same and that is to stop here or to move
The final stage is acceptance. Very early on I realised that my challenge
was not about seeing again, it was about living again. I worked out that I
had a choice…to focus on the past (which wasn’t coming back) or to focus onthe future (which I could have a part in creating). But, ultimately, I’ve
been able to live my life on my terms. The key was accepting the facts – the
good, the bad and the indifferent.
If I’m right and the media reports are accurately reporting a mood of
acceptance, I believe we are just about ready to start recovering. If the
majority of us have accepted that we have a problem, and we can be part of
getting over it, then we have probably started to work collectively to find
a solution. With any setback, whether it is a disability like blindness or
losing your job, we all will have to move through some of the stages Kubler Ross
mentions, but it is only when we confront reality that we are able to really move forward.