From the President, May 2021

The latest from Dr Hazel McLaughlin.

How do we thrive beyond the pandemic? I was struck by the number of recent reports on people’s anxieties and fears as lockdown restrictions are lifted in the four nations of the UK.

This trend illustrates that the uncertainty is far from over, and that there will be different challenges over the coming year and beyond. This reminds me of the Chinese Proverb, ‘The gem cannot be polished without friction, no man perfected without trials’.

The theme of this issue is living with cancer, and this is a reminder of the challenges beyond the pandemic. There are many forms of cancer and many different lived experiences for patients and their families. We recognise the inequalities in the way in which the pandemic has been experienced. Psychologists are already working across silos, enabling people to think differently and to cope with their personal challenges some of which are outcomes of the pandemic. The importance of lived experience is relevant in the pandemic and post pandemic world. We can empathise but never fully appreciate how it feels for another person.

Psychology, as a science, can objectively research, seek out data and build models that inform our theories of human behaviour. We can research the socio psychological factors, the core themes, and the implications for practice. Psychology tends to focus on the individual, but we are increasingly aware of the need to appreciate the dynamic and impact at a social, political, and cultural level. Stakeholder engagement and influence are fundamental to enhance the impact of psychology.

This has become evident over the last year especially in our response as psychologists. There has been a need to work across specialism within psychology and with other specialists and professions. How to link with behavioural scientists, sociology, and biology as well as our collaborations with psychiatrists.

Active listening and taking the time to for social interaction will become increasingly important in the coming months. We can help our colleagues, friends, and those we meet by understanding their life lens and experiences and by enabling resilience.

Resilience goes beyond adaptation and coping mechanisms. It is an opportunity to thrive and to gear up for the post pandemic world.  Mindset is critical. In his 2020 book, Time to Breathe, Bill Mitchell explores how to build a stronger mindset through self-compassion, the joys of pragmatism and our sense of purpose and meaning. In his clinical psychology practice, he enables people to move away from perfectionism into self-acceptance, flexible thinking and to reframing perceptions of control.

Resilience matters beyond the individual concerns. Behavioural science, organisational psychology and cyberpsychology research enables a broader appreciation of the impact for organisations. Organisational resilience enables business transformation with a review of sustainability, organisational agility, systems, processes, and culture. Resilient leaders need to be nimble and agile. This moves beyond our traditional leadership models to embrace learning and to harness adaptative capacity.

Psychological research can readily inform best practice in terms of decision-making, risks and opportunities and enable organisations to be sustainable, to have clear accountability in terms of social responsibility and corporate impact.The BPS and our members are working with key stakeholders and a start point is the public statements, for example on decisions to only extend the Universal Credit uplift for a further six months, free school meals policy, and the wellbeing of teachers.

As Michelle Obama says, ‘Life does not come easy. It is important to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. You can choose to change the world or let it change you. The choice is yours.’ As we move into the next phase, let us make choices that will enhance and shape the future of psychology and enable the discipline to flourish.

- Dr Hazel McLaughlin is President of the British Psychological Society. Contact her at [email protected]

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