Where are the images that tell stories?

After my routine, long run that weekend, I was looking forward to the usual family breakfast tradition. However, that day, I decided to takeaway breakfast because COVID- 19 seemed to show signs of continued spread. I was being careful.

As I was leaving the lobby of our apartment building for the car park, I saw an ambulance pull up. My heart skipped a beat. Is someone sick? Is this person infected?

I then saw healthcare workers fully covered with masks, goggles, and bunny suits. My palms started sweating as I watched them take a wheelchair out of the ambulance.

I was convinced that there must have been a case of COVID- 19 at our apartment block. I panicked and rushed back home via the stairs to tell my daughter that she should not leave the house and definitely not use the lifts.

In the days to follow, I would lose my nerve over small things like, my daughter touching the staircase railing at our apartment block. The involuntary reaction of clearing my throat every now and then became noticeable and I would question, ” Is today the day I will get COVID- 19?”

Although I had known about COVID -19 before, my reactions were pronounced after witnessing the scene at the lobby of the apartment building. Was it the proximity of the infection that made me panic or was it something else?

Every time I felt anxious, I noticed myself visualising the lobby and the fully covered healthcare workers. Every time I hear sirens wailing, the visual of the lobby popped up in my head. It was this visual that freaked me and made me take extra precautions for the safety of my family and myself during such times.

Clearly, visualisation is a powerful tool — it can help us better understand the severity of the situation. But sadly, our analytical brain tends to rely solely on daily briefings filled with statistical info presented in pie charts and bar graphs.

Historically, we have never relied solely on statistics to communicate calamity. There is an inverse relationship between high numbers and comprehension. It is much harder to picture the tragedy we now face with COVID-19 with statistical information. However, visualising a single person in pain or using a familiar image of the human condition can bring about a desired behaviour change. This form of visualisation is what psychologists term “identifiable victim effect,” where the effect of one individual, an identifiable victim, who is made known in full detail can evoke much deeper feelings, emotions and sympathy than a large group of anonymous individuals.

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As Joseph Stalin rightly put, for society to respond in ways that commensurate with the importance of this pandemic, we have to see it. For us to be transformed by it, the pictures that speak a thousand words penetrate our hearts and minds.

Images force us to contend with the unspeakable. They help humanise clinical statistics and make the numbers comprehensible.

Research Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/01/opinion/coronavirus-photography.html

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