Duration Neglect and Disaster Recovery

I recently listened to the Hidden Brain podcast episode called Yum and Yuck. At about 13 minutes into the episode, the guest, Paul Rozin, talks about a psychological observation called Duration Neglect. This phenomenon was first described by Daniel Kahneman for which he won a Nobel Prize. Rozin describes it like this, “…people don’t remember how long an experience is, they just remember the experience. So if you had pain for 12 hours or pain for 1 hour, two weeks later what you remember the experience of the pain, not how long it was.”

Cutest Cabin Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash
Cutest Cabin Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

This struck me as being very relevant to anyone who has experienced a loss. When you’re in the middle of recovery, it seems like pain and/or discomfort is everywhere. You’re living in a new environment, you don’t have any of your belongings and you have two new full time jobs. Namely, getting your claim paid, and rebuilding (or replacing) your house.

Take time to learn

The pain is hard and long, as it drags on for months, or even years. It’s difficult to imagine it being over and some people just want to do whatever they can to escape the pain. Sometimes this escape comes at the expense of their best interest. Learning about insurance and planning for their new house are tasks that many people neglect. The let the Insurance Adjuster and/or the Contractor do the thinking for them, neither of which are looking out for your best interest.

Ultimately only you can know what’s best for you. Take notes and bring the adjuster to task for going back on promises. Ask questions and have him point out things in the policy so you can understand his answers. Know what to ask for from your contractor. Stand up for what you want when they make mistakes because you’re the one who will have to live with them.

The pain will just be a faint memory

Remember, the pain will ultimately end. Rozin says, “Kahneman and others have shown that the ending of an experience is particularly important… and also the beginning to some extent.” You know you’ll remember the beginning of this journey, but take the time in the middle to make sure the ending (your house) will be exactly what you want. Ultimately, all of the pain will be a faint memory.