Results of the end of day poll



At the end of the IMEC 2020 conference, 60 conference participants filled in a poll with open and multiple choice questions which were derived from the lectures and workshops from the speakers. We have used thematic analysis and factor analysis to summarise these answers. The conclusions from this poll are in line with the points raised during the last panel discussion with ten speakers.

These are the main conclusions from the IMEC 2020 conference:

  1. We need to question the status quo in our personal lives, our professions and our society.
  2. We need to have a holistic and inclusive perspective on our current crises, including the negative impact of materialism, capitalism, racism and polarisation. For example. the impact of COVID-19 needs to be seen in the light of wider social , ecological and psychospiritual crises.
  3. Despite these crises, there is hope for meaningful change.
  4. Some individuals experience the COVID-19 pandemic as an existential crisis or a boundary situation in life.
  5. Individuals can respond to the existential impact of the pandemic by denying/avoiding the reality of COVID-19, or they can respond with developing self-insight and focusing on what really matters in life.
  6. Psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and coaches have a responsibility to actively use their expertise to create social change.
  7. In the mental health care professions and in academia in general, we need to question ourselves more critically than we do now, and we need to become more inclusive and step outside of our ivory towers.
  8. Positive social transformation could be created by focusing on people’s experiences, relationships, communities and true democracy.
  9. The (social) media have a strong impact on shaping the pandemic, mainly via sensationalising and misrepresenting the pandemic.


Factor analyses of multiple choice questions

Factor 1 = 51% = questioning the status quo in science, politics and general public debate from a humanistic-existential perspective

Factor 2 = 7% = hope for societal transformation through crises

Factor 3 = 7% = it is beneficial for individuals and society to use an experiential and relational approach to cope with crises

Factor 4 = 6% = society needs a systemic transformation towards social justice for all individuals

Factor 5 = 5% = we are facing existential givens during the pandemic, and we can respond to this in multiple ways

Factor 6 = 5% = materialism and capitalism seem to underlie the response to the pandemic

Factor 7 = 4% = racism and a polarised mindset determine the existential position of people towards the pandemic

Factor 8 = 4% = the media have created denial and have undermined a critical approach to the pandemic

Factor 9 = 3% = it is difficult or impossible to control the perception and behaviour of individuals during pandemics

Factor 10 = 2% = people are calling for true democracy


Thematic analysis of the open answers (each theme is mentioned at least by 3 individuals)

Overall themes

-We need to have a holistic and inclusive perspective on our current crises

-There is hope for change and meaning through our current crises

-Psychologists and therapists have a responsibility to contribute to social change

-We need to question ourselves more critically, become more inclusive and get out of our ivory tower

-Relationships and communities should be the focus of our interventions and change


State of the world

-individual, social and natural processes are intertwined, with a particular role for capitalism

-this crisis can be an existential turning point, leading to positive social transformation

-arts and humanities could help

-the pandemic has an existential impact on many individuals

-social relationships are an important source to cope with the pandemic

-the pandemic has unequally impacted different groups of people

-psychologists and therapist can help to create social justice



-structural change of our socio-economic and political system is needed

-social researchers should play a larger role in decision-making during disasters

-creating an open dialogue between social groups, and giving voice to marginalised groups

-question the assumptions of our education and research, e.g. decolonise the curriculum


Important professional skills

-use a relational and holistic approach, that does justice to the complexities and intertwining of individuals, society and nature

-have professional self-confidence in the possibility of change, while remaining realistic about one’s limitations

-explicitly addressing the topic of meaning in the workplace, therapy and politics

-realising that more research is needed

-question the assumptions of our usual way of working, and try to be more inclusive


Important personal skills

– be more reflective and critical towards myself


-meaning is always possible, and can be a resource of coping

-expressing one’s own experiences


Take away messages from the conference

-more diversity is needed

-connections between people are important

-there is always an opportunity for meaning and for change

-professionals need to get out of their ivory tower


Raw data



Our mental health is strongly impacted by the fear that we or our loved ones get seriously ill

M= [frm-stats id=106 type=mean decimal=1]

Our mental health is strongly impacted by the way how governments have responded to pandemics

M=[frm-stats id=126 type=mean decimal=1]

Our individual sense of meaning in life is influenced by our political and socio-economic situation

M=[frm-stats id=125 type=mean decimal=1]

Our individual sense of meaning in life is influenced by our political and socio-economic situation

M=[frm-stats id=124 type=mean decimal=1]

The government and scientists have only a small influence on what citizens think

M=[frm-stats id=123 type=mean decimal=1]

Almost one-third of all social media posts about the pandemic are inaccurate

M=[frm-stats id=169 type=mean decimal=1]

It is easy to get addicted to media during pandemics: fear drives you to read media, and the media will make your fear bigger so that you will follow them even more

M=[frm-stats id=168 type=mean decimal=1]

The pandemic is caused by our materialist lifestyle

M=[frm-stats id=170 type=mean decimal=1]

The pandemic has had a very unequal impact on different groups in society

M=[frm-stats id=122 type=mean decimal=1]

The pandemic has had a very unequal impact on different groups in society

M=[frm-stats id=121 type=mean decimal=1]

People are more stressed about the way how governments have responded than about the pandemic than by the threat of COVID-19 itself

M=[frm-stats id=120 type=mean decimal=1]

Large-scale quarantine may be counter-effective, as it has large psychological and physical side-effects on the general population

M=[frm-stats id=119 type=mean decimal=1]

Many people perceive the pandemic as an existential threat

M=[frm-stats id=118 type=mean decimal=1]

Many behaviours from people during pandemics can be explained as their response to their existential anxiety

M=[frm-stats id=171 type=mean decimal=1]

Individuals with a sense of meaning in life are more likely to interpret the pandemic in a nuanced way

M=[frm-stats id=117 type=mean decimal=1]

Some people become more defensive and conservative in response to the existential threat of pandemics

M=[frm-stats id=116 type=mean decimal=1]

The pandemic has stimulated people to help each other

M=[frm-stats id=115 type=mean decimal=1]

The pandemic stimulates people to demand a society in which all individuals can live a meaningful life

M=[frm-stats id=114 type=mean decimal=1]

Existential and humanistic psychotherapy can help individuals to cope with the existential challenges of pandemics

M=[frm-stats id=113 type=mean decimal=1]

We need a fundamental systematic change of society to enable all citizens to live a meaningful life

M=[frm-stats id=112 type=mean decimal=1]

The breakdown of daily routines, customs, and our habitual life produces insecurity

M=[frm-stats id=127 type=mean decimal=1]

Individuals can grow psychologically and spiritually in the face of traumatic experiences

M=[frm-stats id=128 type=mean decimal=1]

Societies are becoming more politically polarised

M=[frm-stats id=129 type=mean decimal=1]

Increasing numbers of people seem to be developing and expressing a single point of view instead of acknowledging complexities

M=[frm-stats id=130 type=mean decimal=1]

Possible solutions to a narrow mindset are developing a sense of awe, humility, wonder, and adventure towards living

M=[frm-stats id=131  type=mean decimal=1]

Societies could benefit from radical open encounters between citizens

M=[frm-stats id=132 type=mean decimal=1]

Many individuals shift their anger and frustration away from the real causes, and project their anger onto others, such as minority groups in society

M=[frm-stats id=133 type=mean decimal=1]

Many individuals deny their anger and frustrations over the pandemic and how governments have dealt with this

M=[frm-stats id=134 type=mean decimal=1]

The COVID-19 pandemic is a pandemic of capitalism

M=[frm-stats id=135 type=mean decimal=1]

It is unhelpful to ‘try to keep it positive’ during pandemics

M=[frm-stats id=136 type=mean decimal=1]

Humanities and arts can help us cope with our socioeconomic crisis

M=[frm-stats id=138 type=mean decimal=1]

There should be a public and professional reflection on the dominance of the pharmaceutical industry

M=[frm-stats id=137 type=mean decimal=1]

We need to change how we conduct and organise scientific research

M=[frm-stats id=139 type=mean decimal=1]

People can use different coping styles to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic

M=[frm-stats id=140 type=mean decimal=1]

Addictions have increased during the pandemic

M=[frm-stats id=141 type=mean decimal=1]

Physical and non-verbal contact and expression are crucial for our mental health

M=[frm-stats id=142 type=mean decimal=1]

Reflecting on our common reality can help others to make contact with others

M=[frm-stats id=143 type=mean decimal=1]

All psychological practice (psychotherapy, coaching, counselling) is influenced by our political and socio-economic context

M=[frm-stats id=144 type=mean decimal=1]

Mental health care professions need to offer their practitioners more explicit support in coping with politics

M=[frm-stats id=145 type=mean decimal=1]

All psychological practice (psychotherapy, coaching, counselling) should stimulate social justice

M=[frm-stats id=147 type=mean decimal=1]

Grieving is a process of reaffirming or reconstructing a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss

M=[frm-stats id=146 type=mean decimal=1]

Grieving does not necessarily go via ‘stages’ but has a unique meaning at different moments in time for different individuals

M=[frm-stats id=148 type=mean decimal=1]

No one is an expert on life, not even therapists and psychologists

M=[frm-stats id=149 type=mean decimal=1]

It can be beneficial to individuals and communities, to set aside their pretentions of ‘knowing it all’

M=[frm-stats id=150 type=mean decimal=1]

Radical democracy starts by listening in non-oppressed ways to our embodied process of experiencing

M=[frm-stats id=151  type=mean decimal=1]

Existential coaching can foster resilience, understanding and meaning in life and business, also in times of pandemics

M=[frm-stats id=152  type=mean decimal=1]

Turmoil can lead to positive personal and spiritual transformations

M=[frm-stats id=153  type=mean decimal=1]

The pandemic could transform the general mindset of societies

M=[frm-stats id=154  type=mean decimal=1]

It is crucial for the survival of our human species to acknowledge the limitations of our material/physical ways of looking at the world

M=[frm-stats id=155 type=mean decimal=1]

True scientific progress is made when scientists do not merely look at the material world and do not merely speak in materialist terms

M=[frm-stats id=156  type=mean decimal=1]

COVID-19 is a symbol of what Native Americans call a ‘sickness of the spirit’

M=[frm-stats id=157  type=mean decimal=1]

The recent communication by some western governments about ethnic minorities reminds of fascism

M=[frm-stats id=158  type=mean decimal=1]

Human anticipations, expectations and fears may have brought the COVID-19 environment into existence

M=[frm-stats id=159  type=mean decimal=1]

Indigenous stories and wisdom could help individuals and societies to heal from the wounds of COVID-19

M=[frm-stats id=159  type=mean decimal=1]

Eastern countries have framed COVID-19 not merely in individualistic-medical terms, but also in transpersonal terms

M=[frm-stats id=162  type=mean decimal=1]

The COVID-19 pandemic offers the opportunity to transform the globally dominant western materialist perspective into a more transpersonal Eastern perspective

M=[frm-stats id=161  type=mean decimal=1]

Self-care and self-development are more important than ever during pandemics

M=[frm-stats id=163  type=mean decimal=1]

The pandemic has created a social transformation towards more connected communities and a more altruistic society

M=[frm-stats id=164  type=mean decimal=1]

Building personal and professional connections is more important than ever during pandemics

M=[frm-stats id=165  type=mean decimal=1]

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