Although the virus and the pandemic represent different things to different people (and it is key to know what they represent for you), for most of us, the pandemic tests our capacity to withstand fear and uncertainty. The threat of the virus is presented as a real threat to our life and the lives of those we love. We are all more or less visibly invited to face our ultimate fear – the fear of death. How does one face death? And, this invitation, comes with the added challenge of having to face it alone – in lockdowns, which isolate us from our usual routines and favourite people, from work and activities that can sustain us. Add to this situation, the lack of clear vision of what the future holds for us and for the world. So, it is not surprising that we do not want to face death or live as if we have died – in social and physical isolation. The imposed (even if necessary) isolation only enhances our experience of being close to death.
In this context, we need to interpret some of the resistance and discontent with the rules of lockdown as manifestations precisely of our natural human desire to be alive. Add to this, also, the substantial loss of wisdom or even loss of mind around (in some cases – obvious psychosis), especially among certain leaders of the world. Altogether, these circumstances form a perfect recipe for an internal combustion of fear. This is where we need the most self-care. And, thank god, for those of us, our family, friends, colleagues, workers and leaders around the world who have remained grounded in reality and truth, provide useful insight, crystallise meaning, and make wise and empathic contributions supporting life, truth and love. Some inspiring examples of leadership in the light and love of the human spirit are emerging from this crises. I am thinking of Jacinda Ardern, for example.
A little bit of fear and stress in any situation have always been quite helpful. They are our ways of making sure we actively seek out and create safety, resources and solutions to crises. However, overwhelming fear and stress are not helpful. They are traumatising and freeze us, disable us from action and break our spirit. We need to keep an eye on our individual level of tolerance to fear. Where is your tipping point from where useful fear and stress turn into unbearable, disabling, and traumatising experiences? For some, it takes a lot of stress and fear to get to that point. Others, who might be more vulnerable for whatever reason (past or present), might arrive at their limit more quickly. In moments like our current pandemic, it is important to be able to keep track of where you are on the fear continuum.
Beyond your own limit lay various states of freezing and incapacitation, followed by desperate reliance on various defensive behaviours. These are our ways to survive. They deserve all our respect and grateful acknowledgement but they are usually extremely unhelpful in the long run. They include things like blissful illusion-making; shovelling things briskly under the carpet, turning our back on truth and reality because they are too much to bear; self-harming behaviours or harming others, or more profound changes in identity, that is, of who we are. We do this when things become unbearable, so that we can survive and get past the terrible feelings. But hard feelings do not just go away when we convince ourselves that they are not there. They pile up and sooner or later explode. Our states of fear also work like a Pandora Box – they open the lid that covers all our past experiences of overwhelming fear, pain or trauma. What might follow is an avalanche of all these inner demons upon our daily life. It can be devastating. A form of inner pandemic.
Therapeutic relationships and other expert help in such situations might be invaluable if all other resources are currently insufficient. Therapy can resource us in the stage of bearable fear and stress and it can support us in staying well under the tipping point. It can help us if we have reached the tipping point, and it can bring us back from the space beyond it. It can rescue us from under the avalanche of feelings. It can be an ongoing support or an emergency solution in a crisis such as this one. But before you reach out to therapy, why don’t you check out the resources I have added in the Pandemic 101 page here. If they are not enough, then just get in touch with me.