ORGINALLY WRITTEN FOR ELEPHANT JOURNAL IN THE FIRST MONTHS OF THE COVID OANDEMIC AND LOCKDOWN
During this unprecedented and peculiar time of CoVid19 and the subsequent quarantines in place, I have seen a post doing the rounds recently. It talks about settling into this space to read and meditate, to sing and dance and remember how to find the sacred in the simplest of things. It talks about the world slowing down. It talks about humanity healing. It is beautiful. I believe in much of its sentiment.
Yes of course, it is important to uplift ourselves and each other during this difficulty. Yes of course there is value in making the most of this unusual moment and using the time wisely. Yes of course there is opportunity to heal and deal with our issues.
But so often in life our obsession with staying positive both individually and culturally means we don’t create the space for the far more complicated real raw human experience. We don’t create the space for people to feel free and safe to speak their struggles. I cannot help but think that to be able to take such an idealised position as this post is largely born out of either privilege, ignorance or arrogance. Many have not yet embarked upon the path of healing or perhaps have not had the opportunity to. It has the potential to silence and shame those who are suffering alone inside their homes.
I believe we need to stop romanticising lockdown, because quite simply, it is a mental health crisis in the making.
Here are some things I would like us all to have in our awareness during this time so that perhaps we can hold space for both ourselves and each another in a more complete and loving way.
The childhood traumas that many of us have suffered are largely to do with connection – or more to the point, lack of it. The original bonds formed with our family units were unhealthy, leaving us with a nagging sense of being alone - disconnected from ourselves, others and the world around us. For many people being physically isolated in their homes is going to be both triggering and retraumatising.
Most of us don’t even know that we carry trauma – wounding from childhood. We might suffer with symptoms such as addictions, chronic pain, depression or anxiety. We might drink heavily, or over work, or be a little bit too fanatic about exercise. We may not yet have discovered the pain that lies at the root of these behaviours – because they are designed to keep us from it.
Our day to day lives distract us, and in some ways actually protect us, from the true extent of the hurt that we carry quietly in our hearts.
This is why many of us struggle with being and are addicted to doing. Yes, taking away daily distractions is a deeply effective way of bringing all the emotional debris to the surface – but, I would never recommend that this was done without appropriate support.
This type of self confrontation would ideally only ever usually take place in a treatment centre, retreat or with the guidance of a professional or at the very least if none of these are financially accessible, appropriate personal support. The only time we intentionally leave people alone with their demons in this way is in the prison system – and I don’t even agree with that. We have just put our populations in to solitary confinement – the ultimate punishment … it makes people crazy.
It is all well and good saying that this is the moment when we should learn to be with our demons and meditate and self investigate and sing and read. But that is easy for those of us already doing those things to say. Perhaps it is a little privileged, a little arrogant, to assume that this will be possible for everyone. The reality is that dealing with trauma is a much more delicate dance. One that requires us to dip our toes in and pull them back out again. To learn to paddle around in the shallows first. In effective trauma work the last thing we ever want to do is unleash a tidal wave of old emotion all in one go. The nervous system cannot handle it. That is exactly what will be happening to many people right now.
Add to this that our health is under threat. Add to this that some of us are losing loved ones. Add to this there are clearly other unknown political agendas at play. Add to this the fact that many people are under enormous financial pressure. Add to this that many people with kids are now unable to access any personal space at all. Add to this that many people are unable to get out in nature and are being suffocated by four walls 24 hours around the clock. Our freedom of movement has been taken away overnight. We don’t know when it will be returned to us. This uncertainty will also add to the intensity.
Many people are going to be feeling agitated, angry, depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. Many people will be feeling confused, trapped, and alone, unable to understand the extent of the desperation that is quickly overcoming them.
We will learn much during this time, most definitely. Some of us will learn to be quieter. To need less. Many of us will get precious hours with our loved ones that will be treasured and remembered forever. But most of us will also suffer these lockdowns to one degree or another. Some will end up in serious emotional crisis because of it. My message is that there is no shame in this. This does not mean that we did not use our time wisely. This is no one’s fault. This is no one’s failing.
Lets please hold one another softly in the harsh reality of this unprecedented moment. Lets try to listen deeply.