In 20 years people will be reading what was said about the pandemic. One of the things they will note is the language of warfare that is being used. The virus is an “unseen enemy.” We are waging a “war.” We have to “stay safe”—as if our lives are about to be blown up by a bomb.
This kind of language may be helpful to some, but it activates a very basic human response it us.
This type of language highlights that we are under threat. When humans are threatened, they respond with in one of three ways—fight, flight or freeze. Our individual responses may vary depending on our personal circumstances, our families of origin, our histories, but these three response are basic human instinct.
The emergence of the virus and the rules that were imposed have meant that all of us have had to flee—to hide in our homes and not come out until we are allowed. In effect life was frozen for a few months. And even if we remained working, we were working under different conditions, retreating to our homes, in our individual family units. We were not able to connect with people the way we would normally when faced with a crisis.
Another basic of humans is that we are relational animals. So without the regular, supportive contact which enables us to cope and thrive, we have taken to technology in new ways—to find that connection. Or, if we are not technological beings and we are lonely, we may have become overwhelmed with anxiety or sadness.
So we are literally threatened by something we cannot see. We have had to flee from it, by hiding in our homes. We have not had the usual routine filled with relationships to sustain us. It has been a tough time. And there is not really an end in sight. Lockdown may be easing, but every choice we make may put us at risk. The threat remains.
How do we manage that? Some stride out, confident that they are safe; they can “fight” it. Others remain at home, retreating to avoid contact with the potential threat. Some of us don’t really know what to do. We make one decision one day; a contradictory decision the next day. We long for the resumption of contact. We fear what that may bring into our homes.
These are tough times. I have no easy answers. I will make decisions that others think are crazy. Others will make decisions that I think are risky. Most of us are exhausted. We are grieving—we have lost birthday and anniversary celebration; people have died; our jobs are gone; our friends are struggling; relationships have ended; the list is almost endless. I have learned that when I am exhausted and grieving, I don’t always make the best major decisions.
So be gentle—with yourself and with others. Allow for differences and changes of direction. Remember, we are in the early days of our pandemic. We have a long way to go before the virus is “controlled”. We need each other in this crazy time. If we want to use the language of warfare, let the virus be the enemy but trust that we, other humans, are here for each other, offering care and support as we can and when we can.
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