As we unlock
Thoughts on personal and social changes as we emerge from lockdown.
Government restrictions on the way we go about our daily lives and how we interact with others has proved for some people to be a catalyst for reflection and evaluation of the sort of individuals we want to be, the sort of relationships we want with our partners and family, and of the sort of society we want to live in.
These are my thoughts both as a counsellor and as an avid observer of human behaviour. If there are issues you are reflecting on or changes that you are unsure about then a few counselling sessions could help bring clarity for you.
Attitudes and reactions to risk. Every time we get up out of bed and start our day there are risks. For long enough we’ve been told that most accidents happen in the home, and the irony is that it is the home that we’ve been mostly confined to for the last 12 months. Our responses to coronavirus tell us something about ourselves and about those we interact with.
Some folks might be perceived as rebellious mavericks who reject any sort of external control and wish to hold on to their right to make their own minds up and do as they please rather than following instructions from what they believe to be unacceptable government over-reach. At the other end of the scale there are those who unquestioningly bow and follow everything they are told on the news and by government. In fact they go much further and take safety measures that haven’t even been initiated by the government. Like wearing masks when out walking in the open air or whilst alone in the car driving.
My observations are that some people have become rather comfortable retreating into a smaller world; with fewer interactions, less social demands made of them, no more pretending to enjoy themselves in certain social situations. A simpler existence with predictability and increased safety.
Other people have felt totally stifled by the whole experience; so much so that the things they’ve previously dithered over or procrastinated about in the past have now been brought forward in their consciousness with a view to taking action and shaking things up. The fragility of life and the freedoms they’ve previously taken for granted have suddenly been enlarged in their awareness, and they are less likely to be so cautious or indecisive in the future. One life, live it... as the saying goes.
So for some, the lust for life and the experiences which make us feel exhilarated or fully alive have taken on new personal meaning and significance. Whilst others have decided they’re settling for a simpler and, dare I suggest, more reclusive existence.
There is no right or wrong way to be, but stress, anxiety and depression can develop in direct proportion to the size of the gap between how our instincts and desires tell us we’d like to be living, and how we’re actually living. To reduce the depression, you need to reduce the gap, either by making some life changes, or by changing your expectations. It’s a bit more complex than that of course, as any counsellor will tell you; but that’s one way of making a start.
The workplace has also been affected. Offices that were once a hive of activity, with lots of social interaction at the coffee machine, gossip in the staff room, banter at the water fountain all being affected as so many employees were asked to work from home.
Some found this to be a blessed relief; getting away from all the office politics, the office clicks, and the boss constantly looking over your shoulder. Not to mention not having to get up at silly o’clock in the morning, formally dress, and suffer the commute. Whilst others found it mind-numbingly isolating as they struggled with yet another video call as the kids ran round their feet.
Spending more time with your spouse or partner might in theory sound like a good thing, but it’s not always the case, especially when it’s enforced upon you rather a deliberate act of choice. Issues that you both became so good at avoiding because of the daily distractions and busyness of life suddenly become magnified and harder to ignore when you’re in each others presence for so much longer.
This can result in increased anger, resentment, bitterness and intolerance. But it was also a chance to have those difficult conversations that were avoided for far too long. For some it brought healing and a renewed sense of mutual understanding; for others the home became a battleground.
As human beings we have spent millions of years evolving into social creatures of various complex societies from age to age, country to country. Lockdown restrictions went against the flow and told us that not only were our enemies our enemies, but also that the people we liked were also a risk to our well-being. The term “social distancing” was coined and it sounded like a contradiction in terms! Beware... of everyone!
Again, there are differences to be observed. For example, some people who used to go for regular massages have not started going again... “for fear”, whilst others have felt touch-deprived and can’t book a massage quick enough. People who’ve been a bit bashful in the past and never had one have suddenly thrown inhibition to the wind and gone for it, in the spirit of YOLO, whilst others have become suspicious of human touch.
If you are anxious about any of these matters, or you want to take the opportunity to rethink how you want to live, post-lockdown, then a few sessions of counselling could help.
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