After the “pandemic” was declared by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, a different life awaited us. The announcement of the first official cases and then the announcement of the first official deaths brought the “distance” closer. Personal and social measures began to be taken. Then official restrictions and curfews began for all. With that, we have entered a time we have experienced for the first time. It is a new, uncertain and frightening time where our lifestyle is completely changed. Therefore we experience emotional turmoil and suffer loss. However anxiety and fear manifest at different times and in different ways for each person. That is to say some of us are anxious about ourselves, others about their family. On the one hand, there is the effort to adapt and spend those days productively.
An Environment of Uncertainty in the Days of the Coronavirus Pandemic
Uncertainty can be quite challenging at times: For example “What will happen, how long will it last, how am I living, why am I living this way, what is happening to me, am I sick, am I okay…?” Nevertheless many questions cannot be answered these days. Meanwhile unanswered questions can increase anxiety, fear and even anger. ‘Others’ can be blamed for anxiety and anger: Those who do not understand, those who do not pay attention… Therefore the ‘labeling’ and ‘stamping’ of the new era has begun.
Some have lost many elements of their old lives, and those who have been able to continue their old lives for a while longer by switching to home-based work. Depending on the degree of loss, the degree of uncertainty is also important. We are in a time when our ability to deal with uncertainty is being tested. One of the most common ways to deal with uncertainty is to follow the news and tweets and get new information frequently. That reduces the sense of loss of control. On the other hand, this also leads to being exposed to intense stimuli, which increases stress.
The practice of psychotherapy has also entered an uncertain period. Certainly, face-to-face psychotherapy practices have shifted to online platforms. Further, the shared office room has disappeared. Moreover, these are mandatory related to the coronavirus pandemic conditions. Most importantly that is not clear when physical office rooms will come back fully.
Mixing Inner Reality with Outer Reality
Reviving Internal Themes in Isolation from Coronavirus Pandemic
There is a very compelling and uncertain external reality. This situation can lead to inner issues being revived and projected into the vague external world. For example, when a person feels fragile and vulnerable, they may have an increased belief that they can catch and be affected by an illness. They fear that an outer world with inner issues such as aggression, destructiveness, and greed will cause further chaos. For instance, some believe that some will rob people’s houses due to hunger. The intense uncertainty of the outer world prepares the ground for it to serve as a surface upon which inner considerations are made.
In the work of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the psychotherapist takes on the task of being this indeterminate surface. By reflecting on inner issues, he keeps himself in a neutral and thus ambiguous position in which he does not reveal his personal information. So that transferences can take place that allow the client to perceive the psychotherapist with elements of his inner world. These projections of the client are then examined as mental study material in therapy.
Uncertainty in the outer world enlivened the issues of the inner world and brought them to the surface. While the outer reality is similar for everyone these days, the inner reality is not. In short, the inner reality is unique, and it is critical to understand what we are experiencing in our inner reality.
Negative Feelings Experienced During Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic
Fear, anxiety, panic… There is also the feeling of loneliness… The coronavirus pandemic, worldwide losses, losses across the country, loss of loved ones, loss of physical and mental health… And the feeling of having lost everything, the feeling of being thrown back… Moreover, the feeling of losing control… When we enter this period, the emotions we experience determine what kind of lifestyle we have, where, and how we spend this period. Everyone gets “caught” at a different times: when a divorce is imminent, when the children are growing up, when living alone, when chronically ill, when having some physical and mental needs, when studying, when in transition, when abroad, when separated from family, or when wanting to leave family… Isolation and staying at home have made keeping the distance difficult or increased the distances.
In psychotherapy studies, the emotions that were crucial to the person’s life became very intense and perhaps repeated some overcome situations.
Adjustment During Coronavirus Pandemic
Adaptation to the Online World
Coping mechanisms vary from person to person. For example, some of us need rest, quiet, relaxation. Additionally, getting rid of stress can be a priority. Nevertheless, some of us spend our days productively, adapting quickly mentally. Adjusting to the lifestyle of staying home, being isolated, working from home, taking care of kids all day, sending caregivers, being away from school, being away from work, being away from friends, and coping with changes in relationships varies from person to person.
It is also a time of being physically separated from the psychotherapist. There is the loss of the physicality of psychotherapy, the loss of space, the loss of path, the loss of routines. During the adjustment period, the amount of work may change, sessions may decrease, meetings may increase, online work may be challenging, it may be interrupted, and therapy may be started online even though you are in the same city or neighborhood.
In conclusion, a need for routine and order emerges. Because creating safety and order in the uncertainty and emptiness makes adjustment easier.
Personal Questioning and Confrontations
Increase of Inner Pyschic Material That is Hard to Cope without Professional Help
As the various social stimuli of the outside world diminish, the person spends more time with himself, which can intensify the person’s view of himself. There are various aspects of self-exploration, both to examine the characteristics of this period and to focus on some inner issues that were on the agenda before this period. For instance, one can examine one’s behavior, attitudes, and emotional worlds in relation to what is happening today, “Am I too anxious?”, “Am I exaggerating?”, “Am I obsessive?”, “Am I schizoid?”, “Am I too introverted?”, “Am I too outgoing? Am I normal?”, “Am I crazy about what I do, what I think, what I feel?”, “Am I losing myself?”
We can not escape what’s inside us; the distracting social elements of the outer world are gone, some issues of our inner world have caught up with us: Postponed grief, longings, repressed fears and anxieties, perhaps even memories brought from the past, inner conflicts… Perhaps it is an excellent time to deal with inner issues in psychotherapy, because these days it is more difficult to repress, postpone and put off.
Physical and Mental Care
Need and Failure of Physical and Mental Care
In the days of the coronavirus pandemic, with the striking external reality, isolation and staying at home, some differences in personal care habits may occur. In cases of intense stress, the person may have difficulty maintaining self-care, eat an unhealthy diet, consume too much alcohol, use drugs, and remain inactive due to the limitation of the physical world. On the contrary, for some people it is essential to take care of themselves, eat well, take care of their skin and exercise… In addition, caring activities such as learning something new, seeing new things, hearing new things, communicating with different people, acquiring a new hobby, reviving old friendships and old hobbies may also become more important. Cleaning, tidying up, care, and creative processes may come to the fore.
Anxiety, Fear and Frustration Experienced Related to Financial Situation
One of the changes in our lives due to the coronavirus pandemic is the economic reality. There have been times in your life when your financial situation has changed. The legal restrictions and isolation that came with the coronavirus epidemic have also negatively impacted your economic reality. The income-expenditure balance has suddenly deteriorated. Consequently, this can lead to losses. Altough some habits that existed before the restrictions, some needs cannot be sustained during this time. So, you may have to say goodbye to some conditions. Whether some conditions that are maintained today can be maintained in the days ahead is unclear to many.
Losses of the Loved Ones, Social Life and Other Opportunities
Loss of our way of life, sociability, restriction of the physical world, restriction of exercise space, loss of some habits, routines and order, school, work, physical experience. There is also loss of social, physical experience… Moreover, loss of social needs, perhaps social recognition, social acceptance, social support… And loss of healthy body, deaths… The most fundamental point that defines the days of the coronavirus pandemic is our losses. We also have economic losses: Certainty, trust, a sense of belonging… New losses can revive old losses and emotional experiences of old losses, which can cause us experience many losses through one loss.
Clinical Psychologist & Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst in Formation IPA
Deniz Coşan is a Clinical Psychologist & Counselling Psychologist & Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst in Formation located in Istanbul, Turkey. She applies counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis for adults in private practice. Her sessions are both in English and in Turkish, face to face & online.