Lockdown has changed our world, and it has changed us. Whatever we were doing and whoever we were with when Boris Johnson announced the locking down of the British nation, we are all different now. Changed and uncertain or apprehensive of what lies ahead. Three months on, Lockdown means different things for different people.
For the lucky ones, living in a close family with loved ones living nearby, maybe this time has been one of intimacy, and perhaps relaxation from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Tending gardens, listening to birds, and relishing the silence and peace of nature, not being constantly drowned out by the pace and traffic of our busy schedules. But even for the lucky few, relationships can become strained by the limitations of not being able to come and go. Parents starting to worry about children going back to school and about children not going back to school.
Home schooling is never an easy fit with mothering, and what if the mother works as so many do. Mothers in particular often times carrying the load of lockdown for the family, juggling working from home, teaching their children, cooking the meals. Frequently feeling they cannot do anything well enough as the demands on their time prove so challenging. And besides, children bristle at the imposed role-swap of their parents invading their formerly separate school lives and proclaim, at the point the mother is at her most exhausted, ‘you don’t know that, and anyway you are not teaching me anything’. Who wouldn’t give up and who is to say that maybe giving up and just enjoying being with your child becomes the best thing.
What of the parent who has been furloughed or is facing redundancy, and is looking at a future where providing for the family is looking insecure, or is being asked to go back to work, in circumstances that feel risky and unsafe, and put the common good before that of their family. The breadwinner who can’t share their anxiety as that isn’t something they are used to, or are comfortable with. Or the man who feels redundant in himself not just from his job, with no purpose to identify with and strive for? Or what of the couple who have reached the end of the road in their relationship and where do they go, or who can they really talk to? Think of losing a loved one to Corona Virus and not being able to go with them into hospital or say goodbye in person, or even be able to go to their funeral? How do you feel about your grandparent being in a care home, perhaps not being able to visit and so worried that the isolation they might be feeling is only chased away by the fiercer worry that they might get sick.
Or just how do you cope if you are in Lockdown on your own? Sartre said ‘hell was other people’. But it can feel like hell not to be able to reach out and touch or talk to another person for days at a time. In Lockdown we have never needed people more and never missed the human ability to be physically in touch quite so intensely. Whether you are depressed, anxious, grieving, worried about your kids, or struggling in relationships, normal ambivalence can reach new heights.
Lockdown at the moment unlocks all our past personal lockdowns, or traumas in new and intense ways. Whenever we have been frightened, or bereaved, or in conflict, alone, bullied, abandoned; now in Lockdown whatever has traumatised us in the past, can come back in this confined space and threaten once again. Not having a garden, or an income, or close friends and family nearby can’t be immediately sorted by coming to therapy. But being really listened to can be a start in addressing emotional fears and needs.
Therapy and counselling isn’t really a talking cure, but its a listening cure. When we are really listened to, we start to listen to ourselves and that is how new experience can be opened up. It is amazing what we can hear when we really listen, and when we are listened to. So much anxiety and shame are the result when we lockdown on what we feel, when we allow past and present events to alienate us from being alive and open to life and what other people can offer us. Lockdown in an age of coronavirus doesn’t have to be a lockdown of our feelings, our connection and our love for other people. Sometimes we have to be really listened to, in order to understand how we can change our lives and ourselves. Being listened to and being able to listen to ourselves enables the healing of past lockdowns.
And so we begin to free ourselves of the psychological burdens that are overwhelming us in this very physical Lockdown that has had so many diverse effects on or lives. Feelings and fears have to be shared to be really experienced and borne. And when we can bear them the future opens up, in ways that even the coronavirus can’t control or lock us away from. Whatever your anxieties, your relationship problems, the people who you have lost, or those who have hurt you; whatever your emotional pain, having a conversation about the really important things in your life with someone who is trained to listen and reframe, can help. Freeing ourselves from the emotional lockdowns of our past and private lives, opening our minds can allow us new possibilities in connection with others that will endure beyond the confined physical spaces of our current public health crisis.