How’s it going - The Lockdown ?? Six weeks in and the News is suggesting that things are beginning to fray at the edges. Social distancing, whilst still being observed by many people for the most part , is perhaps being pushed at its boundaries by others. There will be many reasons for this – not least those that need to return to work. However, some may just have reached the limit with their ability to stay away from friends and family …. And have begun the sneaky coffee on the driveway, drink over the fence, cuppa in the back garden – all 2 metres apart of course.
We’ve been using technology to overcome our forced separations, video conferencing software use has seen a rise like never before and people are quizzing, and chatting, and keeping fit through their screens. It serves some purpose for connection. Us humans are generally social (though who doesn’t love a bit of solitude for the sake of sanity?!) Speaking with people over the last few days, about the “caged animal” vibe they are starting to get from limited freedom to interact, I’ve been reminded of some words I heard from Esther Perel (psychotherapist, author, speaker)
“As almost all of our communal institutions give way to a heightened sense of individualism, we look more frequently to our partner to provide the emotional and physical resources that a village or community used to provide. Is it any wonder that, tied up in relying on a partner for compassion, reassurance, sexual excitement, financial partnership, etc. that we end up looking to them for identity or, even worse, for self-worth?”
She was talking specifically about tensions in relationships with chosen life partners, but I think her words shed light on an issue that many people have experienced specifically during Lockdown. Years ago, people lived in much tighter knit communities and often close to extended families. Individuals would have relationships with different people and for varying reasons. One might be the breadwinner, one might be the emotional support, one provided the fun and laughs, one was a practical help, one shared the childcare etc We don’t live quite so closely these days, however … the same sentiment applies. We have a few - or many - friends, connections, colleagues, employees, acquaintances, team mates etc. They each serve to meet a need in us.
And here we are …. Unable to access all those people, meet all of our needs. Instead we are isolated at home, on our own, or with family or friends, or lovers. And it’s lovely, or lonely, or functional, or frustrating (we’ll have our own views!) but the truth is for many it will be emotionally difficult. No one human is likely to be able to fulfil all of your needs for you. Not your significant other. Not your best friend. Not your children. Not even you (because, as great as self-care and self-love are, you are a human being with inherent limitations as to what you can do for yourself).
You have a multitude of needs (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, etc.) and it would be impossible to expect one person to meet all of those needs for you. It’s unrealistic to expect that the people in the house with you can provide all the stimulus and support you like in life. And for those seeing this pandemic out on their own – there isn’t anyone in the house to meet any needs! Maybe it’s the first time we’ve even realised what we need to get by in life, what our interpersonal requirements are, clarity on who brings what to our lives.
Video conferencing, texts and phone calls may go some way to alleviate the holes left by our other important connections…. But it’s unlikely they’ll hit the spot entirely. So what do we do ? We recognise it, understand it, take what steps we can to get our needs met, phone the people who make us laugh, discuss and debate with those who meet our penchant for intellectual conversation, show our vulnerability and share how we are feeling, ask for help if help is wanted, read books and articles, watch programmes that can provide a “fix” of what we are after, plan, schedule, keep reaching out.
There is a reality to the times we are in . Maybe we have to stop expecting things can’t be provided right now. Instead we continue to stay home, stay safe …. And look forward to reconnecting with our wider network in the – hopefully – very near future!