Updated: May 5, 2020
Perhaps many will question the title given to this text, since I have no intention of telling everyone how they should deal with this pandemic. I have no formed opinion on how each one should deal with social isolation or exercise tips, how to maintain the physical-mental-family balance, as I do not believe that what works for me, will work for others.
However, I can't help but follow the exuberance of activities that have plagued social networks, more than ever, full of advice, magic formulas and infallible tips for going through the pandemic. The abundance of texts, videos, interviews about COVID-19, in fact, postponed my writing, instead of stimulating it, as it so often happens to me when faced with a new fact in our society or culture.
Perhaps my introverted nature was shocked by the almost manic pro-activity of some people, who started producing an almost suffocating amount of content, as if the avalanche of news and information about the pandemic around the world, which monopolized information channels in a massive way were not enough.
The Corona virus affected our lives in a way never imagined, the course of our lives, our routines, was changed so abruptly, that the process of elaboration came after the first actions that were taken, such as the immediate migration to home office (for those who can ...), interruption of the workday for many, closing schools and day care centers and fear of the collapse of the economy, of the supplies, and the risk of unemployment for some, the certainty of unemployment or total loss income, for many.
The pandemic opened up the social inequality in which we live, not because we were unaware that inequality in our country is even genocidal, but because of the absurd number of people who, suddenly, no longer had anything to eat.
Perhaps the big surprise, for some, was the immediate solidarity network that was formed. While the concern was announced that the pandemic would reach the favelas and the most susceptible populations, an organization of a support, care and emergency aid network emerged within the most needy communities, in a demonstration of empathy and practical sense worthy of a number of citizens, much well prepared than some of our political rulers.
This will certainly be one of the many great lessons to be learned from this tragedy that we are experiencing. Those who, in a way, have always been most vulnerable, are also those who have had the opportunity to develop resilience and compassion for others. Who knows the pain of hunger, helplessness and abandonment identifies the suffering of the other instantly, and takes action, because whoever is hungry, is in a hurry, who is in pain, is in need of immediate care. And it has been done in several communities.
Meanwhile, in upscale and elegant neighborhoods of the city, several citizens continue to gather family and friends, in small groups, or even at parties, after all, people who think themselves above good and evil, or even the virus, continue to manifest their manic omnipotence.
In fact, we have oscillated between the manic denial of the problem, sometimes even in a sociopathic way, that the Corona virus would be nothing more than a inoffensive cold grip, and that all the measures of care and protection of transmission, suggested by the World Health Organization, would be exaggerated or absurd, as if the WHO were a crazed Cassandra discredited by an abusive god, as in the myth. The hybris of some government rulers reaches the level of genocidal irresponsibility, as many follow them without any critical sense, or with a critical sense based on beliefs and ideas crystallized by hybris.
Behind the scenes, we have collective depression and anxiety triggered by the uncertainty of the present and the future. Individual and collective depressive factors mix and alternate, in a coming and going between the personal and collective reasons for the malaise prevailing in our civilization. We know that manic defenses are a desperate attempt to deal with depression and sadness, so we are willing to use social isolation to take several online courses, learn a new language or professional skill, after all, as one of the most abominable affirmations that I have read on social networks “if you do not leave this pandemic with at least one new skill, then it was never a lack of time, but of will”, ignoring the reality of each individual and printing another stereotype of coaching, self-help or , in my humble opinion.
Our personal lives, and our home, from one hour to the next, were invaded by work, virtual classes for students and parents and home of schooling for children. Domestic routines, which previously alternated with activities carried out inside or outside home, contaminated personal relationships and robbed from home the status of recovering and coziness space. Hestia, the Greek goddess responsible for the comfort of home, rest and food, through the symbol of the fire, always lightened in order to make food and heating the space, a symbol for recovering the energies of the workers and travelers, was reviled. Its sacred space was invaded by work, study, business meetings, and even by a demand for food and care that do not respect the hours of rest and leisure. In fact, food has become even more scarce in many homes, due the fact that many workers and students stopped to receive the meals provided by employers and schools, what made them susceptible to famine.
Face-to-face psychotherapy goes online, thus, in fright, from one day to the next!
After 40 days of social isolation, attending all my patients exclusively online, I notice that characteristics of exclusively online psychotherapy appeared immediately after the transition from face-to-face to online sessions.
My first experience with non-face-to-face psychotherapy took place after my move to Germany in 2006, when some patients I was attending at the time, refused to accept the referral I made to colleagues, and continued therapy, even at a distance, even when that was not so common in those times, when technological resources were not as abundant and accurate as they are now. The intensity of online sessions has always caught my attention, where there are almost no arrival and farewell rituals, at most we make sure that we are both being heard and seen clearly. Yes, seeing and listening are still essential in online sessions, and I would like to point out that chat-only sessions are very insufficient in this regard, at least in my personal experience. The tone of voice is lacking, the pause, if we are looking at the screen or not, this kind of details still counts during online sessions.
Protected by the fragile distance provided by the video call, secrets, shame, traumas of all kinds, which in the past only circumnavigated the sessions, they undress themselves in a sincere and courageous way, making the therapeutic process even more intense and profound, sometimes even accelerating the process, as the psychic defenses seem to loosen up during this pseudo detachment.
I do not want to apologize that online psychotherapy is better than face-to-face psychotherapy, but that it has unimaginable values, oh, it does!
I was always bothered by the statement of some colleagues who treated online psychotherapy as something "minor". If "minor" psychotherapy is considered, why practice it? For money, comfort, convenience? I find this, at the very least, unethical, don't you?
Even patients who did not believe in the effectiveness of online sessions, quickly surrendered to the fact that the loss of the quality of the therapeutic process did not happen.
Today we have many therapeutic resources that make up psychotherapy, such as artistic expressions, sandplay, active imagination, among others. Although several psychotherapeutic resources can be adapted to online care, I always wonder to what extent this paraphernalia of accessories and psychotherapeutic techniques that we use are at the service of the patient or ourselves. I got tired of seeing colleagues using therapeutic resources in an excessive way, losing focus on the case in question, sometimes even using these resources as a way of seduction within the therapeutic process, creating a feeling of untimely importance, both for the therapist and the client. . Or maybe this is just my fantasy that the excessive use of auxiliary techniques is a compensation for the difficulty of being present and whole with a patient that often leads us to levels of psychic immersion that we are not prepared to achieve. My critical thoughts are recorded here.
The phases of acceptance and denial of social isolation
Today I have been in social isolation for almost eight weeks, however, some patients had already started the home office in the week prior to mine, either because they had had contact with a confirmed Corona virus patient, or because in the company where they worked there was a case reported, or because someone from their social network was hospitalized with a confirmed diagnosis. I must say that my patients warned me of the need for social isolation before the official measures were taken , and I am very grateful to these patients who were generous and chose not to put my health, and that of other people in their (and my) relationships, in risk.
I note that the attitude towards the pandemic and social isolation had some similarities since week 1 (March 9th to 15th), I also note that the official notifications date from March 13th, and some companies had already decided that their employees should start taking care of themselves, and have released the home office as optional in some cases, and already mandatory in others.
Week 1 - March 9 - 15
The people who were exposed in some way were scared, they arrived at my office and went straight to wash their hands, they no longer greeted me closely, they chose to sit in the most distant chair, they were extremely anxious, but happy with the possibility of home office, in this moment, proposed for the next two or three weeks. The home office felt like paradise, where they would feel protected. The problems of the pandemic still seemed somewhat distant, projected on the problems presented in other countries, but certainly a fear was hanging in the air.
Week 2 - March 16 - 22
People, although scared, were optimistic, “let's do our part, after all, two weeks pass quickly!”, they said. Some already envisioned that the two weeks would be much more than two, and they have already started to worry about creating survival strategies, making domestic and relationship adjustments, such as division of tasks and workspace at home. Some were optimistic, proactive, in an accelerated productivity, both in professional work and in caring for the home and food.
Week 3 - March 23 - 29
The tiredness of the routine, where work and home mix, the lack of leisure and the separation of environments, which used to determine when it was time to work, relax, have fun, begins to be felt. Physical exercises, which had been neglected, either because they thought it was just a phase, or because of the overload of activities, is again considered important for many. However, the workload of many people increased significantly, either because the demand for work increased, since many companies and employees had to diversify their forms of insertion and maintenance in the labor market, in this case, physical exercise became also a way to relieve stress and focus on health as a whole.
Week 4 - March 30 to April 5
The illusion that everything “would pass” is now confronted with the reality of the facts. We are facing a new “normal” that nobody knows where it will take us. The mourning for the lost routine, for the hospitalized relatives and friends, the news of the death of an acquaintance, the alarming news from the news and social networks lead to apathy and anxiety, at the same time that traumas are reactivated. Memories of traumas, losses and mourning are reactivated with great intensity, not only in relation to the past, but to mourning in relation to future plans, previously illusory postponed for a few weeks, some now postponed indefinitely. Fear in the face of the uncertainty of a world that is no longer a parameter, the feeling of deprivation of freedom brings up crises of late adolescence and desires for transgression.
Week 5 – April 6 - 12
Finding that we are living "a new normal" brings updates in employment contracts, personal relationships and expectations about the future. While some people reinforce the manic defenses of denial of the pandemic, minimizing the risks of breaking social isolation as a more effective protective measure, there is a sharp decrease in social isolation adherence, which leads to an increase in the number of people infected, hospitalized, and consequently an increase in the number of deaths. On the other hand, people who previously only obeyed WHO's guidelines for the sake of social obedience, improved awareness of their social role during the pandemic, and people who were not previously engaged in social causes, begin to mobilize, sensitized by the absurd queues of exposed people, in an attempt to receive the emergency aid provided by the government. While the social awareness of some, once blind, begins to awaken, that of other beings angry or frustrated with their financial or personal losses challenge WHO's guidelines and come to further disrespect them.
Week 6 – April 13 - 19
A new wave of optimism is appearing in some groups. Solidarity networks are trying to save commercial establishments and restaurants, employees and bosses are trying to come together to save the common good for all, but the discrepancy in the conditions for facing the pandemic is too strong to be ignored. While some people peacefully enjoy the home office in a spacious, comfortable home, with more than enough food available, part of the population no longer has anything to eat. Several professionals are beginning to be coerced into returning to work, even if this means putting themselves at risk of contagion, and part of them come back to the streets, as street vendors, simply because they need to choose between starving or risking death from the Corona virus
Week 7 – April 20 - 26
Part of the people is fully adapted to the new reality, part questions the old reality and decides that changing circumstances must become definitive, such as revision of consumption values, quality of life, satisfaction with work and family organization. Nothing will be the same for many people. There is a growing awareness, for many, that they lived on an automatic pilot of work/consumption pattern, and the pandemic made them reflect on their previous way of life. The realization that we are not masters of our own destiny has helped many people to take the risk of a change that previously seemed destined to be postponed indefinitely.
Week 8 - April 27 – May 2
Here I would like to summarize a part of the process of change that I observe having been brought together during the paradigm shifts caused by the pandemic, and which have matured throughout the process, and here I allow myself to merge observations about my own patients and cases I supervise, but also friends, family and social media:
1- There is a growing awareness that the decision of a single individual creates a wave of consequences capable of affecting all of us, both for good and for evil;
2- The need to separate the wheat from the chaff, both in personal and professional relationships, is no longer an option. The possibility of falling ill, dying, or losing a loved one has exacerbated the need to abandon toxic relationships;
3- Life, say, “extroverted”, is no longer a distraction, forcing people to face abusive relationships, trying to transform or abandon them;
4- Relationships previously considered disposable or less satisfactory, after distractions from intense social life have been excluded, proved to be more satisfactory and desirable than previously;
5- The persona loses importance, insofar as, during the social isolation to which we are subjected, appearances give way to the essence of affections and care;
6- The personal and collective shadow is wide open for analysis, whether we like it or not ...;
7- The value of empathy and compassion are also wide open, whether we like it or not as well ...;
8- The narcissism of some leaders, as well as the adequacy of the attitudes of other leaders, previously discredited, is relativized by the positive or negative result of their actions;
9- Prejudice against online psychotherapy is being confronted, even for selfish and survival reasons, since many psychotherapists have been left with no option, or adhere to online care, or are left without work. In the future we will know if this posture has really changed, or if it was mere opportunism;
10- And to conclude, I would like to remind you of my text: “The Road to Hell is Full Of Good Intentions – The Shadow of Kindness and Charity”. During this catastrophic pandemic Era in which we are immersed, we may have the opportunity to evaluate carefully, and without prejudice, which good actions fulfill their role, and which ones are nothing but a persona of charity.
Loneliness and the feeling of abandonment during the pandemic
It would not be possible to continue this article without first thinking on the impacts of social isolation on the lives of all of us. Even people who live with family or friends have seen their circle restricted. If before we could interact with other people at work, at school and at leisure meetings, and come back renewed for the meeting of our family, this was taken away from us. Family relationships, even the most balanced ones, were overwhelmed by the emotional burden that isolation ended up bringing to each member, which could both narrow and deplete our strengths.
The loneliness of those who already lived alone, even for introverts, took on another connotation. It is very different to be alone by choice, and to stop being when you please, than to be alone with no possible alternative. We must consider that people who chose, or were driven by circumstances to live alone, lost the possibility of meeting others persons, previously available, in the activities previously carried out.
It is still necessary to talk about the feeling of loneliness and abandonment, so often present in us, regardless of the external circumstances in which we live, since rarely do any of us go through life without experiencing feeling alone or abandoned, even in a fraction of a second. If we still stick to the trauma and serious wounds of loneliness and abandonment that many have experienced during their lives, the pandemic has reactivated these traumas and feelings of abandonment to alarming levels.
Nightmares of abandonment, of natural catastrophe, of assaults, rapes, invasions, car accidents, of planes, or shipwrecks, in short, personal and collective tragedies, the most varied, invaded the dreams of even people who, theoretically would be safe, comfortably installed and living in a social isolation that appears to be quite balanced. Several people are having nightmares in solidarity with the suffering of many people, peoples and countries, which started a few months before the first case in China.
Childhood nightmares are being remembered, traumas that seemed, at least to some extent, are being reactivated. New traumas join the previous ones, forming a network of past and current memories that mix with the fear of the future, which seems more uncertain than ever for many.
The illusion that one has some control over one's own life and destiny went down the drain, except for the activation of the suicide hero archetype, who believes he can face the virus head on, and without a mask, after all, a mask is for the weak, for the ones contaminated or fragile, as some have referred.
We are living in a special time, where non-action is something closer to a heroic attitude that we are able to accomplish, which goes against everything that we have been taught in life, after all, being proactive was the motto of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century.
Perhaps it is time to let go of manic behavior, which moves everywhere, and in fact does not bring about any change, and stick to our personal transformation, letting go of the individual heroic attitude, and develop the necessary empathy and resilience to build the new world, where a profound paradigm shift is no longer optional, it has become an emergency.
Pesadelos de infância estão sendo relembrados, traumas que pareciam, pelo menos até certo ponto elaborados, são reativados. Novos traumas se juntam aos anteriores, formando uma rede de memorias passadas e atuais que se misturam ao medo do futuro, que parece mais incerto do que nunca para muitos.
A ilusão de que se tem algum controle pela própria vida e destino foi por água abaixo, salvo pela ativação do arquétipo do herói suicida, que acredita que pode encarar o vírus de frente, e sem máscara, afinal, máscara é para os fracos...
Estamos vivendo uma época especial, onde a não-ação é algo mais próximo de uma atitude heroica que somos capazes de realizar, o que vai contra tudo que nos foi ensinado na vida, afinal, ser pró-ativo foi o lema do século XX e desse início de século XXI.
Talvez seja a hora de nos desapegarmos do comportamento maníaco, que se move pra todos os lados, e de fato não produz nenhuma mudança, e nos atermos a nossa transformação pessoal, desapegando-nos da atitude heroica individual, e desenvolvermos a empatia e resiliência necessárias para construirmos o novo mundo novo, onde uma profunda mudança de paradigma deixou de ser opcional, tornou-se emergencial.
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