Key Challenges to Psychological Stability
Let us look at five key challenges to psychological stability raised by the pandemic:
1. Uncertainty about the future. When and how will this end and what will come next?
2. Inability to grieve effectively. How do we mourn so many losses at once: people, financial security, geographic home base, even core identity as workers who have schedules, co-workers, routines?
3. Separation from the company of others and the rituals of community and grief.
4. Anxiety that has no destination or end point. Ever-anticipatory anxiety becomes corrosive, enervating, exhausting, and just as destructive as immediate threats.
5.Social distancing that merges into confinement. Relationships transform from cozy to claustrophobic; conflicts left to die of benign neglect re-emerge and demand solutions that may not exist.
I could go on, and I’m sure you have many more examples in mind. But what is the antidote to becoming overwhelmed? Diverting ourselves from our worst imaginings of what our future portends is a good temporary fix. Acknowledging in words our most raw and even primitive fears, impulses, and fantasies can redirect behaviors that are self-destructive. Mindfully sifting how much stress we can afford to feel at any given moment can stave off other stressors without trying to deny them.
Defenses get a bad rap in everyday psychological thinking. They are our friends! It’s how we treat our friends and how they then treat us back. You absolutely can protect yourself with functional defenses as described above, without becoming a defensive person.