I am writing this blog four days after the UK government imposed an effective ‘lockdown’ in response to the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Inevitably this crisis will have a considerable impact on all of us be it emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually and psychologically. Depending on our character, disposition and ways of thinking we will experience the impact in specific and particular ways. We may be very aware of feeling lonely, anxious, frightened, overwhelmed, sick, vulnerable, frustrated, bored, angry and our unconscious fears almost certainly will be highlighted by this unprecedented situation.
From what my clients have been telling me over the last couple of weeks it seems to me that the most difficult aspect of this situation for people is the uncertainty. We don’t how long the threat of the virus will stop us from leading our ‘normal’ lives. We don’t know what life will be like at the end, how it will end and what the longer lasting effects will be on us, our families, our communities and the world at large.
As human beings we struggle with uncertainties and ‘not knowing’. We may not always be aware of it but the lack of certainty the ‘not knowing’ makes us feel afraid, ill at ease, out of control and so in order to protect ourselves from these uncomfortable feelings we unconsciously replace them with the illusion that we are in control and therefore we know exactly what will happen. Being certain, knowing what will happen narrows the mind, reduces the questions and makes life feel easier. We usually forget to focus on the present moment and instead we make plans for the future, focussing on what we are going to do, where we’ll go, what we’ll buy, who we’ll see etc, confirming our illusion that we know what will happen and that we are in control.
Focussing on the future works until we are faced with a crisis or we are under threat then we focus completely on the present moment, it takes up all our thinking. The present moment right now is frightening and for many people this is overwhelming. Many people are struggling to bear the awfulness of it and the feelings of uncertainty they are having to cope with.
The reality is we cannot change what is happening, we cannot control outside forces we can only change the way we think about them and therefore how we feel in response to them. In essence this is the work of psychotherapy.
Having a therapist to talk to at this time can help you bear the uncertainties of life and what feels overwhelming. As therapists we are trained to work with the ‘not knowing’ and are therefore uniquely placed to help you face uncertainty and anxiety – it is our medium and what we work with all the time in our consulting rooms. Having a space where you can verbalise your anxieties and reframe your life so it becomes more bearable is invaluable right now.