Relationships are a mixed bag. We love them and sometimes we don’t. Just how has the Pandemic impacted your relationships? I am speaking about our partners, children, friends, neighbors, community members, and fellow citizens of both this country and the world.
Stress and its resultant anxiety, depression, and vulnerabilities influences all of us. It kind of depends where we were when the stress or stressor hit.
I work with children, teens, families, couples, and adults. I hear stories every day. It is through the story format that we learn. Stories may encompass themes, especially during key times. The stories during this Pandemic are no exception.
We all entered the Pandemic the same way. Whatever we struggled with, whatever the name of our disorder or neuroses, we entered the Pandemic as we are. Take a picture of this. Who were you coming into the Pandemic? What defined you? What were your struggles, your stories, your key themes? You may have been operating with a low-grade form of depression, or you may have had panic attacks separated by months. Or, you might have had a migraine or two a month or your blood pressure was fine and your dentist said, “My what excellent gum health!” We want to remember who we were in January, February, and March 2020. This is important.
Now let’s fast forward to July 27th, 2020. Where are you now? Take another picture. This is the before and after scenario. In home makeovers we expect to see a sad before picture of a neglected room and an after picture that pops and sparkles. The same may not hold true for people in a pandemic. Our after picture may be sad and the before picture depends on how well you were doing and how well your relationships had been tended.
Each person is responsible for what they carry, both prior to the world crises of COVID-19 and since its excruciating unfolding of horrors.
As a young therapist I remember reading numerous books and articles on topics about third world horrors, Amnesty International interventions of the most profound kind, and any form of human rights tragedy I could lay my hands on. I recall my family thought I was engaging in a variety of morose voyeurism. I explained I needed to understand how truly unspeakable things happen at the hands of and to perfectly normal people. Sounded simple. It wasn’t.
Most folks are perfectly normal people with a splash and dash of the things that make us who we are. These include our anxiety, depression, relationship struggles, and our gifts, personality, resilience, and attitude.
Human beings, even normal people, can be taken to the edge. Once at that edge some pretty unsavory things can happen.
Some of my early readings were about how torturers become a torturer. These studies were collected in a book titled, The Politics of Pain: Torturers and their Masters. It is a book of fascinating entries edited by Ronald D. Crelinsten and Alex P. Schmid. It was published in 1993 in The Netherlands. One position voiced by a contributor, Erwin Staub, PhD, is “…in my view, the whole society tends to get prepared for violence: people have intense needs and deal with them by entering into a process of devaluing or scapegoating some group or identifying it as an ideological enemy.” (Staub, E. in Crelinsten and Schmid, 1993, p. 117.) He goes on to say, “They accept propaganda against the group. The people who become perpetrators, like many others in the society, psychologically join those who assume leadership in identifying enemies and potential victims. All this creates a general preparation.” (Ibid).
Preparation for what?
Staub is talking about how violence and the perpetuation of violence, in any of its numerous forms, has psychological and cultural origins. He also points out that not everyone will become a perpetrator even with cultural and psychological preparedness for this end.
As soon as we begin to identify with Us versus Them we are headed down a path that is potentially dangerous. This applies to us as a nation, us as citizens of the world, and us with loved ones, friends, children, co-workers, and so forth. Staub points out, “It is deep human connection, of many kinds, that is required to increase resistance to forces that create antagonism, violence, and torture.” (Staub, Ibid, p. 123). You may say you don’t torture. I hear you. We can however render others helpless, powerless, and without options. We can limit and restrain. We can cast a blind eye to those in need. We can choose to not listen. We can choose to be bystanders. We can be unmonitored in our communications and cast stones without realizing we have done so. All of us have a responsibility. We won’t always get it right. We are human. An aspiration is to be conscious and make an attempt at being mindful, to consider all of Us as people and to resist the label of Them.
Staub says, “We need to work with the media, politicians and opinion makers who influence the public and the political process…..A basic long-term goal is to humanize groups of people in each others’ eyes.”
We need to humanize everyone in our eyes.
Thank you for reading.
Be Well. Be Safe.
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD