Facing Loneliness and Depression in the COVID-19 Experience
Again, like last post, I’m addressing our experience of COVID-19, this time looking at our experience of loneliness and depression.
I’ve concentrated my blog posts on COVID-19 related subjects recently, because the changes it has brought to our daily lives are already having an enormous psychological impact. The COVID-19 “self-isolation” process has impacted the lives of individuals and families in a very far reaching manner. In our society, all of us are struggling to adapt to this new reality in a variety of ways.
From interactions with clients and other therapists, I would say that there is a strong sense emerging that, along with the other stressors in the current situation, many are experiencing loneliness and isolation caused by the “self-isolation” process. Many of us seem to be trying our hardest to avoid this awareness, and yet we are constantly confronted with it.
How COVID-19 Isolation Affects Us
What does it mean for us psychologically to be isolated in our homes, as many of us are in the current “lockdown” situation? Clearly, it’s not an experience that many find easy. Researchers such as Sheffield Hallam University’s Antonia Ypsilanti have observed the tendency of individuals who are alone and isolated to look inward, and to tend to be focused on their own perceived flaws.
So, what does it mean for those individuals living on their own (28% of all Canadians, Statscan tells us) and for the rest of us, when we have an enforced social situation that requires that people stay in their houses, and basically not interact in the common meeting areas of our neighbourhoods, towns and cities?
This is a vast, unique type of change, even for people who might be used to living on their own. This isolation is coupled with huge amounts of fear and uncertainty about the global and local economic situations moving forward. As events force us to socially distance, we experience loneliness and feel the loss of the ability to see, converse with, hug, or simply be present with friends. Life can start to seem like a shallow imitation of the real thing. This can be very fertile ground for depression.
Loneliness & Depression Need to be Addressed
Jungians are famous for emphasizing the individual. We celebrate the journey and development of the unique person, which Jung referred to as individuation. Yet, in addition to this individual emphasis, Jung was always careful to stress the need in humans for what he called eros , which Jungians have described as “the function of relationship” or “the principle of psychic relationship”.
In short, Jung was always fundamentally concerned with the unique journey of the individual, but he always saw that as only being possible when individuals were connected by relationship. He saw the connection between people as something essential to being human.
In the particular moment of history in which we find ourselves, this is a vitally important message. Each of us as individuals, and all of us together as society need to be bound by strong cords of relationship in order to retain, and develop, what is most fundamentally human in us.
Connecting with Others; Preserving Your Inner Life
This time is important for all of us, in terms of our capacity for connection and relationship with others. It’s an essential time to explore the ways we might relate to others as creatively as possible. For our own well-being, we really have to put our effort into this. As a neuroscientist who investigates social isolation put it recently in New Yorker magazine:
So, just like we’re worried about an economic recession, we should worry about a social recession [italics mine] —a continued pattern of distancing socially, beyond the immediate pandemic, that will have broader societal effects…Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, quoted in New Yorker Magazine, 23 March/20
It’s important for each of us to watch for our own patterns of distancing socially, and to seek ways to connect with others that involve hearing human voices and seeing animated human faces. It’s important for us to express connection, friendship, respect — love — to others in as many ways as we can at this time.
If you are finding yourself subject to: loneliness and depression;, anxiety; a tendency to want to isolate at this time; or a fear of going out, it may be very important for you to seek out psychotherapeutic support, from an appropriately qualified professional such as a /a-midlife-transition.
Wishing you peace, resilience and good connections,