Coronavirus and You

So, you've stocked up on toilet paper. You've considered buying a gold ingot. You've googled mortality statistics and decided it won't happen to you. You know how to wash your hands to happy birthday. You never worried about SARS or Ebola, but this pandemic has got you thinking...

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We assume everything is going to be ok.  And then occassionally, we think maybe it won't be. This recent virus has punctured our illusions of invincibility.  We were busy destroying the insect world, but maybe the bats will get us back, and wipe us out?  Deep in our bones we know that hundreds of millions of people died in the influenza that travelled the world in 1918. Is that going to happen again?  Are Boris and Trump going to get bat-flu? Are they going to need sick notes?  The Pope has a cold.  The worlds rulers suddenly seem vunerable and susceptible like the rest of us. 29 MPs in Iran have the virus. Young doctors in Hubei province, wearing masks and body armour, have died.  Most people rarely think about death or decay.  Most of us avoid thinking at all if we can, as it's painful and difficult and puts into contact with thoughts we'd rather not consider. So this recent non-pandemic is a bit of a shock to the system.  The business man who created a dry food emergency kit for Brexit must be doing a roaring trade.  We are insinctual creatures, and we have been thrown into survival mode.  Staying alive is somethig we take for granted, but the recent spread of the virus has made many of us think again living.  The streets have emptied.  Hands have been washed.  But still, fear is in the air...

In America it has become fashionable to write your own obituary, or to imagine your own funeral.  The death positivity movement asks people to consciously consider their own death, in order to think about the life they are living now.  With the virus spreading exponentially, 5 today, 100 tomorrow, a 100,000 in a month, it is something we are all in contact with.  It's like a grizzly collective horror story that puts us in touch with how very delicate we are.  Life is tragic, people die for no good reason at all.  Hopefully, if you are reading this, you are going to remain strong and resilient, whether or not you get the virus.  Each of us will take a different message from the virus.  If we are going to live, post-virus, how will things be different?   Donald Trump says its just a flu.  But if you don't have sick pay, and you don't have a health system to lock after you, who will  you depend on?  If you're an Italian school child, do you stay at home, because your school is closed, and thereby infect your grandparents?  Group analysts note that we are always affecting each other, because we are social creatures.  We are always psychologically "contaminating" each other.  This usually goes unnoticed.  However, the spread of the virus has made it literal, taking it to another level.

So, fasten your seat belts.  Over the next few months, anything is possible.  Yes, its true, most expected disasters don't actually happen.  But this virus has got under our collective skin.  Markets are crashing, gold is up, toilet paper is out of stock, Ocado have no delivery slots, and there is a superspreader near you.  Get ready to go to a literal and psychological hole.  If you are reading this, the chances are that you won't die (you're not old or young); but you will be concerned.  But even if you don't die, you will be knocked off your perch.  We like to think we are in charge of our destinies, even a little bit, but global not-pandemics like this have a way of messing with that way of thinking, and putting us in our place.

Ajay Khandelwal PhD

Ajay Khandelwal is an experienced psychotherapist and consultant. He welcomes contact and enquiries and is accepting new clients via zoom during the shut down.