Whole countries are going into a complete shutdown. The implications, health, financial and other, are immense, and we can’t even begin to imagine their true dimension yet…  #StayTheFuckHome. That’s the new hashtag that is going around. There are jokes galore about dysfunctional family relationships, affairs, as well as having the kids at home and not knowing what to do with them. Family dynamics and relationships in general are going to be affected one way or another. And I am not just referring to the Greek Family, but all the families, that will eventually have to endure each other’s presence in REAL time without ‘distractions’ like being in a restaurant, going to a park, talking to others, and so on. Unrealised, internet or other forms of affairs or sexual relationships are going to be reviewed and tested big time. Imagine, if in the midst of all this the internet broke down…

The main characters in El amor en los tiempos del colera (Love in the Time of Cholera) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez were communicating via the good old letters and telegraph. Can you even imagine doing this at this day and age?

We are funny creatures of habit… most of us, wake up, go to work, come back, we think we have figured it all out, having a ‘career’ (whatever that is for everyone), we have some friends, maybe a family (mostly dysfunctional but we choose to ignore it), we go on holidays and life just goes on. Until something major hits us, a big event that reminds us that life is too short. Some decide to stop, get off the train and re-evaluate, whether this is how they want to spend the rest of their lives or whether they want to make any changes. Change is hard. Our brain looks like scrambled eggs the minute it hears the word, because it needs to maintain the perceived status quo, a perceived equilibrium, balance or whatever YOU feel better calling it. Humans prefer the devil we know to the devil we don’t know and that’s why we remain in toxic relationships, relationships that are “OK” as long as we don’t break each other’s balls (seems to be the norm), in jobs we hate, and so on.

Dr Will Schutz, an American psychologist studied human relations in the 1950s and one way he did that was through observation of how people behave in confined spaces (crew in a submarine) and he argued that humans have basic, fundamental needs. They all want to be included and include others in what they do, they want to feel they have control over what they are doing and feel competent, and they also want to show and receive affection. BUT, the amount they want to give is not always the same amount they want to receive. For individual reasons (which are beyond the scope of the article) we all have those needs but in varying degrees. Another way to think about this is if you look at hedgehogs. They need each other to keep warm. If they come too close, they might (unintentionally) hurt each other. If they stay too far away, they will be cold. It’s the same with humans. We need to find the ideal distance from each other which can be tricky. So, going back to the family situation in a confined space: families revolve around highly complex ritual interactions of members moving in and around each other. It’s almost like a dance… just don’t tread on each other’s feet. Much of what happens in families is a complicated choreography, mostly out of their awareness. Each member has a role to play which is maintained by the roles of the other members. You may want to start observing your own family systems… So, the Stay-Home mandate is going to test this choreography, shake it, and some will adapt and change from a Waltz to a Rock ‘n’ Roll, others will stick to what they always do, with the respective consequences.

After any crisis or event that is unchartered territory for us, tends to put us in a frame of reviewing our lives (ok not all of us – me doing an eyeroll now…). An event of this magnitude like the Covid-19 pandemic with a global impact is a call for reflection and review of everything. The things we take for granted… the people we take for granted… the walk, the coffee, going into a shop… all the little mundane things that filled our lives with seemingly important activities were at the same time GREAT DISTRACTIONS to keep us away from thinking about the HARD ISSUES, feeling the FEELINGS we have been avoiding, having the difficult conversations …

I was having a chat with some friends and we were joking about how after this, there will be a rise in divorces as well as a rise in people seeking professional help. But it’s not a joke. It’s a possible reality. Once we have survived this, some of you will decide to jump off the deep end and have children, or get married, or divorce or leave that job because you hate it anyway and follow your dream, others will realise how unhappy they have been and others will simply do nothing and continue to be as they were or remain oblivious. If such an event doesn’t shake you up to re-evaluate what the fuck you want from life and what the fuck you are doing on this planet, then nothing probably will.

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