First the anxiety of being locked up, now the fear of being free
This much-awaited phase two has started this month. The most restrictive phase has ended, the so-called “lockdown” which saw us closed in our homes. Protected and “hunted down” within our home walls, with the intent to protect us and protect others from us, so that the circulation of the virus slowed down and the situation could be more manageable.
Now that staying at home is no longer an obligation, that our activities in a slow, gradual and alternative way are starting again, how do we feel? What are the current feelings towards this new phase?
Now that the control has loosened that, if we look out the window, we see and hear the cars coming and going; and the surreal silence of some of the days spent in quarantine no longer reigns, we are called to get out of isolation and relate to a life that resembles that before the pandemic, but at the same time is very different.
We can go out, but “at your own risk”, because now it’s up to us to make good use of this initial newfound freedom. What this good use is, however, is established by some articulated prescriptions about the safety distances, the (defined) stable affects that we can meet or not, etc … but in practice we will all have to juggle the desire to return to a carefree normalcy and the fear that this could expose us to further risk situations .
The metaphor of the road accident
To better understand our state of mind, we can think about what happens after an accident while driving. We were conducting our trip on a regular basis (with more or less satisfaction and satisfaction as the case may be), on family journeys, until an unexpected event threw us out of the way, disrupting all our plans.
We may be luckier and have emerged unscathed or we may have suffered physical damage. We had to face a period of forced stop. In the best case, our machine had to be repaired or, in more serious cases, it was we who had to take care and heal.
This was the time when we were prevented from moving and we could take it out on the world, on destiny and to stay within the metaphor used, with the doctor who forced us to rest, with the mechanic who did not repair the car or who had caused the accident. We could shift anger, anxiety, frustration out of us, onto the possible culprits of our convalescence and imprisonment.
Now that time has passed, now we can get the car back, the doctor has told us that the damage is repaired and we can go out again, but suddenly … our vehicle no longer seems so safe, the road has become a dangerous place and who knows if we can really rely on our healing?
Following any major change, our vision changes (permanently or temporarily) because we are forced to change the way we see things and we must develop a new perspective.
At this stage the fundamental step is up to us
There is no longer someone who forces us to stand still and with whom we can “take it out”, but it is us who take all the responsibility to understand if it is the moment, if we are ready to get back in the car and with what precautions to do it.
Before we experienced the anxiety of being at home, of being closed and suffocated in our autonomy, now we are confronted with fear.
Fear of what?
Fear of returning to the world, fear of contagion, fear of not protecting yourself adequately or that others do not respect the rules, fear of resuming work, fear of losing one’s job, fear of not reaching the end of the month with expenses, fear of doing the wrong choices …
Fear has become our constant company , for some in a more discreet way, for others in a more disabling way.
Throughout the first phase of the pandemic we talked about the situation by comparing it to a war in which we “fought against the virus”. Now the language is also changing, we are at the “coexistence phase”.
But is living together easier than fighting? We can say that it is more destabilizing. If I fight you I gear up, I go out “armed”. If I live with the enemy, I have to change my alert state . I cannot always be ready to attack, but I must remain alert, aware that I am not required an intense and short commitment, but a less sustained but much more prolonged one.
It would be utopian to say that we will all remember this difficult period constructively. Each of us will be able to do what we want with this experience and what we will face in the coming weeks, but this quarantine has touched each person’s life in a different way.
Some will come out pissed and embittered by the management , others will come out frightened and destabilized. We will all come out bruised and tested, proceeding a little groping not to hurt ourselves too much.
Some, however, may come out of it with a renewed sense of awareness , with the fear of uncertainty for what lies ahead, but with the desire to really do something with it.
“You are still condemned to the freedom to choose” – Josè Ortega y Gasset