Hut syndrome: unconscious resistance to return to normal
During the coronavirus period there were numerous media speculations but the hut syndrome is not among them.
The hut syndrome was observed for the first time around 1900, when the gold rush pushed the man in remote and pleasant environments.
The gold hunters moved permanently to places in North America where the winters were so severe that they were forced to remain confined in their huts for long periods. With the advent of spring, when gold hunters were to return to work, they showed symptoms of disorientation, anguish and fear . The anguish of contact with the outside (in the absence of threats) induced the gold hunter to perpetuate the isolation.
It is important to underline the condition of “absence of threats” because the hut syndrome has nothing to do with external dangers. One might think that the hut syndrome affecting about 1 million Italians (data from the Italian Psychiatrist Society) can be traced back to the fear of contagion , but it is not so!
Fear of contagion and hut syndrome are factors released from each other, of course, they can be correlated and it is presumable to think that the fear of contagion may aggravate the hut syndrome … however, this syndrome presents itself completely independent of the dangers objective that man could find outside his hut!
In short, those who have spent a long period of hospitalization closed at home may have already experienced the symptoms of the hut syndrome, even in periods far removed from the coronavirus!
How it manifests itself
Although the state of alert is still high, with Phase 2 many people have resumed their work and others who are gradually planning to return to a new normal .
The coronavirus has forced entire states to quarantine. The quarantine period was lived in discordant ways: between the intolerance of many and the serenity of a few. A group of people, with quarantine, found an immediate adaptation and almost a state of comfort in the domestic confinement.
Other people have reported severe intolerance in isolation, however as they return to normal they have also experienced symptoms of severe disorientation, distress and fear .
The fear of returning to a “normal” life is the main manifestation of the hut syndrome. This fear does not arise suddenly . In our daily lives, each of us faces duties and covers roles that are not always congenial to one’s aspirations. The quarantine caused a drastic detachment , a complete easing of social pressures .
The fear of returning to normal can emphasize the fears that previously existed in a latent way: some aspects even before the pandemic could constitute a heavy emotional load .
In addition, the national state of emergency legitimizes the will to stay at home offering further fertile ground for the syndrome. Cling to the words of Premier Conte (and common sense) to avoid contagion but also to avoid situations, emotions and social pressures (work, family, relationships …).
Who can suffer from it?
Those with avoidant personality traits are probably more vulnerable to hut syndrome.
A personality “trait” is not the same as “disturbance” but refers to personality characteristics which, taken individually, do not cause a maladaptive and rigid picture. Among these features we see:
- Low self-esteem
- Reduced sense of self-efficacy
- Fear of rejection
- Concern for others’ criticisms
- Fear of being laughed at
- Strong touch
- Sensitivity to criticism
Not only that, among the vulnerability factors there is a low personal satisfaction and in particular, a low satisfaction in response to the activities carried out before the pandemic.
Taking a retrospective analysis, we can say that the one who has not had the opportunity to develop trust in his own resources is more vulnerable to the hut syndrome .
Let’s take a few steps back and get to childhood. In the postnatal period, each of us is under strong social pressure .
Following the first lallation, each child is pressured to learn to speak and pronounce the first words. From the pressures for the first words we move on to the sentences … after learning to walk we are asked to run. In short, the social demands, since our birth , are growing, increasing day by day and year by year.
When all these pressures are accompanied by the right emotional support and a safe relational field , the child will develop an excellent sense of self-efficacy. He will learn to tolerate pressure by experiencing all subsequent external requests as stimuli.
On the contrary, in the absence of the right emotional support and a safe zone (maternal bond or with the reference care-giver), the child will be frightened and will begin to feel overwhelmed by external pressures . Without good support, without an authentic welcome in the bond, the child will find himself alone in a world that hurries too many requests.
Similarly, today, when we leave our hut, we see ourselves catapulted into a world that hurries too many requests. We perceive these requests oversized with respect to the resources we believe we have. Here fear and anxiety peep out, here the resistances are activated.
How to deal with hut syndrome?
In this context, shock therapy can only aggravate the symptoms and lead to more serious conditions such as:
- panic attacks
- psychosomatic symptoms
Forcing yourself to return to reality when you don’t feel ready to face multiple social pressures can only be counterproductive. What to do then?
A gradual exposure could be the right move, starting with reintroducing those activities that were pleasant before the pandemic.
In compliance with current regulations (and various updates), you can return to reality with the times dictated by your emotions . Scan new rhythms and enjoy the new sensations that these rhythms entail.
The discomfort and stress of returning to the “new normal” can be important aspects of your life, but you can counterbalance them by introducing or maintaining the pleasant activities discovered in quarantine .
Even children, like adults, can experience hut syndrome, so it is very important to support them carefully in this phase of re-insertion into the outside world.
To conclude …
I leave you to reflect on a phrase taken from the book “The painting never painted” by the writer Massimo Bisotti “… you let things go for many reasons, not only because a feeling dies, you let them go because of your inadequacy, out of cowardice. You let them go out of insecurity, out of fear of risking again, or not to face the fatigue of compromising with the stiffer part of us. “
Well, it’s time for you to let go of all your fears, your uncertainties, your resistances … take back your place in the world
To prevent disorientation and resistance from returning to reality to turn into symptoms of anxiety, panic or depressive symptoms , do not hesitate to contact a therapist.