The evaporated world and social isolation in Covid-19. An empathic-experiential reflection inspired by Dissipatio HG
Social isolation, the distance from one’s own attachment figures and the consequent impossibility of attuning them emotionally due to the anti-pandemic lockdown could translate into a more marked inability to process traumatic events
Advertising message In recent months, with reference to Covid-19, much attention has been paid to trauma and the post-traumatic period both in specialist and general literature (e.g. Chen, Liang et al, 2020; Van Bavel, Baggio, Capraro et al, 2020; Li, Wang et al, 2020).
Events such as those mentioned above require special training and a very refined empathic ability on the part of the clinician (Van Der Kolk, 2006). This article, starting from a review by Dissipatio HG (Morselli, 2012), would then like to propose itself as a guided imaginative technique (Erickson, 1991; Dimaggio, 2019). The underlying assumption would find a consolidated basis in the vicariant introspection construct advanced by Kohut (2014). The objective of the article will be to act as a guided imaginative technique, starting from the novel Dissipatio HG (2012), to evoke in the reader emotional cues with which to tune in on the experiences of social isolation connected to the anti-pandemic lockdown (Verdesca, 2018a ).
In recent months, with reference to Covid-19, much attention has been paid to trauma and the post-traumatic period in both specialist and general literature (e.g. Chen, Liang et al, 2020; Van Bavel, Baggio, Capraro et al, 2020; Li, Wang et al, 2020). A brief examination of the latest scientific evidence shows that, following pandemic periods, it is reasonable to expect their return effect on the psyche: the post-traumatic backlash that, paraphrasing Van Der Kolk (2006), the bodies would accuse or, in words of Bromberg (2012), the shadow of the tsunami.
Mental health professionals with their patients will presumably find themselves dealing with depressions, complicated mourning, psychosomatic disorders – given the preverbal and markedly asocial nature of the trauma – and, more generally, the symptomatic manifestations attributable to PTSD.
In traumatized subjects – according to Panksepp (2004), Liotti (Liotti and Monticelli, 2008; Liotti and Migone, 2018;), Porges (2011), Le Doux (2004), – the states of the body (Damasio, 2006) tend to usually take on reptilian and subcortical organizations (attack-flight), to the detriment, therefore, of pro-social and interpersonal motivational systems (e.g. attachment). The latter, in fact, as inhibited, would close to the intersubjective dimension, precluding the sharing and symbolic processing of potentially traumatic events (Onnis, 2016).
The rationale for this supposition stems from intuitions – widely demonstrated – from infant research, attachment theory and intersubjective neurobiology (Beebe & Lachmann, 2013), according to which, the construction of reality is mediated, as already anticipated, by social and symbolic aspects based on intersubjective sharing.
The hypothesis of the writer, in detail, is that social isolation, the distance from one’s own attachment figures and the consequent impossibility of attuning them emotionally – characteristics, these latter, intrinsic to the anti-pandemic lockdown – translate into a more marked inability to process traumatic events in the subjects involved.
The emerging organization that came into being in the lockdown from Covid-19 could also be read as a sort of complex systemic synchronization based on a zero-sum game (Watzlawick et al, 1971). The same, albeit partially imposed, has called the people involved to assume a high sense of responsibility and solidarity (sense of community), sometimes perceiving – paradoxically – a bonding previously impalpable (Verdesca, 2018a, 2018b).
This solidarity could, diametrically opposed to what is described here, potentially assume itself as a collective emotional experience (ironically paraphrasing Alexander, 1980), also leading to post-traumatic growth trajectories theorized by Seligman in 2012 (however, it is outside the interest of the author address these interesting aspects here).
Social isolation, the distance from the attachment figures and the impossibility of attuning them emotionally require, on the part of the clinician, both a particular training and a very refined empathic ability (Van Der Kolk, 2006).
This article would then propose itself as a guided imaginative technique (Erickson, 1991; Dimaggio, 2019). The underlying assumption would find a consolidated basis in the vicariant introspection construct exhibited by Kohut (2014).
Trivially, try to put yourself in the other’s shoes.
On the other hand, the ability to share, mirror and empathize with the emotions of others has been reflected both microscopically (e.g. mirror neurons) and macroscopically (e.g. mentalization-based therapies). It is no coincidence that empathy itself is recognized as the basis of the therapeutic alliance, which in turn is a-specific factor considered unanimously effective in psychotherapy (Gabbard, 2010; Gallese, Migone & Eagle, 2006).
Using the novel Dissipatio HG (Morselli, 2012) as the starting point, an attempt will be made to outline, by means of its suggestive potential, an experiential exercise of vicarious introspection (Verdesca, 2018a; 2018b).
The objective will be to outline and evoke in the reader a visceral context through which to empathize and tune, more effectively, with that population of customers traumatized by poignant events that have marked them; e.g. working in the front line in quarantine and / or imposing a sidereal distance from loved ones in the hospital and / or, in the worst cases, making it impossible to mourn their mourning within a shared dimension that acts as a semiotic container or a liminal rite, passing through – e.g. funeral (Van Gennep, 2019; Bruner, 2009).
A chaotic emotional constellation that, passing from post-traumatic forms, sometimes comes to clinical attention now in a changed form (e.g. depressive) able to make the trauma that underlies you invisible at first sight.
It is difficult and tiring, especially for those who have not gone through it – including clinicians! – tune in adequately with these deep cognitive-emotional frequencies and full of shadow, of vertigo and silence.
For those who want to better understand what it feels like, looking out into the motions and thoughts connected to social and inner isolation, then we recommend reading Dissipatio HG, a dream-like narrative novel looking for a director, able to act as a sad symbolic testimony – regarding what has been written above – especially in light of the suicidal death that the author himself chose back in July 1973.
A novel, which describes the forgetting of contact, the failure and disuse of human participation, relegating the protagonists to interrupted sobs in which, while space and time reign, the Other evaporates.
The protagonist, whose name is not known, tells firsthand the clash of his thoughts at the sight of an unusual and spooky Chrysopolis.
The novel – which at times seems an essay for some nihilistic pearls that pervade it – opens in medias res: an anti-hero tries and plans, after careful analysis of the pros and cons, suicide. To do so, he leaves the city at night, precisely from Chrysopolis, however, first he hesitates and then he desists in the gesture, not taking off his life anymore.
An organic sense between self and non-self that promptly leads the protagonist himself to abandon the macabre suicidal idea; due to the professional deformation of the present writer, a reference to the embodied / embodied mode of unconscious processing of the mind could be glimpsed (Gallese, Migone & Eagle, 2006; Salvatore, 2015).
Advertising message Digressions aside, the man, on the way back, glimpses of the car headlights pointing towards the sky in the distant city; thinking that it could be an accident, the protagonist telephones in search of help. Vain attempt, so, following a failure to answer, he goes to the center.
Here it is.
Here the bizarre discovery: the Dissipatio Humani Generis, that is, the dissipation of the human race which seems to have evaporated – suddenly – leaving everyday life completely frozen, sacral intact.
The life of things is on hiatus. Ready to resume or maybe to stay. Destined to exist. The protagonist, wandering, gradually realizes how he is left alone, how during his brief absence something inexplicable happened to the whole world. Nobody – except him – excluded. Said event, puts the protagonist in front of a Hamletic doubt: was the only one included – that is, the condemned – to suffer a ruthless destiny or, on the contrary, the only privileged one to be excluded?
Here it seems to perceive that sort of sense of guilt of the survivor (Weiss et al, 2014).
The objects, what the author defines audiovisual wrecks (G. Morselli, 2012, p.5), are what are most embodied in human presence. It is not poetry or art – according to Morselli’s pen – that will survive man but it is nature, the earth with its motions, objects and voices recorded on tape; who will continue to populate with the animals the echoes of that desolate world. What makes man eternal are the relationships he weaves, the memories he establishes and / or places in faith-in (in a broad sense) as synapses. The protagonist who comes to life from Morselli’s pen, on the other hand, seems hopeless, devoid of something to believe in, proving himself endowed with a self-referentiality blocked by any planning. At this point, therefore, his yardstick becomes the small soul of the machines that,
What one has the feeling of reading between the lines of this text is the sense of fracture, of disintegration – typical of indivisible traumas. What psychologists define as the onset of trauma: the alteration of regularity. Every day there are millions of different experiences which, however, being more or less predictable and consistent in their arithmetic mean, continue to remain possible possibilities. Man tends to generalize his models, rightly assuming that the sun will continue to rise as expected tomorrow.
It is what deviates from these scripts, from these beliefs or from these models co-constructed in the form of expectations, to ultimately present itself as trauma (Fingert Chused, 2007; Beebe & Lachmann, 2013).
The regularities referred to infuse security, guarantee, eternity of the here and now.
It is their alteration that leads to the loss of a desired sense of agency. That blissful control which, illusorily and omnipotently, is believed to possess over the course of daily events:
Curious how the subject of intersubjectivity sometimes falls, when the author of the novel writes:
There is a popular motto that reads “you are born alone and you die alone”, this suggests that in the experiences surrounding death, in their mournful detachment, it emerges how psychic lives are destined immeasurably to be separated from the boundaries-skin, which, by definition, different time trajectories will follow. For human subjectivities it is never possible to actually meet in space (like two parallel lines) but only, sometimes, to co-exist and co-engrave in circumscribed temporal ravines: to be-with. It is in those encounters, in those present moments (Beebe & Lachmann, 2013) that individuals experience the vital rhythm (Stern, 2011; Verdesca, 2018c), the apparent regularity of being truly together with-the Other (Beebe & Lachmann , 2013). Returning to the point: the author, according to the opinion of the writer,
The world outlined in Dissipatio HG could be the internal world of the protagonist.
A character, therefore, destined to constantly refer to his own self, deprived of the possibility of psychically spreading and defending himself and to whom, in the absence of an Otherness, it is inaccessible to project, sublimate, deny, etc. – terms dear to the author who reveals a certain confidence with the contemporary psychoanalytic language (Gabbard, 2010; Verdesca, 2018a; Verdesca, 2018b).
It is here, according to the writer, that the silence to which Morselli refers is experienced as an emotional apocalypse: the impossibility of being the thought of a thinker, and again, the impossibility of missing someone else, a world or a any context placed there: outside itself. In depressive thoughts – to use an oxymoron – this is, hand in hand with the theme of incommunicability, the most present absence: a sense of constant mutual incomprehensibility.
The ending of this work deeply affects:
Is it a coincidence that Dissipatio HG ends like this? Not even this is known, however, in the opinion of those who are about to review this work proposing it as an introspective cue, one could see in the conclusion of the work a glimmer of hope: life that, however, continues to impose itself on death . Nature that appropriates its spaces with elegance and patience, giving the novel a slightly fresher and more colorful air; the rebirth of asphalted emotions or, in specialized jargon, post-traumatic growth (Seligman, 2012).
A novel recommended for clinicians and not, a text that teaches to empathize and deal with the most present absence, with the shadow of concrete traumas. A tribute due to a writer, Morselli, who had such a need to express his subjectivity in the world. A current possibility of allowing it in retrospect through a small exercise of vicarious introspection.