Psycho-spiritual effects of the pandemic 1

In the next few posts, I am looking to explore different emotional effects and affects resulting from the covid pandemic and the associated lockdowns and restrictions. This is from both the psychological and spiritual perspectives – some good and some more challenging.

Inevitably these are largely subjective but also, I think general. As I start to reflect on the last two years at a personal and collective level it seems that overall, the idea of holding and accepting opposite states of mind within oneself is important. I am beginning to realise that holding the tension of the opposites is in itself a spiritual practice. All of us have an emotional side and a rational side and both are needed at all times as both are valuable. It is of course, very difficult when our emotional side has taken us over to get back in touch with our rational side. The pandemic has been in part about learning to balance the emotional and the rational.

An early emotional state of mind that I experienced – along with many others I am sure – was uncertainty and not knowing what was going on. Thinking about the pandemic was anxiety making because quickly (in the early days) so little was known and so one was confronted with the limits of what there was to be understood. There was also misinformation which filled the gap caused by the lack of knowledge. Not knowing what is going on is also a state familiar from infancy and early childhood so inevitably there was unwanted regression, and this can evoke great anxiety as an adult.

One way of balancing the emotional state of uncertainty is a rational acceptance of limitation. As Wilfred Bion once said the term ‘Homo sapiens’ for human (wise man) is a self-inflicted decoration. Rather as the covid virus has revealed to us we need to scale down our expectations of what we think we can do to control events – especially when it seems that our very actions and relentless incursions into wildlife habitats have such destructive and potentially uncontrollable consequences. All theories are convenient, and make us individually and in society feel better, because they appear to make inroads into enormous areas of ignorance. We like to think we now definitely know about this or that – and so the ‘apparent ‘knowledge becomes final – but one of the effects of the virus was to confront us with the not-knowing and uncertainty – negative capability.

Two years on with vaccinations and much data the attraction would be to say that now we know about this virus and have dealt with this, but uncertainty and our vast area of ignorance remains. A spiritual truth would be to open ourselves to the infinite mystery of creation and accept our interdependence with life and for life in all its forms.

Bats, dogs, reptiles in a wild life wet market in Indonesia