Has lockdown been a prison, or a time to make changes?

Fake media has been exposed – but are we clocking the fake lifestyles that lack true purpose? Working as a psychotherapist I have seen first-hand the impact that lockdown has had on many of us.

Businesses have been forced to close and/or reduce staffing and people have lost their livelihoods and have been forced to seek alternative, often lesser, forms of employment. Some have not been this fortunate and have had to move out of town or live in their car because they can no longer afford to pay rent. There has been separation, protests and violence from police and populace. This level of hardship and loss of dignity, combined with the fear engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic plus the removal of our regular forms of comfort and entertainment, exacerbate already strained relationships and there have been significant increases in domestic violence, alcoholism, suicide and homelessness.

As a psychotherapist, I have had many clients coming in to see me who are experiencing loneliness and isolation as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations in place during 2020 and 2021. Of course, I understand that being confined to your apartment, seeing work colleagues only on Zoom, and, being forced to spend time with yourself, without all the normal entertainment/distractions of meeting friends at the usual events and locations; work, home entertaining, the gym, playing sport, yoga classes, swimming pools, restaurants, cafes, pubs, sporting events, holiday getaways and travel would be very challenging.

Some of the above reasoning would also apply to people who are living in less than satisfying relationships where these entertainments have provided some relief from the pain, hurt or dissatisfaction of those mediocre (or worse) relationships. They too would be missing the distraction of all these possible entertainments that make life bearable. Could it be a benefit to see what’s really going on behind this loneliness so it can be addressed?

However, I am also seeing clients who have welcomed the space that lockdown has provided to reflect on their lives and examine how dependant they were on these comforts and entertainments to make life more fun and bearable.

Many are relishing the slower pace, no racing to after-school activities, less traffic, not being confined to a nine-to-five prison and getting more regular exercise because “walking” is a legitimate reason for leaving one’s home. I have heard people expressing delight at the increased intimacy and bonding as parents are working from home and the children are doing home-schooling so everyone is being forced to spend more time together. Some clients tell me how the whole family bike rides or walks to the local oval and enjoys spending time kicking a ball with other children and parents. They have finally met their neighbours! Some more fortunate folk have used this time to upgrade their homes and gardens, declutter their spaces and bring a finer quality to their lifestyles.

Lockdown has also made us more flexible, increased our use of technology for things other than work. A good friend had her 70th birthday during lockdown and I organised a Zoom birthday celebration with her friends from all over the world. Speeches of appreciation and wishes of wellbeing were shared across the globe; we find ways to work around limitations. Others of course are finding it challenging as it is bringing up unresolved relationship issues which have, in the old “normal” been able to be glossed over. I am witnessing a deeper philosophical pondering about whether we actually want to return to normal or whether that fast paced, event crammed life was in fact so desirable. Having this “change” forced upon us has given us this experiential food for thought.

All of this does beg the question – why is it that we need this level of “distraction/entertainment/travel/holidays/diversion to live in comfort – with ourselves and/or others? What is it that is so challenging about spending time with ourselves that we try to avoid through seeking all these diversions?

Many people are saying that they cannot wait to “return to normal”; whatever that normal may mean. However, for some of us the lockdown has allowed us to reflect on what exactly “normal” is, which for many human beings is far from ideal. Our lives are dominated by burgeoning rates of illness and disease, including mental health, genocide, famine, war, suicide, murder, starvation, child sex trafficking/abuse, human slavery, cruelty to animals, inhumane factory farming methods for cows, chickens and fish, genetically modified everything, the pollution of our rivers and oceans, the increased use of plastic and complete lack of responsibility in the generation of masses of waste and much, much more that is dysfunctional. If what we are doing to each other, the animals and our planet is the “normal” we want to return to, then we are indeed a sorry lot!

So much fuss about a pandemic when all of the above goes on all the time without much being said or done about it. Is it because we mistakenly believe that none of it really touches us personally and it’s much easier to turn a blind eye when compared to a virus that may have the potential to impact us all.

What if this long period of lockdown, without all the usual entertainment/diversion, offers time for reflection, time to be alone – no, not lonely, but alone so that we can allow ourselves the space to feel what is actually going on around us?

Everything in life is the way it is because of the lens through which it is seen. If being locked down allows us to connect more deeply with true purpose, the reason why we do things, then we will all benefit from increased awareness which is, without doubt, evolutionary and of benefit to the planet and its inhabitants.

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  • By Jean Gamble, Psychotherapist

    Jean works with individuals, couples, families, teenagers and children. She knows that when we move past our layers of protection from hurt and connect deeply with our innermost self we can have rich, satisfying and purposeful lives and relationships.

  • Photography: Steve Matson, Electrical Engineer, Chef, Photographer, Forklift operator and student of life.

    I am someone that looks at something that is complicated and sees the simplicity behind it. Life needs to be fun and lived. Making mistakes is an important part of this process.