The pandemic has helped us learn a lot about ourselves and how we face a challenge. How we move forward is an individual task that requires we support each other, but moving beyond this moment in time is an imperative.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
While the original version of this quote can be found in a book about dating, I feel it applies to where many people find themselves, just over two years before all our lives collectively changed. Despite everyone’s stated desire to move on, for many people, the break-up, like in any toxic relationship, is just not so easy.
Everyone had their own way of coping with the sudden challenge that presented itself.
A never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole was in play, where just as one challenge was overcome, a fresh one reared its ugly head.
Learning to deal with a constant and ever-changing uncertainty in our lives had an impact, in varying degrees, and continues to do so, even if on a subconscious level. Whether or not you found yourself scrubbing your groceries, we all had to learn to deal with this invisible foe in our own way.
Our nemesis did not play favourites and was indiscriminate in its target, affecting everyone, whether they want to admit it or not.
Moving on from the lousiest partner ever appears to be exacting a toll for many who struggle to break free.
Easier said than done, it seems, despite what the song says. Conversations about COVID are about as welcome as those with a friend who drones on endlessly with their laundry list of complaints about their ex. So now that we clearly see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, why do some folks find this break-up so difficult? We continue to be bombarded by information, misinformation, and inconsistent information. While it is difficult to not lose the plot, the Backfire Effect is in full swing.
Lewendowsky and team discussed this phenomenon where a cognitive bias can lead people, who encounter evidence that challenges their beliefs to reject said evidence, leading them to cling even more strongly to their misconceptions.
Why does this happen?
This cognitive bias not only affects one’s ability to change another’s opinion but your own capacity to rationally process information.
Whatever narrative, true/false/true-ish/kind-of-not true, people clung to over the last two years, the pandemic, the invisible foe that led us to question so many of your beliefs, and those of everyone else, could not have cared less about our challenges, and still doesn’t.
Like a sociopathic ex-partner, the pandemic has gone on its merry way, doing its thing, without a concern for anyone.
In an article by Daniel Neidtch, he discusses the issue of COVID Stockholm Syndrome.
Originally, Stockholm Syndrome, Neidtch writes, was the term coined after the behavior of the hostages of a bank-robbery in Sweden and is used to describe the effects of trauma in captivity, on hostages or survivors of abuse, where, with time, they start to identify with their captors, developing an emotional or psychological connection.
While, as Neidtch explains, the pandemic was not a kidnapper but a virus, and people were not expressing sympathies with it, they become accustomed to the extended lockdowns, physical distancing, and masking. Some people moved out of cities and made similar drastic and abrupt changes to their lives.
Many people, despite the changes in our ability to manage the virus, simply cannot let go of the fear that prompted all this handwringing, hand washing, and sanitizing.
Additionally, for some, the pandemic has provided a convenient reason to avoid addressing some of the challenges they face both personally and professionally, with the oft heard lament, “when the pandemic is over, I will….”
This excuse to avoid adressing some of the big issues in life can only be used for so long.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The mental health impact of the pandemic will serve as the basis of PhD theses for decades. Break-ups are never easy, even though the soon-to-be-ex is a total jerk (feel free to substitute your expletive of choice). Everyone processes trauma in their own way.
We all need to be patient with each other, and ourselves. Despite all our time and effort, we realize this most uncaring of partners is just not that into us and will continue to do its thing, and be a constant in our lives, in some form, without the slightest consideration of how we feel. We need to be kind to one another as we all move on with our lives, each at our own pace, continuing to support our healthcare workers, vulnerable citizens, and those for whom the symptoms of the illness linger.
We also need to figure a way forward that puts science over politics, ensuring access to any information that leads to productive, and not toxic, discourse.
Dante, as Italians do, had the perfect way to describe what we have been through with his positive view of what lies beyond.
After his journey through hell, he wrote: “E quindi uscimmo a riverder le stelle,” and we emerged and saw the stars once again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Bruce Freeman is an honours graduate of the University Of Toronto. He completed the AEGD program at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester and returned to U of T to complete his Diploma in Orthodontics and his Master of Science degree in the field of orofacial pain.
He is also co-director of the Facial Pain Unit and Hospital Dental Residency Program at Mount Sinai Hospital and lectures internationally on clinical orthodontics, facial pain, patient experience, and virtual surgical planning. He is the director of patient experience for dentalcorp supporting clinical and educational programs to support the patient experience. Bruce is a certified yoga instructor with additional training in breathing techniques, meditation, and trauma informed movement, emphasizing how self-care leads to the best patient care.
Dr. Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.