Corona virus & its social trauma

In the current scenario, dealing with the collective fear of Covid-19 is as important as important as dealing with the virus outbreak itself.

Corona Virus – this term viral now in social media, is an invisible force – a living and non- living entity which has clamped down and the challenged the world. 

First, we were seeing news that many people are affected by Covid-19 in China and as the death toll increased we felt sad for them. Soon enough, the virus spread to other countries also and now it is in India, which means possibly near me too. The virus is now real, it could strike me, the person standing next to me in the supermarket, in the theatre, the person next to me in my office – in short anyone in and around me and me. Everyone one of us is battling this fear, so the fear is now a social trauma.

Social trauma is an unbearable experience caused due to events like war, fire, flood, drought fatal infections like plague etc. When large numbers of people are affected, it creates a psychological pain in the community/country, and soon enough panic spreads. Panic multiplies, more so these days of news spreading through social media, WhatsApp etc. As an increasing number of people experience this fear and panic it is an indication of social trauma.

When someone coughs around us, the first reaction is, “Does this person have Corona virus? An internal fear and need to withdraw from being in public places increases. When we ourselves cough or sneeze we may wonder, “Do I have Corona Virus? How do others see me now? If I am infected, then will I be quarantined? These reactions create spoken and unspoken expressions of fear which creates a ripple effect. In short, constant preoccupation with the following thoughts either in the foreground or in the background is inevitable :

  • Will I become a victim to the virus?
  • Whatever is happening to others affected- will it happen to me?
  • Will someone close to me be affected?

Social trauma can be dealt only with a social healing system. Instead of moving away from people, we need to find ways to support each other. Hearing out people’s story of how they are managing their reactions to Covid-19 could create a supportive experience. Some of our friends and relatives may panic and listening to them about their state of mind can give them some relief. When we sense people are worried about infection, asking facilitative questions about what their fear is, what thoughts are scaring them can help vent out unspoken fears and also make space for a reality check. 

 Even writing down all our worst fears can also help to ventilate pressure. Usually the excessive fear towards Corona can be a trigger for the past experience of illness one went through or have seen others go through.

 When I was working with the client with the fear of Corona virus, the underlaying pressure was, the client has lost her grandfather due to cancer. Post his death, the family split and she lost a connection with many people who were part of her support system. The fear of Corona virus was only on the surface, behind it was the grief of losing a grandfather who was a source of strength and affection. 

For many people, today’s panic and worry about Corona virus can be indication of unresolved repressed experiences of the past.

Some tips to tide over the psychological impact due to Corona Virus trauma:

When there is a thought about this virus, shift your focus to watching your breath and this will help to reduce anxiety. If the fear is intense, watching the inhalation and exhalation from the abdomen level can release the engagement that happens from building up of the fear. Taking your breath to the abdomen level is like the car gear being in neutral. Though your mind experiences a rise in thoughts and emotions, watching your breathe can disengage you from acting upon it and get you to the observer mode. Staying more and more in the observer mode can calm your internal agitation. This is like waiting for muddled water to settle by non-effort. When there is inner peace, it will support the immune system. The mind and body will regulate itself when impacted by fear and this calm inner state will support our healing system.

Approach the situation through surrender:- This universe has been there for billions and billions of years and there is wisdom to it. Surrendering to this nature’s wisdom, can make us feel humble and feel the power of the larger force to help us deal with the fear of infections. My suggestion is to say “ I am a living organism in this Universe which created me and protects me. I surrender to this nature’s wisdom to protect me and guide me to face any infection, and live healthy.” Living each moment with surrender can help in feeling the support of the Universe and give a sense of feeling safe.

Visualizations methods to deal with the fear of infection:- Imagine you are protected by a special, translucent bubble through which you can breath but every other element is filtered . Visualize even if there is a virus coming towards you, it gets filtered becomes weak and to an extent manageable to human immune system. Another visualization could be, imagining how our immune system is efficient and wise enough to handle these infections.

Dealing with Fear of death:-

The corona virus can trigger the fear of death or losing a dear one. What you can affirm to deal with this fear is, “Death does not have a choice to come and get us when ever it wants, it has only one right moment and till then we are in charge of our lives”.

This article is about dealing with the thoughts about corona which are becoming viral in one’s mind and creates a panic. When we win over this fear in a way, we have won over the virus too.

 – A.Geethan, Organizational Change coach and Psychotherapist, Nibbana Institute, Chennai, India. www.nibbanaindia.com, www.nibbana-niccs.com and www.ncpc-india.com.

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