Moving forwards

Our ability to combine acceptance and adaptation to adjust to the new age will be fundamental for overcoming the situation caused by coronavirus.

The recent pandemic has not gone unnoticed, progressing swiftly and forcefully, without distinguishing between nations or social classes.

Those initial reflections, along the lines of “nothing will happen to me” or “the virus won’t reach my surroundings” quickly gave way to a situation so unreal that it led to the collapse of all our expectations.

Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have died, largely because health systems were unable to provide the necessary response. This was the case in our own country where, in the face of precariousness, health professionals have had to experience brutal, grisly scenes, practising battlefield medicine, with many becoming infected and passing away themselves. Anxiety, burnout and defencelessness have been the obvious responses of this group to the paradox of clapping for carers at eight o’clock and stigmatization. Without forgetting all the other professionals who have soldiered on, enabling us to subsist over these dramatic few months.

Faced with this panorama, the psychological responses for dealing with the different situations become clear. The urge to meet our fundamental needs manifests itself stronger than ever now, and safety, shelter and food once again become primary necessities.

Over the first few weeks, the most intense emotions we felt were related to fear and the possibility of contagion. The anxiety of being up against an entirely unknown situation, in which a loved one, or we ourselves, could die. And also, of course, the fear and uncertainty of the possibility of losing our employment.

The figures, bandied around with a kind of statistical asepsis, refer to thousands of people who can no longer be here, with us. The elderly people who have passed away are not members of a different species – they simply accumulated years over the different vicissitudes of life. How difficult it has been for them not to be able to react, and ultimately to lose their lives, giving rise to feelings of defencelessness, frustration and rage amongst their loved ones, as a result of very harsh situations which call for a detailed bioethical analysis.

From the very beginning, the psychological recommendations were related to resting our nervous system, not being constantly connected to the news and only seeking rigorous information at certain points in time.

Social interactions have enabled us to be more connected than ever via the Internet. And at the same time, we have been exposed to reams of false information, put out by people who attack scientific knowledge and engage in moral exhibitionism without any kind of ethics whatsoever.

We have also been subject to an unnerving dependence on politicians who, with their continuous U-turns, have plunged us into doubt as to whether or not their decisions are well grounded, with electoral interest floating on the air at all times.

Now we have to move forwards, based on this life lesson that has been forced upon us. Desiderative thinking, wishing things could be like they were before, is of no help to us: because many things have changed forever.

The way in which we mistreat the planet, how inconsiderate we are with the environment, is catching up with us now, in the form of the tiniest of viruses, which has nevertheless managed to paralyse much of the dynamics of the entire world.

Our ability to combine acceptance and adaptation to adjust to the new age will be key when it comes to overcoming this novel, unexpected situation.

A huge percentage of the population has clinically significant problems of anxiety, sleeplessness and depression, among others, which may require professional intervention.

In resilient terms, one extremely important thing has changed in us: our expectations of a certain type of life have taken a radical turn.

Looking after ourselves and helping one another collectively, and not so much from an egocentric stance, will be fundamental in the future. As will the appreciation, development and respect of science.

We must learn to live with this kind of pandemic, to accept that our customs have changed, and be capable of living in the present, as Buddhist psychology teaches us. With the ability to adapt, relatively regularly, to the shifts this new reality holds in store for us.

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