Stepping out of Emotional Lockdown During Lockdown.
14th Apr 2020
by Past Ronel Oberholzer and Carina Martin
What is an emotional lockdown?
Looking at the definitions of crisis and trauma helps us to understand better what is currently happening in us during the lockdown.
A crisis is a time of intense difficulty or danger, a time when difficult or important decisions must be made, the turning point of a disease when a significant change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.
Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences.
Emotional lockdown is our default coping mechanism to the stress of the crisis or trauma – what do we do? I’m I fighting, fleeing or freezing?
What is going on?
During this time of forced confinement, we are confronted with a myriad of intense feelings. These feelings mostly include fear, anger, sadness, denial, frustration, loneliness, emptiness, helplessness and shame. The lockdown can be described as a traumatic event -that is- an unexpected distressing event that overwhelmed our senses and impacted on our ability to cope.
Why is this going on?
Since most people are experiencing a sense of loss, these feelings can stem from a form of grief. Grief is multifaceted. The perceived loss of freedom and security are our primary loss. We do, however, not only suffer from the central loss, as described above, but secondary losses emerge out of this initial loss. In the time of confinement, these could include the loss of choice and connection.
Furthermore, anticipatory grief is the grief that occurs before an event of significant loss. Many are currently fearful of losing jobs, businesses, suffering financially or just a different lifestyle after the lockdown. People fear a different future to initially planned, and this contributes to uncertainty and anxiety.
Everyone’s unique background and situation add to the muddle of emotions mentioned above. We are practically all emotionally wounded and have developed patterns that limit our ability to survive in such adverse conditions. For some, soothing emotional pain is by way of distraction and thus indulging in whatever makes us feel good. Instead of staying home where the stillness could force us to do introspection and face our unwanted and uncomfortable feelings, we seek life on the outside like our work, hobbies, exercise and entertainment. Our modern-day culture that is all about entertainment and busyness accentuates these actions. Our so-called “safe place” was thus the experience away from home. Being forced to stay home now results in a type of “cabin fever” the longer, these perceived essential coping mechanisms of ours are withheld. We feel more restless, lethargic, hopeless sad, depresses, apathetic, irritable, out of control, vulnerable and unable to cope. Ironically, for most the typical response to unwanted feelings is to suppress, which leads to a degree of emotional numbness, increasing the risk of staying stuck emotionally.
Another complicating factor playing havoc with feelings is the fact that most of us suffer from Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). As children, our parents failed to respond adequately to our emotional needs, which left us as adults unable to identify and respond correctly to feelings. The most common emotional left-over of CEN is the feelings of emptiness and the loss of connectedness within the most important relationships in their lives. Being isolated in the lockdown process elevates those feelings to despondency, isolation, anxiousness and despair.
What ought to be going on?
Failing to identify the underlying emotional constructs and causes of these feelings complicate the coping process and emotional growth. You may be ignoring what God is trying to tell you and running from the parts He wants to heal. So, first and foremost:
Reconnect with God: God created humans to stand in an intimate personal relationship with him firstly, and secondly with others. This connection will involve an understanding of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. When you are grounded in God, you can respond with resilience to life’s challenges. You are free to be the person God created you to be and do the work he has planned for you. God responds to human brokenness by transforming our souls from the inside out.
Reconnect with self: Connectedness with self is intrinsically related to one’s relationship to God. Self-knowledge and knowledge of God are so interrelated that the one cannot be separated from the other. The journey to self-knowledge and ultimate healing starts thus with a commitment to allow oneself to feel and experience our emotions. The pre-condition remains to respond to the feelings under the lordship of Jesus.
Allow these new feelings to drive inner motivations to act according to our deep-seated values and purpose. This involves living purposefully and responsible where life’s choices (no matter how painful) is made in such a way that hope, joy, gratitude and connectedness results.
Reconnect with others: Extend the new way of making choices to evaluate your key relationships as well as your existing network. Evaluate whether you are surrounding yourself with the right people who will support your new lifestyle. Who in my system can help me to change my perspective and tap into new possibilities that I might not see at the moment? To whom can I extend the same favour?
How might we respond?
Permit yourself to feel.
Stop, be quiet and listen to your soul. This involves intentionally engaging in introspection. This process can be done on your own, but ideally with the help of a Pastoral Counsellor and Life Coach. Journal and write down your insights and reflections – you will be astounded by what you will discover.
Focus on a particular emotion, identify and name it. Try and connect it to a specific thought or belief as well as an earlier memory.
Do not deny the feeling, embrace it and have grace on yourself.
Let God shine His light on this feeling and the memories associated with this.
Embrace your new feelings
Find and discover new meaning in this season
Redefine your purpose, personal WHY and values
Grow in self-awareness
Identify your network and tap intentionally into that network
Be part of a network for others and reach out to others
Align all choices with your purpose, WHY and values for greater congruence as an individual.
Practise healthy stress management skills
Identify what you don’t have control over and what you do have control over.
Be intentional to make choices what you do have control over.
Cultivate new rituals with self and your family to create a sense of security and safety
Embrace who you are and not only what you are doing.
“As you take one day at a time, you will grow from hopelessness to hopefulness. You will appreciate your unique story as your most valuable asset.” – Dr Barbara Louw.