John Lennon once said: ‘Life happens when you are busy making plans. In this blog, I am not referring to a loved one abandoning their partner through their own choice. That belongs in a later blog. Rather, I am musing over a sudden unexpected shock followed quite quickly by isolation and loneliness. People go through phases of different feelings when a sudden shock occurs unexpectedly and plans being busily made have to be shelved immediately with no time for disappointment. It is this idea which I am looking at. The 2020 Pandemic brought this state of mind to many.
Whether living alone or with your family, a sudden change of plan or emergency can bring a feeling of helplessness and a return to a childhood need for comfort .
When couples come for therapy to do a period of work on certain aspects of couple conflict, an unexpected event can throw everyone into a hitherto unknown emotional chaos. This shock can affect everyone very differently according to their temperament and past experiences. This throws plans and life off track for an indeterminate period of time. A need to control is strong but out of reach.
I have heard quite often from clients, either coming as a couple or alone, that the flurry of activity from friends, family, work mates and colleagues, for a short period around the crisis or shock drops off quickly and that loss can feel like another shove into isolation. A period of attention caused by something awful is stopped as quickly as it began. This can throw the couple into a place where neither can support the other whilst trying to balance their own struggle with abandonment.
So often it is the least expected friends or even not very close acquaintances, who stay onboard for as long as the recovery period goes on. This may be due to their life experiences when they too have felt helpless under pressure. It is an experience many would prefer not to voice because it may be thought to be neediness. On the contrary, it is all part of recovery from shock and a situation which we read a lot about recently with the flurry of activity initially incurred at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. Seeking help becomes the tried and tested way of recovering, yet the emotional energy to do this seems to have seeped away.
Because his was happening much more frequently during the Pandemic, we at Coupleworks found that our lists filled up very quickly and people had to seek elsewhere, often finding the same story. Long waiting lists formed so when people were in most need, they felt there was nowhere to go. With patience, they did find help and the initial problems began to dissipate when the distancing laws were over.
To help people help themselves we look together at ways to show the other they each care even when they have no resources within to comfort each other. A touch on passing or a look of kindness, understanding and concern can be enough until each has processed the shock. Then slowly each person can regain a sense of purpose and control over what they notice is most helpful in rebuilding a desire to move on.
Clare Ireland 05/12/1922