Birmingham, Alabama, USA
There is much to be disturbed about. We are socially isolated while surrounded by reports of death, risk to life by an invisible assailant, and countless tragedies compounded by mismanagement and blame. We are not sure our hospitals will be available to provide care if we or loved ones need it. Compounding all this is an economic crisis of depth and unclear duration.
There is no question this is an unprecedented crisis for all alive today. There is much tragedy, and there is much uncertainty that we and all who we treat share: Will I or my loved ones succumb? How long will this go on? What will happen to my finances? How else can I help, knowing what is happening on the front lines, and how can I manage feeling helpless? When will we feel safe? What will the world look like when we can once again leave our homes?
This crisis is different from other crises of the past century. We are threatened by an invisible foe, but we do not have to fear being assaulted by individuals who might come into our homes to take our possessions and our lives. We can walk outside. The economic crisis will be followed by rebuilding, and analysts can maintain a means of livelihood. We live in an era of communication unimaginable twenty years ago, allowing us to talk to and see each other despite our separation. And there is the paradox of common experience and a sense of community because of our isolation. And this sense of community extends to the world. There is less external distraction and more time for internal reflection.
I have been most heartened and touched by the determination of those in treatment to persevere in their work, using adaptations that make this possible, and of others who initiate care during this unusual time. I have also been moved by the commitment of parents to ensure that their children’s psychological needs are still met while so much else is happening. This is a time and opportunity to support each other and draw upon our knowledge, skill, and humanity to help others draw upon theirs.
Lee Ascherman is an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and is a training and supervising analyst and child supervising analyst at the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute.
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