The Next Pandemic: Loneliness and Conflict

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Pasadena, California

The Next Pandemic: Loneliness and Conflict

The next month should provide all of us with more information about the nature of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will learn the actual severity of the virus, the precise mode of infection, and an accurate mortality rate.

We will also learn to what degree mass hysteria has worsened the Covid-19 shock wave.

If you’re interested in the mass hysteria component, please see my prior post at:

http://psychoanalyzinglife.com/general/love-in-the-time-of-covid/

Meanwhile, it’s time to prepare ourselves for the next pandemic. It will feature widespread loneliness, increased levels of anxiety/depression, and potentially violent interpersonal conflicts.

Whether rational, an over-reaction, or a combination of both, the forced isolation occurring throughout much of the world now bring unexpected complications like increased loneliness, sadness, and even depression.

Why?

Because of our basic social nature.

We are social animals.

Virtually social scientist doubts our having a foundational social nature.

We need each other.

Socializing allows us to share our private worlds with others, provides us with comfort, and directly addresses loneliness:

Alas, others are here, I am not alone.

Paradoxically, socializing also allows us to project our internal conflicts onto others. If you’re prone towards being self-critical, for example, it actually helps to think that someone else is criticizing you. The internal conflict is externalized, lessening the internal pain.

Along the same lines, if you think you’re the best thing since sliced-bread, you need to get attention from others. You can’t give yourself all the attention you need. Socializing allows you to get others to see you, find you interesting, admire you.

On a totally different level, social interaction also allows us to make sure we are properly following social rules.

No one wants to be a freak.

Noticing how others make gestures, select clothes, drink their coffees, and so on assures us of our sanity.

At the same time, though, socializing can go too far.

In truth, we humans need a balance between aloneness and togetherness.

Too much socialization creates problems due to the same types of projection processes just noted.

The idea that familiarity breeds contempt, for example, encompasses projective processes. Because we also tend to project out parts of ourselves that we dislike, even hate, we are prone to develop negative feelings towards others if our exposure is prolonged.

Also, people prone to project out their internal critics will eventually consider the criticism-from-others as excessive. Those seeking admiration from others will eventually elicit contempt.

The isolation of individual persons, or social groups like families or romantic couples, will have consequences that could be as severe as the Covid-19.

It may not have the same lethality level.

However, people do die of loneliness.

Sometimes, relational conflicts turn to lethal violence.

Socrates wisdom to practice moderation in all things speaks volumes in this Covid-Panic time.

Obviously, we need to practice social distancing, sound hygiene, staying home if ill, and similar public health measures. But social isolation specifically, if taken to excess, will spawn an epidemic of a different nature.

Heads up.