Photo by Rostyslav Savchyn on Unsplash

Watchet, Somerset, UK 2nd April 2020 22:55

On the day when the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has reached the one million mark and deaths are at over 50,000, I have been considering what happens inside each household microcosmos. Perhaps this is my way of coping with those frightening numbers. It all feels a bit surreal. I am cocooned in my safe house with my family and the news seems distant, like a movie, despite the fact that infections and deaths are climbing steadily here in the UK. I understand that a fifth of the world’s population is under lockdown so I wonder if other people are feeling this strange sense of detachment?

This pandemic is a bizarre social experiment, like a global Big Brother House. I find myself feeling curious and observing people’s behaviour from the safety of my mouse and keyboard.

Today, an article in the Spanish newspaper El Pais caught my eye. It reports on Spaniard’s shopping patterns now that they have stopped punic buying toilet paper and pasta. It report a 77% increase in sales of beer, 62% in wine and 36% in other alcoholic beverages. I think that this is to be expected as Western countries have a longstanding tradition in using booze to anaesthetise difficult emotions.

But the article also reports a 92% increase in the sale of olives, 87% on crisps and 60% on anchovies, to accompany beer and wine I guess. Other products who are seeing a rise are chocolate at 79% and ice cream at 76%. These are all what are often described as comfort food items.

As drugs are illegal, we don’t get reports from drug dealers telling us that heroin, cannabis or coke are selling more than usual but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is the case.

The picture I am getting here is of a society using comfort food and drink to “fix” their difficult feelings. I was introduced to the idea of fixing feelings whilst I was on rehab at Somewhere House some 13 years ago. The idea is that a person uses something external to themselves to change the way that they feel. But what this does is just fixing the feeling, patching it up temporarily. It’s a bit like using gaffer tape to stop a pipe from leaking or putting on a plaster on a wound without disinfecting it. It will stop the leak or the bleed temporarily but it won’t solve the original cause.

I understand why people want to get off their heads at the moment. There seems to be so much death, illness, uncertainty, loss, financial hardship, etc. If I wasn’t in recovery, I would be probably be out of my trolley right now.

My worry with all this fixing is that is storing up those feelings for later. I spent a significant part of my life running away from emotions that I found difficult to tolerate: sadness, frustration, loss, shame. The only emotions I was comfortable with were numbness, euphoria and anger, the latter mostly directed at myself. I blocked these emotions from my teens to my early thirties by fixing them with an ever increasing amount of drugs and alcohol, as well as with certain behavioural patterns.

When I was given the opportunity to do a detox at Equinox Brook Drive in Elephant & Castle, London, I had so much emotional baggage stored up that, when it started coming out, I felt like I was drowning in my own feelings. I remember it very clear as it happened in an acupuncture session. The lady stuck a needle in my ear and, suddenly, the tears started to flow uncontrollably. I literally cried for days, with sobs and hiccups and snot and everything else. The floodgates had opened but it was the beginning of my healing process. And I learned that feelings couldn’t really hurt me, it was my thinking and behaviour that did the damage.

What we are experiencing as a society is a huge trauma, both collectively and personally. By drowning our emotions in booze, food, shopping, gambling, pornography, etc, we are just postponing the inevitable. The feelings exist, they are real and they will come out eventually.

I am not saying that everyone should suddenly forget about drugs and alcohol and other forms of escapism, that would be daft. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we have been given an opportunity to learn to feel more at ease to share our vulnerabilities. The reason why we have evolved to have emotions is not just for survival but also for a fundamental need to connect, to get close to one another.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we can learn how to feel again? If empathy would heal this selfish world we live in? I have a dream that it might happen, it could turn all this death and sorrow into a healing process.

Good night all

OneLove OneHeart

Tonight’s choice of music is by Johnny Cash: The Man Who Couldn’t Cry

World-wide confirmed cases: 1,007,977

World-wide deaths: 52,863

World-wide recovered: 210,055

UK confirmed cases: 34,167

UK deaths: 2,921

UK recovered: 192


Comments are closed.