We asked Iñaki Guerrero to give us some advice on how to “get through” this difficult period, in which we all find ourselves more fragile and vulnerable. Inaki is a psychologist who lives in Loppiano.
Iñaki, with the Coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures, we seem to experience a great sense of fragility, as if our illusion of power over things, our life, our projects are starting to crumble. It seems we are suspended, in air, with a great question mark over our personal and common future. How can we live this moment well so as to make it fruitful for our life and for the great human family? Certainly, a situation such as this, which the whole of humanity is going through, puts all our security in crisis. Unconsciously, we tend to believe in the omnipotence of the human being. We think that science and technology can solve all problems and this gives us security. But suddenly a catastrophe comes, an earthquake, a hurricane, a pandemic.. and all our certainties collapse,. In an instant we go from trust, and confidence, to fear: What will happen now? What can be done? Who can solve this situation? We begin to be agitated and we experience anxiety, stress, despair, etc… It’s about getting back to reality. We cannot control everything, we are always fragile, we cannot delude ourselves. And this awareness is good because it helps us to mature and it makes us say “I must always be ready to face any adversity, I can’t delude myself thinking that things will always go well”. Our life, on principle, is always one hundred percent uncontrollable. We must be aware of this and live “prepared” to face the difficulties that may arise without fear, convinced that it is always possible to find solutions, even if we have to go through hard times and suffering. Living with this awareness makes us more mature, more human and allows us to continue to fight in any circumstance, without ever being discouraged. “Everything has a solution if I do my part”. In addition to this, for the believer there is the trust in God that makes us believe that everything He wants or allows is for our good, which also helps us to face difficulties with serenity and hope. In our homes these days, we hear of so much pain through the TV. There are also those who have lost a loved one, without being able to say goodbye, or to accompany him or her. Inside of us there is pain and mourning, and relief for still being alive and yet we feel a sense of guilt and we ask ourselves: why them and not us? What sense can we give to these last farewells that we feel as a community. How can we symbolically accompany these people who have died because of the virus, since it is not possible for us to do so physically? In these circumstances, we are faced with so many painful situations, the suffering becomes more visible. Sometimes, when the suffering is not ours or of people close to us or dear to us, we do not become fully aware of the suffering of others, and we do not feel their suffering as our own. On the contrary, in this situation of generalized suffering, which touches everyone, we cannot but feel it in us, it is not possible to be indifferent. Therefore, we must learn to live it as serenely as possible: we don’t need despair, anxiety, anguish.. they simply increase our suffering and that of others! So how do we overcome these emotions? We must think that all these emotions arise from our thoughts, from our interpretation of reality, that is, they are very subjective. An important exercise is to try to rationalize our thoughts, to avoid catastrophism, to understand that yes, the situation is not easy, that there is a lot of suffering but also that solutions will be found and that, sooner or later, things will improve. It is enough to look at the history of humaniity, even recent history. Among the many strong feelings of this period is fear – fear of not being able to see the distant family members again, fear of getting sick, fear of the crisis of the world we will have after the pandemic… How can we not be crushed by it? Fear is a feeling that creates a lot of suffering, so we must learn to rationalize it. The greatest fear is that of the unknown, when we do not know what can happen in the future. It is in these cases that our unconscious can become “catastrophic”, which also generates a lot of suffering. So, again, it is good to rationalize, try to realistically understand how things can end because even if the future prospects are very negative, being aware of them helps us to accept them with more serenity. We live in a time when we all need each other’s comfort, a caress, a hug, and yet, this very virus forces us to keep our distance… How can we console one another, feel close to each other, share with each other despite the physical distance that is imposed on us? As human beings we all have a strong need for physical contact to feel good: we are social beings and not being able to show affection can make us feel sad and depressed. It is precisely the risk of contagion that forces us to avoid physical manifestations of affection as much as possible: no more hugs, kisses, caresses, handshakes… But there are also other manifestations of affection that, if they cannot completely replace physical contact, can help us: they are smiles, kind gestures, words of appreciation, phone calls, messages, even through social networks. Maybe, now that we have more time, we can call people we know who are alone or in need of support, find different ways to express our appreciation and love. When we work with the needs of others in mind, curiously enough, we are the first ones to benefit. For this reason, trying to understand how I can put myself at the service of others and then do so, can give meaning to our lives at this time. Forced to stay at home, especially if one is alone, one risks giving in to despair, or sadness or sloth… What do you recommend to avoid this danger? In order to avoid the negative consequences of forced inactivity, it can help a lot to give timetables, make a program of activities, putting in sport, reading, cleaning and tidying up the house, my own things, even creative activities, such as painting, writing, making repairs. The important thing is not to let go, avoid spending too many hours in front of the TV or video games, plan the hours for each activity and try to stick to the plan. Take advantage to do everything we always leave for later, because we never have enough time to do it right away. And, certainly, this time can serve to improve our relationship with God, the time dedicated to prayer. This situation can become a unique opportunity to grow and mature personally and an opportunity to take good steps towards greater solidarity among all human beings and among all nations.