Informative Tips on the Coronavirus from a Psychoanalytical Perspective
Dr. Ali Pajoohandeh, psychoanalytic candidate in TCPS, Iran
We live in times when the covid-19 pandemonium has forced us to lock ourselves up in our homes and flee others. Anxiety about the unknown future has spread through every pore of our being. We are not only worried about coming down with the disease but we are also concerned about passing it on to our loved ones. Thus, we have set up various limitations in our communication with others; these limitations show themselves as rage and animosity but are in fact based on love and caring. Like Rumi, each of us tells the other:
Flee me that you might be free of the plague!
Choose the path of health and forsake that of pestilence!
Yet, among the despair and the negativity I see it to be my duty as a psychoanalytic researcher and expert in the field of mental health to point out the informative tips of this disease:
*The Recognition of the Name of the Father in Society: In Lacanian psychoanalysis that which causes the child to separate from the mother and to recognize itself as an individual being is the name of the father. In that impenetrable space in which mother and child find themselves it is the name of the father that intervenes and threatens them both with castration. Hence, either mother or child move toward a pacification and embrace the laws of the father. This allows the child to follow his path of development as a neurotic.
Similarly, at the time when mankind deemed himself to be the omnipotent ruler of this earthly plane and felt he had no rival, the coronavirus entered in the guise of the name of the father to teach him that life on this plane must follow certain rules without which it is not possible to rule. The following issues can be seen as an explication of this critical point.
*The Improvement of Personal Hygiene: Perhaps one of the most important problems of our societies is the lack of personal hygiene. Issues such as the washing of hands before eating or drinking, during waking and sleeping hours, bathing, carrying a personal towel, not kissing the sick… The coronavirus has drawn attention to all these issues and I hope once the virus has gone and our anxieties are over the above mentioned points will remain a part of our personal and social life.
*The Correction of Social Habits: The novel coronavirus made us realize that many of our social habits are unnecessary and even wrong. For example, we are used to kissing one another or shaking hands. There is absolutely no necessity for such behavior. We can smile at others from a distance, or greet them with a hand over our hearts and a smile.
*Increasing Socializing with Relatives: We can most probably now see that before the advent of covid-19 how much we used to evade socializing with our immediate family, how many excuses we used to make so as not to spend time playing with our children, how much we did not enjoy watching our wives work in the kitchen, how much we preferred to do all kinds of things as opposed to sitting down to watch a movie with our wives and children, how much greed we had to make money while we could have lived so easily with much less and enjoy life too, and how many other things we missed out on!
*The Importance of the Presence of the Other: The other is our greatest loss in modern human society. As mankind has progressed in technology and as he has attained more power he has become more narcissistic than he has ever been before. This narcissism means the denial of the other. More than ever before man sees himself as not lacking the presence of the other more than ever before has he been able to satisfy his needs through science and that includes his sexual needs! The more time passes the more omnipotent man feels the more narcissistic he becomes. Thus, nature (God) has risen to threaten man with castration- thanks to covid-19- in order to separate him from the narcissism he has become so prone to. By forcing us into isolation it has taught us how important the presence of the other is for us, how small the world becomes with that presence and how dependent we really are on each other in order to be able to pass through life and to bear the weight of being. From covid-19 we will learn that in order for me to remain healthy I must take care so that the other might not be contaminated: a lesson man has long since forgotten.
*As Rumi says: ‘Alas, there are so many things I don’t know!’ just as there are so many things medicine has yet to learn for which it has no answers. There is as yet a long untrodden path, a path along which we will learn due to covid-19.
*Another important point is that during this time it is possible to contract covid-19 and not die. Yet, there are so many things we do in order to protect those we love and to keep them from harm. This is where sacrifice enters and gives life meaning. I hope that this feeling will lead to more altruism and love for our fellow countrymen.
Finally, I wish to express a prediction that worries me: after the covid-19 pandemic we will, probably, face OCD which I believe could well be as dangerous as the virus itself for societies. As we know, OCD is an anxiety disorder which we can all be prone to but which in certain cases, due to temperament and upbringing, is much enhanced. In a health crisis, the spread of obsessive washing is one of its most important and serious side effects. The promoters of social hygiene must pay attention to this very serious issue. Obviously obsession in a family member can have serious familial and social consequences.
As a psychoanalytic researcher who has studied obsession, I thought it necessary to clarify the informative points this pestilence has brought with it in order to reduce unnecessary anxiety within society but this is not to undermine this disease in any way.