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  • Writer's pictureHelen Loughrey LICSW, LMSW

A bad case of Corona on top of all our other stressors

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Changes are always stressful, even good changes, but this novel Bat SARS Corona Virus 2019 pandemic is piling on way too many changes, mounting every week. It is nearly impossible to keep adequately informed of the dangers let alone to keep up a brave face. Since January we have been bombarded alternatively with:

* alarming health warnings about catching a deadly disease: also dismissive counter- arguments advising us not to feel (appropriate) fear because, tsk-tsk, that would be "panic";

* suggestions we prepare for shortages: yet widespread social shaming for stocking up;

* exhortations to keep trade and travel going: yet that is how the pandemic had spread;

* shut-downs of our kids' schools and universities, lockdowns of nursing homes, cancellations of graduations festivals & concerts, closures of libraries and retail stores, massive loss of job incomes, unprecedented unemployment and uncertainty;

* increased incidences of domestic violence and fear of entering shelters due to the virus;

* overwhelming demands on full-time working parents now expected to become home school and childcare managers;

* teachers frustrated by new remote instruction technology and classroom social distancing regulations;

* grandparents cannot even help out with the kids due to the potential risk to their health;

* businesses re-opening again - while the virus case counts keep on climbing;

To make matters worse, there are contradictory recommendations about whether to protect ourselves and others, inciting friendship-ending arguments on social media and between family members:

* "Just wash your hands, it is just the flu." versus "It's more contagious and deadly than flu."

* "Hospital staff, you don't need a mask or else you'll scare patients." versus "Now you do need a mask but we don't have any stocked up, so make your own." (Even though early adapters had been fired from hospitals for bringing their own masks.)

* "Everybody wear masks." versus "Masks don't protect against aerosolized viruses."

* "You only need to stay 3 feet away from each other": "Whoops, make that 6 feet... no, make that 12, you cannot go to a park or a beach even by yourself".

We sure could use a visit and a hug or a smile from sympathetic family and friends, but even that is frowned upon, if we could even see any smiles or frowns through all the masks.

All of this reminds me of a very damaging social phenomenon: the intentional gaslighting of unsuspecting victims by narcissists and sociopaths with harmful hidden agendas. We might pause, in our justifiable fear (of the pandemic and of the economic fallout) and in our anger (with people who disagree with us), to consider that our whole society is being gaslighted and divided by sociopaths with monetary profit to gain from creating our confusion. Whether occurring on a personal or on a nationwide scale, this human gaslighting phenomenon always taps into basic human psychological questions of:

* knowing whom to trust or not to trust;

* whether to be transparently open, or to "grey-rock" with protective boundaries; and

* how to adapt our thoughts and behaviors to survive psychologically and literally.

As in interpersonal social gaslighting, when something makes no sense in the political or economic realm, chances are we are being misled with disinformation. Yet it can be hard to pin down exactly what is being misrepresented or why. Others around us may remain blissfully unaware and do not suspect anything. Being the only one to suspect that something isn't quite right can make us wonder whether we are just being paranoid. Worse, we could jump to inaccurate conclusions about the exact cause and purpose of the discrepancies. Then we risk being accused of spreading falsehoods. This accusation is very helpful to the sociopath, who can then use our mistakes to discredit us and even to divert others' early suspicions about the sociopath toward us instead.

When dealing with sociopathic behaviors, it is essential to find your tribe: a supportive group to validate your feelings and to provide valid accurate feedback which supports your safety and wellbeing. We all need a break from the gaslighting and shaming behaviors of narcissists and sociopaths. Whether you are concerned about being misled during the current pandemic; or concerned about your interpersonal safety; or concerned about a fragmenting social support system while dealing with gaslighters, a knowledgeable psychotherapist can provide you the support and encouragement to take the best care of yourself as you learn how to navigate the psychological obstacles of the gaslighting social phenomena.

Ready to begin your supportive psychotherapy journey? Contact me to set up a confidential online tele-therapy appointment from the comfort of your home.

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