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José Benigno Freire, School of Education and Psychology. University of Navarra.

Psychological de-escalation

Fri, 18 Sep 2020 15:01:00 +0000 Published in The Basque Newspaper

Let this first line serve as a tribute and consideration to the people who in recent months, for various reasons, have suffered the unspeakable; suffering lacerating, painful, tragic circumstances.... However, I will direct these reflections towards those people who have only endured the inevitable and logical problems and difficulties of confinement, without any additional aggravation, that is, people whose emotional stress did not exceed the very broad limits of psychic normality.

These people, once the confinement was over, experienced a pleasant sensation of emotional respite, of relief, as if they were returning to the previous psychic scenario. This is nothing more than a false illusion. In reality we are still psychologically very tired, possibly without perceiving it or being aware of it.

Let me explain it with an example: let us imagine that we receive a strong punch in the eye, after applying the appropriate remedies, it improves, and no longer hurts, however, for a while the swelling, the bruise and the somewhat cloudy sight will still remain. Well -metaphorically- it happens the same in the psyche: the confinement triggered an unexpected and abrupt, deep and intense shock in the very core of the personality. Perhaps, now, the internal pressure is not noticeable, but the swelling, the bruise and the blurred look remain, continuing with the example. We must give time to time because this viscous psychosomatic tiredness is the effect of unpleasant experiences.

For long weeks we endure an acute and continuous uncertainty, and uncertainty recharges the affective world. And, also, fear or excessive worry: paralyzing emotions, which keep us in a permanent state of alert, of anxiety. Add to this the bombardment of over-information with calamitous and catastrophic accents. This subject of information leaves a lingering sadness; sadness tarnishes and dampens the mood and tinges the thought of negativity. As a result, intimacy is strained and gloom and uneasiness emerge. Thoughts swirl around the pandemic, and with its approach of black tones they do not find positive aspects or ways out of the status. In conclusion, with greater or lesser awareness, we are going through, and will go through, a season of inner, psychosomatic fatigue.

Psychosomatic fatigue gradually clears up. We tend to imagine that intimacy is like plasticine: it can be molded at our whim, at our whim. This is not the case. The dynamics of the personality is governed by precise, preset laws: the drainage of internal tensions is not abrupt, it requires a gradual and progressive de-escalation. Therefore, to dissipate emotional fatigue, the effective language is serenity.

Quite the contrary, sometimes, unconsciously, one tries to release the inner oppression all at once, as bulls do when they come out of the bullpen, or with an eagerness to make up for it. Such a behavior, stupefied, could provoke wounds or sequelae that may injure or chronicle in the personality. It is a phenomenon similar to if someone remains locked in a dark cave; to get out he needs protection for his eyes, at the risk of damaging them. Or the decompression of diving: to ascend to the surface, divers progressively attenuate their speed to adapt it to the decrease in water pressure. At final, the coming months call for a moderate pace.

It is convenient to enjoy, without exaggeration, the small ordinary routines that bring us back to the longed-for normality. Without taking impetuous decisions; it is better to postpone them or adopt them with character provisional. We may feel inclined to draw lessons from the crisis to improve our lives: good effort, and purpose! But, perhaps, we should wait... The explanation is clear: our behaviors are gestated in the confluence of an emotional and a rational component. The rational marks direction and sense, purpose; and the emotional is thoughtless, impulsive, momentary. If the emotional factor predominates, we will let ourselves be dragged by spontaneous desires, tornadic: source almost certain to make a mistake...

The ideal environment for fill in this de-escalation is to pursue open spaces (physical and mental), breadth and depth, clear horizons, dreaming the future with sunrises... To seek peace: to be seduced by a book; melodious music; to be seduced by any manifestation of beauty; long and relaxed after-dinner conversations; long and quiet walks, those that soothe turbulent moods... and everything you feel like in this direction. And let's add a couple of very effective channels of emotional drainage: tenderness and friendship!

And patience, much patience. We will not return to the affective intimacy prior to the confinement until the memories of these times seem like vestiges of a bad dream, of a bad dream of a distant sleepless night. Realism suggests that this sensation will be felt for a long time, but this same realism almost guarantees that there is a way out of this crossroads.