• Matthew Emerson

Looking in the Mirror: Finding Hope in the Quarantine

At about six (or is it seven?) weeks into the quarantine, I want to offer some reflections as both a therapist and individual experiencing the quarantine alongside everyone else.

What has this quarantine done to us and will we ever be the same? What will be the impact of all this time we are spending alone?

That's right, I said the word: Alone.

One of the many side effects of this pandemic is that it is revealing an issue we all have suffered from for quite some time. Now, of course, I completely concede that human beings are social creatures meant for community, but that doesn’t mean we should have the reaction many of us have had overall this isolation. Isn’t it interesting that probably the most connected society (so we say) to have ever existed can’t handle a couple of weeks of staying home with themselves or family?

We have reduced this time for an excuse to day drink, eat poorly, and wreck or sleep habits (at least some of us, kudos to those who have stayed strong). After a couple of weeks, our usual distractions have become dull. What we used to use to stimulate ourselves in a desperate attempt to distract our psyches from considering the things deep within us now bore us to tears, so what then? Isolation, being alone, is like a mirror, but it’s not one you can check your hair in. No, this mirror reflects your mind and heart to your ego (conscious self).

It’s like in those monster movies when the main characters get trapped in the house with the villain and one of them inevitably goes “is it trapped in here with us, or are we trapped in here with it?” So, let me change the quote up and present it anew to you all dear readers.

“Are you trapped alone in your home? Or are you trapped in your home with yourself?"

When looking into your internal mirror, what do you see? Have you let yourself go ignored? Are you immediately greeted with past regrets long left unprocessed or accepted? Do you see that project you’ve always wanted to start but now that you have the time you can’t seem to find the energy to do it?

For me, it's the latter--but maybe this isn't fundamentally negative.

Why do we look in mirrors? We do it so we can see ourselves from another angle. It’s hard to make sure your tie is on perfectly straight without seeing it straight on. This isolation, while it can be a veritable hell for some, may also be working a sort of reformation within us.

Instead of treating this self-isolation like you’re staring into a haunted abyss, treat it like you are checking yourself out in the mirror before a workday. We may never get this much time alone with ourselves again (which I’m sure is a thought that brings some much relief) but we should be so anxious to leave the company of ourselves. Besides, if we hate spending times with ourselves, why should we expect others to enjoy it?

Set aside some time to journal. Or, just write yourself a note each day of three things that you want to accomplish and set a time they need to be done. One in the afternoon, evening, and the night. Implement the small things so the big things become natural.

I don’t know what it is inside of you that makes isolation a prison, I only know what subconscious ghosts haunt my interior castle. But we can be our own Ghosbusters. Clean up your room, both your exterior one and your interior one. I’m just a therapist writing an internet article. I can’t read your mind and heart, but you can. But, if this isolation has really affected you, and waking up, eating and breathing is all you can do, and then you return to bed.

That is a victory.

We are in a time where any victory is a welcome one. So, if you woke up today, you’ve earned a medal in my book. We aren’t alone in this. Wake up and act.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be One.” ~Marcus Aurelius

And for many of us, the first step towards being a good person may well be seeking the help we need.

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