Damaged By The Pandemic
The pandemic did damage to some of my relationships. People I cared about had very different beliefs and behaviours than I did. How can I go about repairing these relationships now that things are calming down?
Signed: Damaged by the Pandemic
Dear Damaged by the Pandemic
You are not alone – many people found themselves on polar opposite sides of the pandemic roller coaster ride. There were so many uncertainties – so many worries and fears – and so many frustrations that built up. All of our relationships bore the emotional brunt of the restrictions that were created to help keep us safe, physically.
It is a fundamental basic need of all human beings to surround themselves with groups of people who share something in common in order to feel safe and happy and fulfilled. We develop social networks that span across the many dimensions of our lives (work, family, friends, community, etc). And each network has its own layers of connection based on frequency of contact, emotional closeness, etc. But when the pandemic hit (and for the better part of almost 2 years), our patterns of integration with others were severely disrupted. We focused more on our immediate networks (our core groups – the people closest to us and with most similarities) rather than on our more distant networks. Core networks create more of a closed, tunnel focus in our lives. The distant social networks that we belong to provide us with diversity and the opportunity for a growth mindset. They provide increased socializing, and the resources for and the expansion of “other’s awareness” mindsets.
During the pandemic, many people often felt out of control and helpless. And we found ourselves looking for outlets that allowed us to release these feelings and exert some form of autonomy again. This would sometimes lead to people grouping together with those who had the same beliefs as themselves, while they pushed away from anyone who was expressing different opinions. Lines were drawn – polarization happened – and lots of people started thinking more in terms of all-or-nothing mentalities, than ever before. This is a very common process that occurs when human beings get overloaded or flooded emotionally (and I think it’s safe to say we were ALL experiencing this at times, during the worst of the COVID months).
Now that things have started to settle down again, many of us are realizing that we miss the people who used to be in our more distant networks. We want that diversity in our lives again; we are feeling safe and strong enough to be ready to return to a growth mindset. And we want to rebuild and repair some of the connections with the people that mattered to us. Here are a few easy steps to take, in order to be successful at this:
- Try to rebuild relationships with people who want to reconnect with you too (both parties need to be ready for this repair process in order for it to be successful);
- Remember why you cared about the person in the first place (rebuild from a foundation of respect and affection, not from conflict);
- Start from a place of empathy (be willing to listen and understand – not judge – the other person’s perspective);
- Be willing to practice or put into effect what you wish to receive from the other person (be prepared to own your own behaviours and feelings during the pandemic, not blame the other person);
- Remember that your end goal is a win/win (not a conversion of the other person’s beliefs or an admission of mistakes);
- Make the intentional decision to let go of what was said/done in the past (so you CAN move forward);
- And start with slow, safe, positive steps (purposefully focus on conversations and activities that will strengthen and rebuild the relationship, not keep it stuck in what cannot be changed).
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