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That Big River in Egypt

By Jeremy Ireland on May 6, 2020 in Other

What pandemic? Photo: Cleo Patra

The world has changed forever. Much of what we took for granted a month ago has gone. It seems pointless to go over what these changes are, because even while this edition of The Beast is on the printing press it will have transformed again.
It’s difficult to comprehend the scale of what has happened and what is yet to come. Simple liberties such as freedom of movement and being close to someone have all but disappeared. It is perhaps this restriction of movement that is making us realise the magnitude of what is going on. When someone is restricted in some way, the by-product is tension, anger, possible resistance and even conflict. Mix all this together and you have something very combustible that could easily explode.
We all have different ways of coping with tension. Some may take the bull by the horns and own it, whereas others might be disoriented and just wallow and flounder about in uncertainty. For a lot of us, a big way of coping, and the one that we often don’t acknowledge, is simply to ignore your feelings altogether and exist in a state of denial.
Denial is a defence mechanism. It’s a failure to acknowledge thoughts, feelings or any aspect of reality that would be painful to accept. A simple example is when a terminally ill person refuses to acknowledge the imminence of death. In a more current setting it might be something like, “I’m fit and healthy so I’ll be fine.” Such thoughts may be or may not prove to be true but the real issue is much more problematic.
Let’s give it some context. Sadly, Bondi Beach was recently made an example of. The images that went around the world showed a lot of things. In this particular instance it was a classic case of mixing social influence with denial. On Friday, March 20, Bondi was hard to resist. It was a perfect beach day. As one person went to the beach, the next may have thought, “Well, if they’re doing it, I’m doing it.” Fast forward to the afternoon and the knock-on effect saw over twenty thousand people shoulder to shoulder on the famous stretch of sand. The same thing happened on many other beaches along the coast.
The beach example also reflects something else. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) revolves around the simple model of how thoughts affect feelings and in turn behaviour. “I won’t get sick,” leads to, “I feel like going to the beach.” The resulting behaviour is actually going to the beach. An alternate example would be, “I think I might get sick if I go to the beach because there appears to be a lack of social distancing,” which leads to, “I feel like staying inside.” The result is slothing on the couch watching Tiger King. Again, the way we think affects the way we feel, which in turn affects how we behave. If we are in denial it will directly impact how we think about it, how we feel about it and in turn what we do about it.
So, what should we do? Well, the choice is really up to us. If, as individuals, we remain in denial of the situation and continue to ignore professional advice, our civil liberties will be removed. It has already begun and the US is a prime example of this. Trump, who was possibly in denial himself, has back-pedalled in a big way, now that he understands the severity of the situation. Unfortunately, the flow-on effect from what’s happening will not just be about who gets sick and who doesn’t, or who will die and who won’t; it’s about protecting a way of life that we have come to enjoy, if not expect.
Denial, conscious or not, is not a healthy strategy, because the underlying tension continues to gnaw away and could potentially put you at more risk. If you are feeling that the current situation is getting away from you in any way, please seek professional advice from your GP or mental health practitioner.

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