Why emotional closeness is important in times of social distancing

. 6 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
Why emotional closeness is important in times of social distancing

Desperate to do something for a world that seems to be falling apart due to coronavirus pandemic? But how much can you do while you are quarantined? Apparently, a lot.You can practice emotional closeness while practicing social distance.

Everyone is talking about taking precautions to save ourselves physically during the coronavirus pandemic, but very few people are talking about taking precautions to save ourselves mentally and emotionally. Apart from calls for social distance there should also be calls for emotional closeness.

We as a world have reached this situation of a full-blown pandemic only because we weren’t connected with ourselves and each other from a deep place.

If only there had been care-ntine, the world and their pets wouldn’t have needed to go on quarantine.

Is there still hope? Can we still do something? Yes, we can. Love ourselves and others.

We care only for the people or things we feel emotionally connected to. But is making that connection with yourself and others easy? Maybe not. But it is very, very important as coronavirus has shown us.

Imagine if the Chinese people or others had supported the doctor who alerted Chinese authorities about coronavirus Dr Li Wenliang. He was reprimanded by Chinese authorities for spreading fear and misinformation. We have lost Dr Li but we can begin to create a world where people like him are heard and supported and not sidelined. And we can do that only by being emotionally connected to ourselves and the world.

Just maintaining social distance isn’t going to do the trick and turn the world healthy overnight as the threat caused by coronavirus pandemic looms large. Emotional closeness with each other is essential in the times of social distance or we might be in danger of going overboard and becoming too distant. As the meme says,

Image Courtesy: Twitter

We need to do an urgent Marie-Kondoing of the closet of our minds if we are to survive the coronavirus pandemic and survive it like a boss. Otherwise we will just end up looking like Big Boss inmates. We are all in this together, and we will be able to overcome this only when we act together. The more we go away physically from each other, the more we need to come together to each other emotionally. The times are ripe for both social distancing and emotional closeness. But what exactly is emotional closeness and who do you experience that closeness with?

emotional closeness

Finding our hearts and then sharing it with the world is what emotional closeness is all about. And we experience the closeness on 3 levels:

  • Emotional closeness with our individual self (the self that has unique desires)
  • Emotional closeness with our family and communities we are a part of
  • Emotional closeness with humanity and the world at large.

Emotional closeness with yourself

Now that we are all confined to our homes, most people will come face to face with their original nature (swabhav) and will have to accept, love and transcend what they find. That is how a healthy world starts. Walt Whitman’s words… ‘I contain multitudes’ will perhaps need to be changed to I contain solitude or Soul-itude.

Emotional closeness with ourselves means finding home with thoughts ‘that spark joy’. It requires discipline and practice.

First of all, in order to keep thoughts that spark joy, one needs to do away with thoughts that spark anger, fear and all emotions that we aren’t comfortable with. We can’t do away with these thoughts by blocking them, but rather by overcoming them.

One of the best ways to cut the clutter of your mind is to feel your emotions fully.

Don’t work on going away from your mind, just come closer to your heart.

Basically there are only two emotions to be felt fully. The moment happiness and sadness arise, feel them fully. If we do not give attention to your feelings the moment they arise, they find other, more convoluted ways to draw our attention. It is then that emotions like anger, fear, envy, jealousy etc. arise and put ‘stress’ on the nervous system.  Allow yourself to both jump with joy and slump with grief the moment you feel like it.

If all the world is a stage, then the audience has gone home.

Stop playing to the gallery and do things you truly enjoy. Do only things that you like doing and don’t do things that you don’t like doing. Don’t do things that you ‘should’ but rather do the things that you ‘want’ to.

The Hindi word for health is swasthya which is made up of swa (self) and aastha (faith). So the basis of good health is belief in oneself. This by no means is a call to become self-centred but rather to be centred in the self. This then, sends ripples of happiness to the outside. Also, sometimes if you are not feeling that connection with your heart, try to connect with your body and do some mild physical activity.

Emotional closeness with family and various communities we are a part of

Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam meant that the world is one family, but now the phrase has been flipped and Kutumbakam Vasudhaiv is doing the rounds. Which means for all practical purposes the family is your world right now.

Don’t pour from an empty cup. Don’t try to take care of others at the cost of yourself. If you suffer then in the long run your family suffers too. Communicate to kids above 7 what help you expect from them. For kids below you need to behave like the way you want them to behave. For kids below 7, words don’t mean a thing. If you want them to stay calm, you have to stay calm first. And with your partner, communicate clearly too.

Now the community.

Community builds immunity.

A balanced community that is. We all long both to be free and belong to a group at the same time. Too much focus on individual growth leads to a breakdown of the community and too much focus on community leads to a breakdown of the individual. The best way to go about building a balanced community is by way of efficient commune-ication.

A lot of that communication is going to be virtual right now. When every individual knows themselves well, they will be able to communicate more clearly their needs and desires, saving the community’s time and resources as well. I feel a balance between freedom and belonging is the key to good health.

Communicate when you want freedom, communicate when you want a sense of belonging.

Communication is also about listening to others, giving back to the community.

Be clear about which communities you actually want to be a part of (both during the pandemic and after it). Don’t be a part of too many communities, both virtually and in person. Don’t show token presence in communities, but be deeply, passionately involved. Prioritise your time in order to manage your emotions well. Call up people you emotionally connect with on a regular basis.

Emotional closeness with humanity and the world at large

How does one become emotionally close to people one hasn’t even seen or interacted with?  Through empathy.

However, crippling empathy serves no one. In times of global crises, don’t just keep feeling sad, ‘do’ the smallest of acts you can to help people.

Sometimes that doing can mean simply not forwarding a piece of fake news or forwarding good news. Express yourself on world issues. Even if it doesn’t change the world immediately, it makes you feel lighter. Some people reap the fruits of change, some people sow the seeds.

Right now, right this red-hot-minute, understand that we can’t prepare physically for too far into the future, but we can prepare right now emotionally for a better world.

Listen to the doctors, listen to the ministers, but also listen to your heart.

That is where good health starts. And yes, a counter-intuitive suggestion, find small things to be happy about. Bit by bit build up the momentum of happiness. Laughter has always been the best medicine.