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The pandemic as a developmental risk

The pandemic as a developmental risk In this study, we explore the influence of the pandemic on the intergenerational dialogue. Our thesis is that the images of totally dependent people in intensive care units wrestling with death remind us of earliest experiences in the first year of life. The “embodied memories” of the ubiquitous basic human experience of existential dependence and helplessness remain in the unconscious for a lifetime and are reactivated in situations of diffuse life threat and death. In order not to be flooded by the enacted death anxieties, relatively primitive defense mechanisms such as denial, splitting, omnipotent negation, and projection, may be mobilized. It takes a great psychic effort to recognize such regressive mental processes and to counteract them in order to deal constructively with the pandemic on a mature mental level. The pandemic thus absorbs—consciously and unconsciously—a large part of our psychic energies. This also may have an impact on the empathic dialog between adults and adolescents. We discuss how the pandemic puts a particularly heavy burden on the demanding and disturbance‐prone developmental and identity formation processes of adolescence. In addition, there is a danger that the family and nonfamily adult caregivers will not be able to provide the adolescent with enough understanding and support for this challenge, as they themselves are hindered and limited in their ability to empathize by the constant confrontation with unbearable affects and threats during the pandemic. This makes it more difficult for parents and caregivers to deal with ambivalences, which always characterize the dialog between generations. Thus, the pandemic increases the likelihood that, especially for those growing up who have already felt the downside of life in childhood, their adolescence will now become a “second hazard” rather than a second chance. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies Wiley

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
ISSN
1742-3341
eISSN
1556-9187
DOI
10.1002/aps.1706
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In this study, we explore the influence of the pandemic on the intergenerational dialogue. Our thesis is that the images of totally dependent people in intensive care units wrestling with death remind us of earliest experiences in the first year of life. The “embodied memories” of the ubiquitous basic human experience of existential dependence and helplessness remain in the unconscious for a lifetime and are reactivated in situations of diffuse life threat and death. In order not to be flooded by the enacted death anxieties, relatively primitive defense mechanisms such as denial, splitting, omnipotent negation, and projection, may be mobilized. It takes a great psychic effort to recognize such regressive mental processes and to counteract them in order to deal constructively with the pandemic on a mature mental level. The pandemic thus absorbs—consciously and unconsciously—a large part of our psychic energies. This also may have an impact on the empathic dialog between adults and adolescents. We discuss how the pandemic puts a particularly heavy burden on the demanding and disturbance‐prone developmental and identity formation processes of adolescence. In addition, there is a danger that the family and nonfamily adult caregivers will not be able to provide the adolescent with enough understanding and support for this challenge, as they themselves are hindered and limited in their ability to empathize by the constant confrontation with unbearable affects and threats during the pandemic. This makes it more difficult for parents and caregivers to deal with ambivalences, which always characterize the dialog between generations. Thus, the pandemic increases the likelihood that, especially for those growing up who have already felt the downside of life in childhood, their adolescence will now become a “second hazard” rather than a second chance.

Journal

International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic StudiesWiley

Published: Jun 1, 2021

Keywords: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

References