What do you feel when you look at this picture? For me, I instantly feel anxious and a kind of fear. Deep oceans feature in my dreams. I do not like swimming in the ocean when I can’t touch the bottom.
It took me a really long time to figure this one out. What I finally connected it to was a memory of my younger brother falling into the swimming pool, seeing him sink to the bottom, feeling helpless, and my dad jumping in and yanking him out. I was a child then. I don’t remember if the pool was really that deep, or even if my memory is accurate. However, I do remember the fear of the unknown, feeling helpless, and watching threat unfold.
I returned home from work to find my high schooler eager to talk to me. There were so many things they had discovered that were unusual and perhaps a little unsettling about the experience of distance learning. I realised that for someone with limited life experience, this plunge into distance learning by sudden “dangerous” reasons was being encoded in their memory. A good dinner conversation uncovered a couple of things that I share here with you:
1. Realising there is a difference between solitude and isolation. Many of the lunchtime and recess friends are no longer available in these online classroom environments.
2. The vacuum of silence and the uncertainty of how long this will go for: It’s a different thing to know that school holidays is a limited experience, and not knowing . Children who go to school are surrounded by noises and laughter, and chatter.
3. Not moving! Not walking to class, or to school, or around the classroom
4. Staring at a screen the whole day
5. Not knowing if they could go outside the house – or go to the toilet mid-way class
6. Distractions and sensory weird-ness from different sounds that came from having headphones and hearing every rustle, crunch and page flip
At the end of the conversation there was a comment “I need to get a hold of my life…”
For tonight, the conversation just sits as a validation that things are different, unknown and without definition. Tomorrow we spend some time putting structures and substitutes into place to make the world just that little less scary and undefined.
Valerie Ling, MClin Psych, BA(Hons), MAPS, Clinical Psychologist has a passion for helping people find their voice and continue to write their life’s story. Committed to prevent burnout and empowering individuals to life an effective life, she is the Director and Founder of The Centre For Effective Living.