This pandemic is bringing out the best and the worst in human beings. “We’re all in this together” and “Keep a Social Distance” have taken on powerful meanings as Covid-19 has spread.
I am a social worker by training; used to working ‘in-person’. The current pandemic has provided many opportunities for helping, and my tendency is to find one and commit myself to that effort.
However, there are challenges.
I found ideas in Bowen Theory on ‘togetherness’ and ‘distance’ helpful in determining how to resolve my dilemma.
Dr. Murray Bowen observed how built-in ‘togetherness and distance’ work in families. “The togetherness force assumes responsibility for the happiness, comfort and well-being of others; and it blames the others for lack of happiness or for failure in self.” (Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, pg. 218)
When things get to be too much. ‘social distance’ emerges automatically. Examples like the following come to mind.
What usually happens is the distance goes on for so long and then people get reunited and the dance begins again. The reality is that for humans, the automatic only takes us so far.
Are we doomed to this dance you might ask? No. There is a counter-balance force built into human functioning, described by Dr. Bowen as “differentiation” or the “I” position.
“This is what I think or feel or stand for” and ‘this is what I will do or not do.” (Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, pg. 218) The key ingredient is staying in touch with and supporting the important people around you in family and other relationships, even when they don’t agree with you.
So back to my dilemma. Weighing the factors related to the spread of Covid-19 has resulted in the decision not to volunteer. And while I know this decision is based on principle, it is still hard to accept. Doing the right thing does not mean it will be easy.
Have you had a situation related to Covid-19 that made you weigh socially accepted norms against your own principles? I’d like to hear from you.
And I look forward to the conversation!
Sandra Caffo, LCSW
WPFC Faculty Member