Continuity Principle, Anticipatory Trauma, Esther Perel on Tactics For Relationships in Quarantine
Updated: May 3
Esther Perel - psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author
Continuity. Not something we normally put high on our list of 'must-haves' in life, but during quarantine, continuity suddenly becomes vital
And a lack of continuity can create difficult strains on our relationships.
Tim Ferris recently interviewed Esther Perel on his podcast the Tim Ferris Show to tackle this issue, providing tactics for relationships feeling the strain during our coronavirus quarantine:
Esther Perel is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author recognized as one of the most original voices on modern relationships.
She highlights that in times of crisis, first we must understand the invisible trauma in front of us.
Welcome to Anticipatory Trauma - A Strain on Relationships
Invisible trauma, also known as anticipatory trauma, is a fear of something that may or may not happen, but it is a fear so great, our body believes it is real and already happening. The body believes what the mind tells it.
To normalize and combat against anticipatory trauma, Esther Perel recommends understanding and confronting these 4 stages during a crisis:
1. Warning - To overcome fear, understand the past. How does this threat compare to other events in history? What can we compare it to? There are always events in the past which will inform us of how things might go, and what we can do next, at all stages.
The 1918 pandemic is one such source.
2. Planning - Now that we've done some homework, let's move into action. What can we get started on today? Maybe stock up on groceries, or reduce our cost of living. Maybe we start eating healthy, prioritize sleep, and drink less to build up a strong immune system. 21 Habits to start during a crisis.
3. Actual Event - When the actual event takes place we leverage our hard work during the warning and planning stage, settle in for the bumpy ride, and put one foot in front of the other, helping each other as we go.
4. Aftermath - What happens here is similar to what has happened historically. Just like during warning and planning, we look at how the aftermath might unfold.
Relationships can suffer during times of uncertainty because your partner will likely be in a different place in any one of the 4 stages of anticipatory trauma.
You may be the planner in your relationship. Or your partner may be pushing forward on things without you, causing additional stress on you both.
Your significant other may not believe what is happening will be so bad, or you may feel they are over reacting in all the over stocking of food or other things they do.
One partner, inevitably, will seem more prepared than the other. In these instances it important to talk through the 4 stages above to align on where and how you both see things going, and come to an agreement on what you can both be doing together now.
The continuity principle is another relationship tool during times of crisis. During uncertain times 3 areas of understanding worth discussing with your partner are:
1. Role Continuity - How do you define you? This is who you were before the pandemic and who you are now. If you're stuck at home, and that's new, there may be roles which have changed for you as a husband, father, mother, daughter, sister or wife. What was expected of you before may be different now. But with role continuity it's important to clearly define what has changed and what needs to remain the same. Role continuity is all about you as a person and maintaining your personal structure.
2. Relational continuity - Keeping in touch and maintaining our relationships is a vital part of the continuity principle. If we can't see friends or family any more, using online video conferencing tools regularly throughout the week will help recreate that relational structure. In fact, aspects of it might even improve. I know for my wife and I we are now 'seeing' more friends compared to before. And that's a good thing.
3. Historical continuity - These are the stories we've grown up with. The ideas around who we are as a people, our nations, our cultures, our resilience in times of difficulty. It is stories from other generations, our histories and hardships from the past, and how those people worked together, the sacrifices, made, which show us the incredible potential within each of us to get through this. These stories are our reference points to look back on, to guide us into the future.
We can do this, and we'll be stronger from it in the end.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay strong, stay healthy, and thrive.
- Goran Yerkovich
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About the author - Goran Yerkovich is the founder of The-Inspired.com, designed to help readers master their personal growth and reach their goals. Goran lives in the greater Vancouver area with his wife and two cats Kimchi and Kauai.