By Dr. Ted Wiard
Golden Willow Retreat
Most people have certain routines in how they conduct their day and lives from an independent point of view, as well as how they interact with the world around them.
Routines such as waking up, taking a shower, eating and getting the day going become rituals where there is less chaos and a similar cadence to the morning.
This also happens with people around them within the family, work and communities. There are collective social agreements that derive from cultural, familial, and community norms that help each person find a way to navigate the world around them.
When COVID-19 engulfed the world, many norms disappeared such as shaking hands and hugging, and wearing masks became the norm. Before the pandemic, nobody would have walked into a bank with a mask on their face!
When there is a loss, many norms are dismantled, which can cause chaos, anxiety and even trauma as norms are no longer happening. Within relationships there many psychological contracts that are always happening. Some of these contracts are conscious, and many are unconscious and possibly even oblivious to one another.
Psychological contracts are agreements on how people interact with one another, from saying good morning to stopping at a red light at the street corner. It is almost like the lubricant that allows interactions to happen with less surprises and less friction.
As a result of loss, these psychological contracts are dismantled and can cause levels of unexpected friction as the past agreements have been changed and there are now glitches within the system due to loss. These upsets in the system may be due to a person no longer being there, a change in philosophy due to the loss, unconscious and/or unhealthy contracts being exposed due to changes to the foundation of how things used to be.
This can lead to stress, irritability, fear, and many other emotional disruptions, but it can also give the opportunity to assess what is working, what needs to be changed, where are there blind spots within the system, what roles might have to be changed, and also give the chance for healing and growth within the system.
For the most part, change is difficult and loss is often the catalyst of change as something is now missing from the old way of having a system flow. Systems are established rituals which give a cadence and order to allow something to function in relationship to self, family, organizations, and the outer world.
Psychological contracts are the agreements to work in some form or manner that allows the system to have a functional flow. Being aware and conscious that during loss many of these agreements are dismantled, and there may be a level of chaos as new contracts are established can help decrease increased emotional difficulties, as well as allow more flexibility as new ways are established from the old.
I wish you well, and until the next column, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions or learn more about virtual grief groups to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com or call at 575.776.2024.