No Touching Please! On Social Distancing

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on April 3, 2020

Six feet, one meter, two meters –whatever the new required distance is to be safe and not contract or spread COVID-19 social distancing asks us to stay away from each other the required distance. To not touch each other.  To choreograph our movements within a certain distance.

To be aware that any of us could make the other sick.

As a way to keep us safe, social distancing is putting a stop to touching, to being close. 

In the interest of stopping a world epidemic, we are being asked to be mindful about where we move, how we move and what and whom we touch. How is all this distance affecting us?

Touch is the first of our senses to introduce another person to us. Our physical sense of ourselves comes alive through the touch of another. Through the way they touch us – handle us, hold us and take care of us. From the very beginning of our lives.

Touch is essential to all of us as human beings.

We touch to comfort and soothe each other

To greet each other

To love each other

Even, to hurt each other.

Needless to say, we do not do well without it. We are not wired to be alone. We are relational beings and need to be in relation to one another. The envelope of our skin, while holding us together and allowing us to feel the way people and objects feel – their particular smoothness, firmness, shape – also transmits tactile information to us about us, and our response to the touch of another. Social distancing has inadvertently interrupted this loop of essential information in order to protect us.

Lest you think that this is only true for those who live alone or find themselves that way during this pandemic, think again. The notion that this virus is very contagious and can be transmitted easily and to the power of 4 has infiltrated our psyche. We now have to consider who we spend our time with, and for many, the question of whether to be with parents, children, friends and lovers involves considering the fact that our contact with them might put them at risk. That being healthy and asymptomatic does not necessarily mean we are not carrying the virus. To be afraid to touch someone we love or care for because we might infect them and bring a potentially deadly virus to their body is not something any of us have ever had to contend with or think about. This is where social distancing and social isolation hook up, and in so doing highlight the link between our body and our psyche. 

Being mindful about how we move and physically negotiate in the world does indeed have psychic consequences – for now, those involve developing a sense of connection through virtual means, and this in turn heightens the importance of our other senses. This is a time when our relationships and our need to stay connected is of utmost importance.

Be well.

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Mindfulness in Difficult Times

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on March 22, 2020

It has been quite some time since I wrote a post, but given what is going on in the world at the moment, it seems like a good time for a comeback. So, Hello dear readers near and far, this is perhaps the first time that many of us will be homebound: doing our work, minding children, caring for partners and elders. In different parts of the world, the response to Covid-19 is starting to be the same: uncertainty, fear, panic buying, and a need to know as much as we can about what this virus is like, what we can and must do about it, how to help ourselves, our families and our communities. All of us are experiencing the impact of this pandemic. We are, all of us, in the proverbial same boat – afloat an uncertain ocean. And furthermore we are, each of us, captain’s of our own ship – we are in charge of taking responsibility. Covid-19 has united us in the way that major calamities and catastrophes do – reminding us that we are one human race, with the same basic needs and wants , and that it is only by coming together, mindfully, that we can survive.

I want to share some thoughts from the book: Consolations – The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by poet David Whyte. This particular essay looks at the crisis all of us face when our internal worlds collide with the outside world.

Crisis is unavoidable . Every human life seems to be drawn, eventually, as if by some unspoken parallel, some tidal flow or underground magnetic field, toward the raw, dynamic essentials of its existence, as if everything up to that point had been a preparation for a meeting, for a confrontation in an elemental form with our essential flaw, and with what an individual could until then, only receive stepped down, interpreted or diluted.

This experience of absolute contact with an essential hidden dynamic, now understood to be essential to our lives, often ignored but now making itself felt, where the touchable rawness of life becomes part of the fabric of the everyday, and a robust luminous vulnerability, becomes shot through with the necessary, imminent and inevitable prospect of loss, has been described for centuries as the dark night of the soul: La note oscura del alma. But perhaps this dark night could be more accurately described as the meeting of two immense storm fronts, the squally vulnerable edge between what overwhelms human beings from the inside and what overpowers them from the outside.

The waveform that overwhelms a maturing human being from the inside is the inescapable nature of their own flaws and weaknesses, their self deceptions and their attempts to create false names and stories to place themselves in the world; the felt need to control the narrative of the story around them with no regard to outside revelation. The immense wave on the outside is the invitation to give that self up, to be borne off by the wave and renamed, revealed and re-ordered by the powerful flow.

Walking the pilgrim edge between the two, holding them together, is the hardest place to stay, to breathe of both and make a world of both and to be active in their exchange: aware of our need to be needed, our wish to be seen, our constant need for help and succor, but inhabiting a world of luminosity and intensity, subject to the wind and the weather, surrounded by the music of existence, able to be found by the living world and with a wild self-forgetful ability to respond to its call when needed; a rehearsal in fact for the act of dying, a place where inside and outside can reverse and flow with no fixed form.


Be well. Be mindful. And pay attention to the details they have always mattered.

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The Tale  by Jennifer Fox

May 17, 2018

  In The Tale, Jennifer Fox captures all of the above and goes further. Here we have her personal story: a story she wrote about when she was 13 years old for her English class essay, and then dissociated and rewrote in her memory. What was in effect a betrayal of both the woman she […]

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A meditation on peace

September 11, 2015

Many of you who follow my blog know that I believe that although words can be powerful and magical, they often cannot capture the complexity of our experience. Today, on September 11, 2015 I urge you to listen to this music by the contemporary composer Karl Jenkins, entitled: The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace […]

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On taking time off – and packing light

August 4, 2015

This is vacation time, the summer months calling forth warm breezes and the desire to step back, to take it easy, to take time off. For many in my profession of psychoanalysis, August is the month to leave our work and our patients and to take time to rest and play. So this post is […]

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ON GUILT- and getting down with our bad selves.

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Guilt is one of those emotions that has been shortchanged in psychology, except to be understood as a sign that an individual has internalized societal and cultural norms and developed a sense of empathy for others. Freud saw guilt as one of the hallmarks of civilized humanity, an important emotion which signaled an internal conflict […]

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ON RECOGNITION – And the feeling of being known.

July 5, 2015

What does it mean to be known by another? To be recognized for who one is, warts and all?  The good with the bad and everything in between? I think we might be talking about the precondition for love, and about what it means to love another person, about the way we negotiate and make meaning […]

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ON RESOLUTIONS – and the will to change.

December 31, 2014

This is that time of year when everyone thinks about change and about the things in one’s life that need changing. The end of the year provides a time to take inventory of our lives, take stock of what we have done and what we have not. Resolutions abound, ranging from – losing weight, starting […]

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About a Woman: Marilyn Monroe

October 27, 2014

Lately I have been thinking about women, and the many incarnations we can embody and be in the articulation of our femininity and our way of being the woman we want to be. Such thoughts led me to consider Marilyn Monroe- yes, the Marilyn Monroe, the woman that illuminated that “dark continent called woman” in […]

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On Building a Life – Alongside.

September 10, 2014

It is thirteen years after. Almost to the day. I do not know when you will be reading this post, but I am writing it on the eve of. The eve of the event that changed everything for many of us. Strange to look out my window and see the beams of light knowing what […]

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