Prolonged periods of isolation can lead to mental, emotional, and spiritual strain as well as heightened anxieties.  Precautions and restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in people living in isolation at an unprecedented level.  In this four-part blog post, Reynolds Cancer Support House Support Group Facilitator, Gregory Roberts, Ph.D., shares his professional expertise on emotional and spiritual health.     

Part I.

As a practicing therapist, what kinds of mental, emotional, and spiritual concerns should we prepare for during this time of isolation?

My interests in research and psychological theories at this point are three things:

  • Theories significance of bonding and attachment in human development.
  • To define more completely, scientifically and developmentally what a “healthy relationship is (positive).
  • And perhaps equally significant: what are the reasons or epidemiology of “bad” or dysfunctional relationships (negative).

All of these are influenced by concepts of:  personal identity (Who am I?) and intimacy (Ability to self-disclose and to have enough self-awareness that you can share with another).

From those theories, ideas, and interests, there is great potential to increase our intimacy and the quality of our relationship with ourselves, with our Creator, and with the significant others who are in proximity.

One concern is that we become more isolated or more comfortable with isolation.  I am of the opinion, that the virtual or cyber connection is not enough. But during this time, it is our limited connection and is better than total alienation or an abandoning disconnect.  My concern is that some will prefer the electronic communication over live discussion or sitting and sharing around a table.  Before this plague we already have seen some severe isolation for young adults and older folks as well through venues such as video game addiction, which was recently added to the office diagnostic manual produced by the APA (American Psychiatric Association). We have already become too comfortable and perhaps unaware of how much nonverbal cueing and messaging gets lost or is missing. There is a reason why a younger generation so cyber dependent, still wants to party at the beach and sweat and scream together at an outdoor concert or a sporting event. They long for community.  We are designed for that.  What we do and how we respond in a pandemic says much about how emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy we might be.

Ultimately, our connection and relationship with the Creator is core to our development, sanity, and function.

Portions of this written piece are provided by Dr. Roberts from a podcast interview he conducted with Reverend Tasha Blackburn of First Presbyterian Church-Fort Smith.  Dr. Roberts facilitates cancer support groups for adult male cancer patients and fathers of pediatric cancer patients at the Reynolds Cancer Support House.