7 Reasons You May Actually Feel Better During the Pandemic

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As most folks struggle and stress to get through this messy mishmash we call “pandemic,” there is a certain group of people who are living a whole different sort of life.

These folks are actually doing the opposite of struggling and stressing. There is, in fact, something about the current situation that makes them feel better in some deep and important way.

Some feel more grounded, some feel more focused, and some feel more valid than they always have. Some feel less alone, less lost, or less insecure than they have throughout their adult lives.

I know what you may be thinking: How could this be? Are these people selfish or self-centered or taking delight in other people’s struggle and worry and pain?

Absolutely, positively not.

In fact, most of the folks who are feeling better right now are genuinely caring people who, if anything, tend to over-focus on other people’s needs at the expense of their own.

Let’s take a look at the variables that explain all this.


temporarily closed covid sign

7 Reasons You May Feel Better and Happier During the Epidemic

  1. Folks with Chronic FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) — These are the people who walk through their lives feeling like they are somehow on the outside of things. They look around and see other people laughing and enjoying life. To these folks, it always seems that other people are living more exciting and happy lives. So finally, now, with almost the entire population trapped at home, it’s easier to relax in the knowledge that they aren’t missing anything.
  2. Those Who Have Always Felt Alone in the World — If, as a child, you did not receive enough emotional support from your parents, you are likely to go through your adult life feeling somewhat alone in the world. Perhaps you have felt alone for so long that it has become comfortably uncomfortable. Perhaps, in this global crisis, you really are alone. Perhaps you are able to tolerate being alone far better than others. Perhaps, finally, your real life on the outside mirrors what you’ve always felt on the inside and it is, on some level, validating.
  3. People Whose Specific Childhood Challenges Prepared Them — If your childhood was unpredictable, was filled with uncertainty, or required you to make decisions you weren’t prepared for or act beyond your years, then perhaps your childhood prepared you for this very moment. When you grow up this way you develop some special skills out of necessity. You learn how to hyper-focus in ambiguous situations and how to act decisively and trust yourself. Since you have a solid foundation of the exact skills needed for the pandemic, you may be feeling more focused and confident right now than you have in years.
  4. People Who Feel Numb Unless Something Extreme is Happening — If you wouldn’t describe yourself as an emotional person, or if you find yourself feeling nothing when you know you should be feeling something, you may find yourself having some real emotions as this COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Scores of people need a novel or extreme situation to feel something. Some engage in dangerous, unpredictable, or thrill-seeking activities in order to feel. Today, the danger, unpredictability, and thrills have come to them. Finally, they are having feelings, and any feelings, even negative ones, are better than numbness.
  5. Extreme Introverts — If you’re a severe homebody who gets tired of being required to go out into the world and mix with people more than is comfortable for you, this may be your respite. Finally, instead of having to adjust to everyone else, everyone else is adjusting to you. There’s a new normal afoot, and it is you! What a nice feeling, at last.
  6. Those Already Struggling With Significant Life Challenges Before the Pandemic — Some people were already dealing with some major life crises or challenges before this epidemic hit. For them, this situation may feel like somewhat of a relief. Suddenly, with the world shut down, it’s not possible to struggle or solve. As a result, this situation may offer you a bit of rest. And you’re also seeing everyone else struggling, which may feel comforting in a certain way. It’s not that you want other people to have problems; it just feels soothing that you are no longer alone. Everyone else is having problems too.
  7. Anxious Worriers Who Have Spent Years Anticipating Disaster — Anxiety can drive people to have a grave fear of being blindsided by an unexpected, painful experience. So some people constantly anticipate what might go wrong as a way to prevent themselves from any sudden, negative shock. Now, here we are. That long-anticipated, long-prepared-for event has happened. These folks are feeling relieved that what they’ve been vigilantly watching out for their entire lives is finally here. Instead of feeling shocked, they feel relieved.

What This All Means

If any single one of the above applies to you, even in some small way, it’s possible that you may have some feelings of guilt about it. You may be concerned that it’s wrong to feel better at a time like this.

I want to assure you that it is not! Since we cannot choose our feelings, you should never judge yourself for having a feeling. But it is your responsibility to use your emotions in a healthy way. More about that in a moment. But first…

If any of the first four apply to you, if you are prone to FOMO, a feeling of aloneness, were prepared for this pandemic by your childhood, or live with a numb or empty feeling, you may want to consider the possibility that you grew up with some amount of Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN. CEN can be quite difficult to see or remember, yet it leaves you with these very specific burdens to carry through your adult life. And one very good thing about CEN is that once you know about it, you can heal it!

Now, about how you can use your preparedness and your positive feelings in a good way right now. You likely have more time, and you may be feeling some relief. This is your opportunity to work on understanding yourself better, owning your childhood challenges — which perhaps also made you stronger — and accepting your feelings instead of judging yourself for having them.

More Resources

It’s a tough time and, in ways we never imagined, we are all in this together. But, in another way, we are also each in it alone. What a marvelous twist it can be if you use this terrible time to heal yourself.

To find out if you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect Take The Free Emotional Neglect Test.

You will find lots of guidance and help for understanding what was missing in your childhood and healing it in yourself and your relationships in the books Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Jonice - April 10, 2020 Reply

Dear HB, I hope you enjoy Running On Empty. Take care.

Jen - April 9, 2020 Reply

Thank you for this article; it clears up a lot. When the Work from Home/stay at home order started, I was already struggling with work and life as a whole, struggling with clear depressive symptoms and treading water with work with management coming down on me as I struggled to keep motivated at work and be productive. I am at a state where anhedonia and apathy is destroying my personal life and work life, but not a soul alive I know understands this feeling or why I am suffering it, much less how to help me. When the world started to shut down and we got orders to work from home,and I am one of the lucky ones that can work from home. I ignored work and everything in life for a week or two when this all started, and I started to feel the depressive symptoms subside. I actually started to get a desire to garden and got two small garden beds done, but that didn’t last long. A coworker complained to my manager and that all circled back to me, and my anxiety is high again because the pressure of work and not losing my job came right back after forgetting about it for a while. My mother called to tell me that she is trying not to get sick while trying to keep my sister and brother and both their families above water financially, which stresses me out more to not lose my job because of my depression. Suddenly all the inner peace that I gained from those few days left instantly, and I am more stressed out than ever. I have been thinking that I should take my one week vacation for the year from work now and if that isn’t enough, take leave without pay (LWOP) for now, and disconnect again while the world is standing still, to see if I can overcome the depression and burn out, and finally heal from it. I just don’t know if a week is long enough or if this idea would work, and financially this could be a disastrous move, but I have been feeling like I need to do something to claw my way out of this rut before I actually lose my job from the depressive symptoms. I’m unsure what to do, or if a real vacation while the world is standing still will work, or could work again like it did briefly at the start of this pandemic.

    Jonice - April 10, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jen, one thing about depression is that there is help for it! I strongly encourage you to make an appointment with a therapist. Gardening and a break from work are likely only temporary fixes. Something is causing your depression and it sounds to me like you can definitely benefit from some help in figuring out what that is and getting some perspective on it. There are some great medications to help lift you out of this as well. Research shows that therapy and medication together are the best and most powerful way out of depression. I hope you will act now. All my best to you!

Sean F - April 8, 2020 Reply

This is the beast read on the quarantine for me. My wife told me she wants a divorce one week before pandemic. I find out that she understood that I had CEN for awhile and she then mentioned it to me and immediately saw me as too broken to fix. She believed that I was emotionally abusive and then began to gaslight me and manipulate me for months — while seeking protective orders and having sex with multiple men. All I did was try to work on myself harder then I ever have and save the marriage. She knew she didn’t want to be with me and lied the entire time. Her plan now is to try to make me angry so she can call the cops. This is not paranoia – I found her notes the last time I was in the apartment. We have four kids together and all are well adjusted. My CEN is from very good parents, but we struggled during most of my formative years moving to this country. I started doing manual labor around seven years old (20 to 30 hours a week) and worked continuously to today. My parents were super aggressive and constant fighting when I was young with very little time (both worked over 70 hours a week). I was raised by an older sibling when I was young. And emotions were really not present — I do not blame them. We moved to the states from Northern Ireland in the 80s. It was a very crazy and violent place.

With the quarantine I have been able to really be alone for the first time ever!!! My own place!! I miss my kids dearly as they are young – from 4 to 10 years old – but I have never felt so much peace. I am living as I want to live. Lots of AA (sober 11 years) online meetings, lots of talking with friends and other women, lots of expressing and standing up for myself, lots of exercising and helping people. I feel like I am a new man and that the emotions I feel are coming through unfiltered!! Sometimes I cry and I let myself cry. The divorce is on hold, but I have emotionally moved on. The six months of therapy are paying off dividends as I learn to better emotionally connect with the kids even in this hard time.

I have a question for you Dr. Webb. Can someone who has recovered from CEN suddenly find themselves ‘triggered’ from two much stress? I think this maybe happened in the last few years of my marriage since I connect with many people, but feels that my self care completely went away as I dealt with natural disasters in PR, starting a company and dealing with my wife’s numerous anxiety and depressive episodes.

I love your books!! They have been a godsend!

Thank you.

    Jonice - April 9, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sean, I applaud you for all the good work you have done. You are benefitting your children just as much as yourself by doing it! It’s not uncommon to get a lot of feelings when you are finally feeling more emotions during your CEN recovery. It means that it’s time to learn the skills for emotion management and expression. I think your therapist can probably help you with this. Best wishes for health and safety!

Daysy - April 8, 2020 Reply

Hi, thank you for writing this article. Very briefly, unwanted child, constantly bullied entire school life. Sexually abused over years by extended family member. Hated school and dropped out of everything. Took first job I found and couldn’t get on with staff, they were friendly but frightened me. Eventually started taking more and more time off. Went away to vocational college, didn’t make any friends, feared everyone, was a ‘difficult’ student. Started my vocational career, hated mixing with people, so dropped out. Trained to be a nurse, 6 weeks before I qualified I dropped out. Have tried so many courses at universities but always dropped out. Married a lovely man but had quite severe mental health problems but we got on fine. Had four daughters, one with serious mental health issues – eventually went into care and was sectioned and in a locked hospital. Came home, got married, divorced, cleared off for a few years, came back to a refuge, got pregnant, baby taken away as she tried to kill herself and the baby. I had custody so she hated me. Never spoke for 10 years and then police came and told me she had been found dead – suicide. I’ve remarried after my husband died, this one is emotionally abusive. I have developed a number of chronic illnesses. Diagnosed with moderate/severe depression, C-PTSD, eating disorder, anxiety (then dumped by services). To be absolutely honest, I am loving the situation being stuck in all the time. I don’t have to see anyone, I don’t have to talk to anyone, I actually find I get frustrated when my children phone as it doesn’t feel safe. My youngest is absolutely over the moon as she and her husband have suffered 5 miscarriages and has now found out they are 3 months pregnant with twins, but I can’t be excited for them. I belong to a number of groups, but I always hate going, e.g. a dog walking group, a fibromyalgia group etc, but I can;t get to know anyone, I can’t make friends. I don’t understand why they even acknowledge my existance. I always wonder what they are after so I am pleased everything is closed, I don’t have to make excuses for not going. I would much rather wander round everywhere on my own, I feel crowded if my husband wants to help with shopping. I want to be on my own, I have a favourite coffee shop where I can sit in a corner and no-one ever speaks to me so it is bliss. Needless to say, this isolation is making me feel so relaxed and I am enjoying it. But then I feel guilty because people are really suffering and they are probably far better people than me. I just generally can’t cope with other people, I often don’t understand what they are on about, I get tongue tied if the ask me anything, I seem to say the wrong thing, I don’t understand jokes so for once, I can just have all the solitude I need. Am I totallly crazy or just a really horrible person.

    Jonice - April 9, 2020 Reply

    Dear Daysy, being traumatized and consequently needing to avoid people does not make you crazy or a bad person. I encourage you to find a therapist to help you work through all of the painful events you have experienced. You have coped with a lot.

TAK - April 8, 2020 Reply

Thank you for writing this. I felt this verbatim for number 6 and to a much smaller extent the end of 2. While I was feeling some weird sense of relief, I was having those around me try to encourage feeling guilt and remorse for feeling a bit better about things. It left me wondering if I was a monster, because people are suffering, losing their jobs, and struggling, but suddenly the world was finally standing still long enough for me to breathe.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear TAK, now you know you are not a monster; just someone who needed some peace and quiet.

Tom - April 8, 2020 Reply

I guess I have to say that I don’t feel a whole lot better since the shutdown, but maybe just a little bit. I’m introverted and feel like I don’t have much going for me socially. I have already been isolating all along. I think that I would notice the difference more when things get back to full-swing, if it ever does. Or be back to the way it was.

Near where I live, there’s an avenue which has bars and restaurants. They have always been thriving. I would ride my bike along that avenue quite often. At first, since those places closed, it was depressing to me. The noise and activity were gone and it depressed me because I’m being reminded that something’s wrong. I never cared to have anything to do with those places, being as I am, an introvert. And all of the noise and activity there were unappealing and stupid to me.

But now I ride my bike on that avenue and realize how nice and quiet it is. Also, a lot less traffic on it, too. I don’t miss all of that stupid stuff and noise going on there. I may feel a bit envious, I suppose, because at least the people are together and appear to be having a good time. I’ve wondered how they do it, since that seems like an impossible dream for that to happen to me.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Tom, you do not need to enjoy bars or restaurants in order to have a full and connected life. That’s not a requirement! You can feel good about being a thoughtful introvert who enjoys quiet, so long as you find your people and make sure you have the personal and emotional connection and support you need in whatever way is comfortable for you.

Kim - April 8, 2020 Reply

Another category is people with chronic illness like my daughter. She’s 18 this year.
I struggle to do all the expected things in society. It’s a marvel to me when I see women who function caring for multiple kids, all the school functions, sports ferrying, meals and lunches that’s just one facet! They have a marital relationship to maintain, employment, domestics like laundry and budgeting..and my life is so tiny in comparison yet it takes everything I’ve got, more than Ive got often, to keep up with the very basics of personal and household maintenance.
I’d describe it as rationing my energy packet, where I remove myself emotionally and physically from things. Shrinking not expanding from stuff that doesn’t serve our essential needs.
My daughter and I have a kind of fortress of peace in our home, of gentleness and comfort and low expectations, I mean, in that we don’t strive or be anxious, we try to stay in content and grateful.
But it’s not the norm outside our home and the jackhammer of concepts like advancement and improvement you know; faster, better, bigger, younger, hotter, richer etc always triggering guilt and embarrassment and shame. Failure and worthlessness, in both of us. Me as a mother and my daughter as a teenager so out of sync with people her age and everything they experience which she cannot.
All this to describe why we, who live comparatively isolated because of disability, are feeling relieved in this time of pandemic. Because the societal expectation which generates this type of toxic comparison has become more like us! Nourishing, coping and grateful. Releasing judgement.
That harrassing barrage of messages to be more and do more is silent and the pressure it exerts on us is gone.
It feels like permission to thrive exactly where we are at and Ive noticed many people, of all walks, detoxing probably! because they are also experiencing relief and in the same way. Less pressure, more..joy.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kim, I hope you will feel permission to thrive even after the pandemic is over. Others’ pressure to achieve does not need to be yours. Stay safe and well.

Sylvia - April 8, 2020 Reply

Nothing much has changed in my life because of the C-Virus. I’ve been so accustomed to being on my own without any affection or, family who gives a damn except when they want something from me that, I’m just sailing happily as usual. Over the years I’ve become very good at filling my days to keep my mind constructively busy and when I don’t want to do anything then, I don’t.

However, I was given a chance to help someone who is very much in need so, I anonymously bought a grocery store voucher to cover his groceries for a whole month. Also, the local dog rescue whom I help anyway, were running out of food so, I ordered a load of it online and sent it to them. That is what I love and do best…. helping those in need! I don’t do it to people please anymore rather, I do it because I genuinely want to and because I can since I’m in a position to make a difference in some deserving person’s life.

I do hope that you all get through this difficult time without any harm. Remember, This Too Shall Pass. Many Blessings to you all x

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sylvia, you are setting an excellent example by helping others with no expectation of reward yourself. You have discovered the incredible value of helping others. I hope you are also open to taking in support and help from other people when you need it as well, or even when you don’t. Stay healthy and well!

Paul - April 8, 2020 Reply

The only difference it has made to me is the gym which is closed. I am worried about my parents, not myself. As for the gym I’ve had to adapt. With a bit of imagination and some good tube exercise videos I have come up with a routine that replaces the gym.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Paul, it’s nice that you’re concerned about your parents. But if you are unconcerned about yourself, that might offer a hint that something important is missing. Maybe that’s something to consider?

Thomas - April 8, 2020 Reply

Hi Dr.,

Not to stand on my soapbox but I too have had more than my share or trauma, near death experiences, abuse and an ADHD diagnosis the last few years. In April of 2018 I spent 7.5 weeks in three hospitals in two different states. After a 1700 mile drive to another emergency room they found my colon in perforated condition and I was septic. Anyhow I lost 55 lbs in the process, looked like a POW and was knocking on deaths door there for a while. Post surgery, I woke from a coma after a week, my surgeons still didn’t think I would make it. Even though I was forced to eat horrible tasting hospital food, I slowly recovered over the next month enough to “go home”. There was a day I remember distinctly in my recovery where I recognized there wasn’t a dang thing I could do about anything…bills, work, any extra fun activities. And I just had to heal. So that was that. At times I don’t know which side I am on, life or death… After a year of recovery, I was finally released to go back to work to finally find a position which utilized some of my skill set to be laid off in early March as the governor of Washington shut down the service industry. So one could say I adjusted back into dormancy as the economy shut down maybe a bit easier than others. After enduring so much trauma over the years since childhood in being abused by my stepfather to being in numerous car accidents where I probably should have died, to dealing with myself in being undiagnosed ADHD for so many years and all the damage I did to myself and others unfortunately in how I faced life. With adrenaline charged wreckless abandon…I was able to complete a 26 week CBT group and a ton of counseling to help me try to deal with the trauma. Now I just look for peace and calm after all that. I am enjoying, to an extent, the calm the virus has brought but dealing with my own anxiety with what is to come. Service jobs will take some time to come back and really right now the reality is there is no end in sight. The downside to the economy being shut down for so long is easy to see in the short term and we do not yet know and can only predict where it is all going hence we cannot predict the future and there are no guarantees in life. I just wish there was something more that I can do to help but for right now, what I am doing is enough. Humans have this construct or ideal of American life or this thought of what success is and having all the worldly possessions we could want an obtain. I kinda want none of it. I kinda just want to become a Buddhist monk and enjoy what time I have left on this planet and bring peace and comfort to myself and others. Where to go from here…Thanks for reading!

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Thomas, please know that to me it sounds like you have been through some real trauma, and it always takes some time and work to recover from such events. I encourage you to get a therapist to talk through these events and find your way to your happy place without having to become a monk. See the Find A CEN Therapist List on emotionalneglect.com to find a CEN-trained therapist near you.

Jay - April 8, 2020 Reply

While the pandemic, with its sickness and death, is an awful thing for many people, the measures taken by various governments around the world, (I am in Australia) have meant that for people like me these measures have brought a lot of relief, even happiness, and a sense of peace and stability.

I used to work as a customer service person, and while I was good at my job, I hated it. I have always preferred being alone, even as a child, (parents were very busy and had often chaotic lives, mother was extremely religious and father was undiagnosed with PTSD from serving in the Vietnam war, and was very unpredictable, and often frightening). I lived in my head a lot as a child, had few friends, and did not like physical or emotional interactions, and still don’t.

I feel so free of the need to keep up appearances, free of having to pretend to be “normal”. I don’t have to find excuses not to go to social functions, I don’t have to talk to people I don’t know, and I have the perfect excuse, (social distancing), to avoid having to touch other people, or be touched by them. It’s wonderful.

I’m using my time to paint, to tend to my garden, to walk with my dog, and to just be quiet . I love the silence, the constant noise, the constant expectation to be busy, busy busy, is gone. As I watch others complaining about how much they’ve lost, I am so grateful for what I have gained, peace.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jay, I understand totally. But I must mention that you can find this peace in your everyday life once society opens back up again. I encourage you to use this gift of time and quiet and space to consider how to find it for yourself.

      Jay - April 8, 2020 Reply

      Thanks for the reply Jonice, but I have decided to not rejoin society when it “opens back up” . It holds no interest for me, there is nothing in society that I miss. I feel strong enough now to be myself, I don’t need to accept the expectations of others, I don’t have to participate in their world, or try to be like them.

      I’m happy in my own skin now. Peace.

Doug - April 8, 2020 Reply

There is irony and opportunity in the current situation. Forever feeling out of step with the rest of the world for having a rich inner life is now an asset to cope. Those who thrive in their extroverted lives are suddenly facing challenges when the outer world slows to a crawl.

See it is an opportunity for all to manifest a new awareness. That all lives well lived need a healthy balance between inner and outer worlds.

Hopeful those who tend to enjoy alone time learn to appreciate the, sometimes noisy, outer world. Along with the necessary balancing effect it brings to their inner lives.

Hopeful those who go go go all the time learn to appreciate the richness of slowing down and connecting to ones inner self. Through the acts of quite reflection, perhaps meditation and non-doing. To learn to be comfortable with alone time and its life-balancing results. Drop the unconscious ego and get to know the Spirit side of ones existence.

Nothing will ever be the same as we move forward. If the new normal brings about positive awareness and helpful lessons learned – then we have all grown in a better direction.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Wow, Doug, your comment should be shared with the whole world. You have described so well the balance that humanity has lost sight of. Take care and stay well.

Helen - April 8, 2020 Reply

Oh Boy… I relate to # 1through 4. : l , mostly 2 and 3. I believe my core nature to be more of an extrovert, but living with fear of people has curtailed that somewhat. Often feeling that I’m missing something, coupled with feeling alone-different, (not necessarily lonely) has impacted many of my life’s choices. I recently separated from my husband and now living alone after 35 years. I feel much freedom regarding this decision because I married a very difficult person (alcoholic like my father) with whom I could focus my attention on, and raising 2 beautiful daughters, and working full time, has kept me busy for many years. I need to be busy, and my childhood prepared me to do life almost on my own. I’m not worried nor anxious about the pandemic, as I feel equipped to make good decisions during this crisis. Also, I finally feel safe in my own place after leaving my husband. My issue now is a bit of loneliness for my children and most especially my grand children (4 beautiful babies ages 8 months to 4 years old) I’m adept at keeping my self busy, but there is no substitute for Grand Babies. In many other ways, while the pandemic is a horrible situation, affecting the world, personally, I’m good as long as I can keep contact with my children and their children. For me, it is about staying connected to people that are safe for me.
It’s telling to see how often I used the word safe.
Thanks for all of your amazing insights.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Helen, you are clearly an amazingly strong woman! And many of the things you say in your comment suggest that you may have CEN. I encourage you to take the CEN Test and learn about CEN. You may be able to use this time to find some real solutions to your current loneliness inside of you.

Annie - April 8, 2020 Reply

My mum has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has just started chemotherapy. I feel more supported now than I have ever done. It seems strange to say it, but I think the pandemic has made it easier to deal with her diagnosis and treatment.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    I am so sorry, Annie. I hope your mother will have a good recovery. And this is yet another reason why the pandemic can be soothing. Stay safe and well.

Marianne - April 8, 2020 Reply

I am not finding this pandemic all that difficult to deal with. I’m used to being somewhat isolated, as I moved from a big city of over a million people to the country over 12 years ago. Because it is mostly Farmers here and a small town of 7500, people are more self-sufficient but also very aware of helping their neighbors and checking on them.

Also I had to retire early at 62 but from age 60 on I could not work. I had just enough money for food and to pay my utilities and my car died during that time. I had to rely on to neighbors to get me to the store and doctor appointments and they did so happily without looking for reward. Where I live we call each other and our Good deeds blessings and my neighbor’s certainly have been. Also had no internet or cable during that time so I know the feelings of isolation people are going through right now.

However my parents lived through the great depression and world war II and I remember vividly all their stories of how little they had materially but that they had each other to rely on, and knew they were all in the same boat together and learned how to help each other

Most Americans alive now under the age of 70 or so don’t remember much poverty or struggle in their lives. America has been blessed that way since after world war II. So it is hard for many to cope but we will survive and learn to be stronger and a blessing to others.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Marianne, thank you so much for providing such a helpful perspective for those who have less experience of historical traumatic events and fewer experiences of people relying on each other and helping each other out. Your story and description are comforting and positive and we can all use some of that right now.

Joel - April 8, 2020 Reply

I am just so happy to be with my family all the time. Even though I’m still working at home, being near them and hearing them go about their day means so much to me. I feel like this is heaven. I don’t want to go back to normal anytime soon. That said, all of this is still quite terrifying at times.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Joel, it’s nice that you enjoy your family so much. Many folks will regard you as very lucky.

denise - April 8, 2020 Reply

I don’t feel happier — I just feel emotionally prepared and well suited for the environment.

John - April 8, 2020 Reply

Very perceptive and revealing, and comfoting as well fo those of us who fall into this group who have feelings of guilt about coping better and feeling better in this crisis than other and than we did in normal times.

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    I’m glad, John. I always say the people who feel the most guilt are the ones who should feel it the least. Stay safe.

Nate Terrell, LCSW - April 7, 2020 Reply

Hey Jonice, Thanks for this excellent article which was right on target! Last August, I experienced a severe family trauma which shook me to my core and left me emotionally depleted and numb for many months. I coped by retreating from other people (which was new to me as an extreme extrovert), focusing on the simple pleasures in life and finding a stream of inner peace deep within me through daily meditation. Given what I have been through, I feel like like I have no more capacity for stress, anxiety, etc. concerning the virus and the restrictions it has placed on my life. I am also relishing my increased time at home where I can continue to focus on what I was doing anyway in my recovery – reading, writing, taking good care of myself and my family and appreciating all the good things in my life. Thanks for your wisdom and all you do to help others overcome the childhood trauma they experienced!

    Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Nate, I’m so sorry you went through such a trauma. Your description of how you have gone about coping with it sets a wonderful example for others. Your kind of coping carries with it the advantage of helping you through future traumas too. I’m sure you are now able to teach it to others. Take care and stay safe.

Antoinette - April 7, 2020 Reply

This is very true for me. I feel safer and comfortable than ever before, barely go out even though no lockdown yet. No expectations of the day being better and just because of that each say is really really good. I think the expectations part, is the most important thing, but yes, extremely lonely childhood and not just.
One thing I would correct though, something everyone keeps assuming. No not everyone has more time,. Many women have to do their work, take care fo children 24×7 and do the house-work as well, since maids are not working. Also there are healthcare and volunteers who are overwhelmed, just to mention a few.

    Jonice - April 7, 2020 Reply

    So true! Many people have less time right now. Thank you for pointing that out, Antoinette, and for describing your own experience with the pandemic.

GWOR - April 7, 2020 Reply

GWOR – I am very moved by Sarah’s comment and your correct response Jonice.

I have admitted living in a violent alcoholic household from 5 to 19 . And privately burying my father 60 years later after giving him the best of care . My mother never stood a snowballs chance in hell. I paid for her to get away . Although she outlived my father her life was over and any friends she had dropped her . Everyone has passed away with age so it is easier to relate this .
As I am an only child my mother and I worried what is going to go wrong next. 24/7/365.! every second of the day .
She died from it.
And when I ran away to another school I realized if I did not do what is in the now, now on my own there would be no future as the now. The now is to live now with planning for the future as normal but not be consumed and eaten up by the unknown tomorrow’s ruining this moment of now . .
It has taken many years for me to not live in the world of what is going to go wrong or what is going to happen next .
When the unknown future destroys the present then a decision has to be made how can I live in the now . Took years and years but when I stop and breathe and clear out the future crap at least I can deal with the now . Am I cured no! I just manage it .
However stopping and going still and quiet when the next five minutes or THE TOMORROWS ride herd over the now is really like approaching a stop light . I stop and I have used this red, yellow green light model to pull myself over and stop to clear the tomorrows and moderate my actions on the yellow and get back to the now Green to stay focused on the now going green and my direction and journey . And handle the red lights as they come.
Sarah does not need to live without living today substituting all the tomorrow’s as her today’s or in the future two hours later etc.. she is losing the joy of the now and time to breathe and get in touch with herself . Jonice please delete if you feel I am over the top but now beats the anxiety of later because I can enjoy the now and take the future better planned when it too becomes the new now and when I see my metaphorical red I stop and look to moderate in yellow to get ready to go now on the green. Yes there are times , many times I must pull over I admit it is not easy and work through the next move not being overwhelmed by the anxiety of the future because I lose my now and the now loses its concentration to the future not happening until I get there. which must come first every step of the way .
Maybe the old expression the Sun rules the day and the Moon rules the night allows us that time out we need to stay grounded in the now and just plan the future even if it is only the next 15 minutes but in the now grounded to the self first and foremost .
And going forward in the now helps to evaluate the future with the now the ruler not the future in now until the future actually becomes the new now as is in the present to be the new now.and live it now.
No one wants to be owned by their tomorrows and lose their only one today and once over has passed us over and gone forever. Think now and be in the now and breathe so tomorrow does not take your breath away without your permission. You own your own today all 24 hours of it Sarah.

    Jonice - April 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear GWOR, it sounds like you have struggled with this quite a lot and have had to face some difficult truths. Thank you for describing your thoughts about it, I’m sure many will appreciate it very much.

Saiph - April 7, 2020 Reply

Dr. Webb, I believe that there is an eighth group of people who you have left out of your list. This group of people have watched the world through their lifetimes, and studied its history since WW2. They see the world declining into a mess of self-interested states and incompetent, egotistical leaders who simply want to exploit the planet as much as possible, without thinking about the consequences for the human race, or the future environment of Earth.

This group sees the current pandemic, and the massive disruption that it is causing, as a possible catalyst for change, a cleansing event that will allows humans to realise how stupidly we have been behaving, and lead to a better future.

Look at some of the events which are happening right now: In Venice, the canals are becoming cleaner every day, and the city smells better than it has for decades. In New York City, people can now look out of their apartment windows and see across the city for MILES, where before their view was blocked by pollution. In the UK, because of the economic problems caused by the pandemic, homeless and other vulnerable people are being given more support than they have ever had before. They are being treated as human beings instead of the “garbage pile” of western capitalism.

The more Trump stumbles and fumbles though his words, the more Viktor Orban tries to grab dictatorial power, the more other leaders show their powerlessness and their shortcomings, the more the intelligent members of the worlds’ population will tend to rise up and wipe them out, to be replaced by a better system. A system which will have more economic balance and justice, not ruled by the banks but by logic, common sense, and a sense of community. It will have more social justice. It will have no discrimination or exploitation built into it as capitalism (especially American capitalism) has.

This is a chance for the INTELLIGENCE of the human race to rise again. And given the fact that it is now over half a century since we landed people on the moon, it’s about time.

    Jonice - April 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Saiph, politics aside, I respect the wisdom of your views. I do agree many, many people are hoping something good and positive and better can come from this tragedy. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Louise - April 7, 2020 Reply

I’m glad I’m not alone in this! I also had an atypical reaction and felt calmer and much less anxious, at least at first, almost as though the pressure was lifted. I’ve been under severe stress with depression, constant anxiety and low level panic for the last year. I also fit the category of extreme introvert and my childhood definitely prepared me. I’m used to relative isolation as I live alone and have health issues. I’ve had some terrible experiences over the last 2 years, have been unable to get any help and I’ve REALLY tried! In fact, I’d already finally realised I needed to stop trying (so few people understand narcissism/NPD in the UK) and try a different approach. Before the virus hit I was due to start a painting class for people with mental health issues, I only went once to look round and the people seemed lovely and genuine, so unlike most people I’ve known throughout my life, and I’m middle aged! Now I feel quite trapped and again agitated and depressed. I think this is partly because of other people’s understandable anxiety but also other reactions. I think this pandemic is magically showing people’s true colours and whilst it’s not surprising many people start behaving narcissistically in times of crisis, I’ve been shocked by the more extreme reactions of some people I thought were okay. This has shaken me quite badly as I’d already been joining the dots about several people over the last 2 years. I’m not sure I trust my intuition any longer. I also realise that contrary to popular opinion “virtue signallers” can be on the right as well as the left. People in the media who are usually all for harsh measures around prison sentences, homelessness, immigration, benefits and so on and usually call Millenials snowflakes are suddenly deeply concerned about youth, suicides, mental health, domestic violence. All very serious, valid concerns during a lockdown and why it shouldn’t last longer than necessary, but then they give the game away by saying people won’t stand it for it, they’re fed up after a week, there should never have been a lockdown, Covid 19 is no worse than the flu. There are some people who even deny the NHS is in crisis and question whether young healthy people in their teens or twenties died from or with the virus! Obviously, this is very rare in this age group. I don’t want to scaremonger but it’s when people deny it’s even possible that astonishes me. I’m also amazed when people say going to the hairdressers or other trivia is “essential”! I think this crisis will make a lot of people stronger and open their eyes to the selfishness and entitlement of a certain section of society.

    Jonice - April 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Louise, you make some interesting points. I hope you get back to that painting class! Thanks for sharing your point of view.

Sarah - April 7, 2020 Reply

Oh my goodness!! I read this with my jaw on the ground!!! Since the pandemic started, I haven’t taken a Xanax, feel much more positive, stronger, optimistic about my capabilities and future generally (until I turn on the TV!)
It is also interesting that the only other times that I felt so grounded and ‘untouchable’ were during the period after my (beloved) grandfather died, and when I was undergoing therapy for cancer.
I recently spoke with a friend who also suffers with depression and severe panic attacks, and he told me similarly that he was calmer and most ‘normal’ during the difficult periods of his life. It’s as if our brain is always searching for problems and is not content until there really is one. I remember reading once that people are happiest in war-time. Sorry for digressing – it’s such a fascinating subject!
Thank you for all the good work you do – I wish you well!

    Jonice - April 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sarah, thanks for sharing your own experience. I encourage you to think about whether the cost of being constantly ready for something to go wrong is worth the well-being you experience during a crisis? Just something to consider. I say this only with the best hopes for your maximal happiness. Wishing you well also!

Denise - April 6, 2020 Reply

I am so glad you wrote this post. From the amount of responses, it doesn’t look like I am alone. Even though, I have great compassion, for what is going on right now and feel for all the people affected by this pandemic (all of us, in some way), I feel a big relief that I can shelter in place for a while. I was working on the front lines for 2 weeks, until my employer closed for a while. I have suffered from CEN, and severe Chronic Fatigue/fibromyalgia for 30 years. I am alone after my boyfriend died 10 years ago. It takes a massive amount of energy for me to go out and do things so staying in and doing things on-line for a while, is comforting, to say the least. I know it won’t last for ever, but, in the mean time I am trying to find ways to make the time count, because staying in for me, is not too hard.

    Jonice - April 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Denise, it sounds like you certainly have earned this time and the relief it brings you. I hope you are able to recharge your batteries in a healthy way that makes you feel even stronger when the world opens back up again.

Mark - April 6, 2020 Reply

Having lived through the eighties with Mutually Assured Destruction on a hair trigger via nuclear war and 20 times more potential nuclear strikes than required to destroy the entire planet, this is a picnic in comparison. Human idiocy is the cause of this pandemic, unlimited air travel, touch screens for kids in Macdonalds and lack of basic hygiene. Personally I feel in control. I can wash and disinfect, keep my loved ones isolated etc. There is really not much change in my lifestyle or routine having being in social isolation for years.

We knew the pandemic was not “if” but “when” so it was no surprise to me. With a relatively low kill rate this is simply a gentle warning from Mother Nature for us to get our act together.

    Jonice - April 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Mark, I lived through the ’80s too and it was rough, yes. But it’s hard to compare the two since they are so very different from each other. Society is constantly challenged, for sure. I’m concerned about your description of Covid-19 as “relatively low kill rate” because it is actually quite high and carries many other potential hazards with it as well. Thanks for sharing. Stay safe and well!

Victoria - April 6, 2020 Reply

Dear Dr. Webb,

Just a quick note to you, not necessarily to publish, though you’re welcome to post this—all or in part…

Your piece this week reminded me of something you wrote in our exchange of comments last July, regarding your How Suicidal Thoughts Can Become a Coping Mechanism post.

I’d taken issue with what I read as your inadvertent shaming of those experiencing suicidal thoughts and you replied, “the very last thing I’d ever want to do is subtly shame someone who is hurting. I think there must be some kind of wall that separates people who are hurting in this particular way, making it hard for others to quite ‘get’ it.”

As I was reading this week’s Reasons People Actually Feel Better and Happier During the Pandemic—I, too, have really enjoyed the last few weeks—I thought of another reason why this is true for me and maybe for others who experience suicidal thoughts, and not because we like the idea of dying via COVID-19.

I wanted to share this with you because I think you really are trying to “get it,” trying to understand why people think like this and how you and others like you can help me and others like me.

For me, suicidal thoughts are largely driven by fear of imminent, inescapable negative outcomes. Lessen the likelihood of those eventualities—with a suicide plan or a worldwide pandemic—and focus naturally shifts from an imagined future to the circumstances of my current reality, a.k.a. the “present moment.”

Ditch efforts that feel futile, like working at a job you hate, enjoy government-mandated “distance” from troubled relationships in which you already feel alienated, replace all that with self-care activities like shopping for groceries (chocolate and snack foods), preparing food at home (unpacking takeout containers), being with your kids (not driving them anywhere), going outside for fresh air (to escape your kids), wearing comfortable clothes (daytime jammies) and getting more sleep (disabling all smartphone alarms)… Who wouldn’t feel better?

Ironically, this is the same relief I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve decided to end my life. It’s also the relief I’m remembering when I continue to use suicidal thoughts as a coping mechanism. Suddenly, nothing “matters” but the present moment. Once I surrender all expectations for the future, give up on troubled relationships and refocus my efforts on my own well-being, life is no longer a torment. (I know, ending my life is a really warped definition of “well-being,” but it’s an outcome I can control and feel some sense of agency in preparing for—I can experience a sense of success, as well as an increased ability to comfort myself, calling out the “big guns,” so to speak.)

I guess the trick (for me, at least) has been to discover how to bring this peculiar sense of freedom into my life without needing to die to effect it. Focus on the present moment is lauded as some lofty ideal, pursued through penitent devotion to meditation practice and chasing arbitrary qualities like “acceptance” and “openness,” but it’s also a practical, biological mechanism.

If by the “present moment” we mean “today,” a chunk of time in which we prioritize our immediate and most basic needs: eat well enough, move enough, relax enough, sleep enough… in a concrete, measurable way, we make misery more difficult for the brain and body to achieve.

What I’m getting at is that people who find solace in thoughts of suicide aren’t necessarily deriving as much benefit from the “soon I’ll be gone” part of that scenario, but the prelude to it—“if I’ll be gone in a few days, then today I’ll just focus on what I need right now.” This attention to one’s own well-being is something we all need, and something that’s sorely missing from the lives of those who experience suicidal thoughts.

Thanks, and I enjoy your blog very much!


    Jonice - April 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Victoria, I’m very appreciative of how you described your experience so articulately and well. Helping others become aware of this exact dynamic within themselves, which so many hold so deeply private can, I’m sure, help many work their way out of it. Change begins with awareness and you have helped bring awareness. Thank you so much for sharing. Hoping and wishing for you to keep working on this and finding all of the true joy that you so deserve.

Diana - April 6, 2020 Reply

Thank you for this lovely article, Dr. Webb! Someone commented on the New York Times recently “Who would have thought introverts have evolutionary advantages?” and that really resonated with me.

Not only am I a CEN survivor but also an introvert and have had five life-threatening situations over my 70 years on Planet Earth that I pretty much had to recover from without much social support or even validation, beginning with childhood measles and ensuing pneumonia that I barely survived, an auto accident in college that fractured my spine (abusive boyfriend speeding), an abortion pre-Roe v. Wade from same abusive boyfriend (that my narcissistic, atheist father never let me forget) and the last three personal crises over a period of thirty years beginning with almost being murdered by an abuser at age 40 several years after an amicable divorce and losing everything including my furniture and my cat in order to survive, a very steep uphill emotional and financial battle (mostly alone and impoverished) rebuilding my life (and who can afford a therapist working three low-income jobs, often without healthcare and even auto repair in the USA), a carjack at gunpoint in 2007 after just moving to a new state forcing another move to a safer neighborhood, being terrified in 2014 by my former 1991 abuser’s defense team attempting to subpoena me out of state for his post-capital appeals in an open-shut murder case 17 years after the murder, and as a consequence to all of this a very abrupt and deadly spinal infection two months after qualifying for Medicare at age 65, requiring two months in the hospital, $102,000 claim, caused medically by volunteering for a feral cat rescue organization and acquiring a bacterial infection but emotionally from a lifetime of accumulated parental emotional neglect and criticism, abusive/indifferent partners, lovelessness, job loss (in spite of being college educated and highly skilled), pet loss, lack of respect and trauma.

This pandemic? No sweat! Have been eliminating social activities over past three years after finally accepting that I love solitude. In fact after discovering FitBit Prime workouts for $9 per month, plan to quit my $100/month gym membership which is never used because prefer to run outside and can stream wonderful workouts and Yoga cheaply at home!

It’s my observation over several decades that Americans in general–not all but many–have become way too arrogant and egotistical and bullying towards one another. Perhaps this pandemic will humble everyone.

Those I empathize with are the low-income workers, healthcare workers, especially the least paid, and retail clerks. See very few with masks and believe their organizations should be doing everything they can to provide them for their employees. THOSE are the heroes and the most vulnerable, those who must work and take crowded public transportation to work and often do not have healthcare access.

Prayers for all of these heroes and heroines and those losing their own lives and loved ones. This pandemic could have largely been prevented with some planning back in the 4th quarter of 2019. Lack of U.S. preparation is enraging.

Medicare For All! And go CENs and introverts! We’re in our element “sheltering in place!”

    Jonice - April 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Diana, you have been through so very much. I hope you are now striking the right balance between being supported by others and nurturing yourself too. All my best wishes to you!

    Alice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Thank you for having a thought for the low income workers and the healthcare and retail workers and the delivery guys. I’d add tenants to the list, especially people who live in flats with no garden (and with windows opening on to a busy road! Where I live, the supermarkets’ car parks are as busy as on a Saturday). I am so glad I no longer live in a houseshare and that I’m not renting a basement flat either!

      Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

      Good points, Alice.

Jessica - April 5, 2020 Reply

Actually- very grateful for this time of calm and quiet…. and not all of us are feeling guilty here, lol. We can feel however we want to about this whole situation, and its okay! 🙂

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Yes, it’s okay!

Rebecca - April 5, 2020 Reply

Thank you so much Doctor for seeing me. You are so very knowledgeable. I’m even resenting the tele checkin coming up with my therapist because my trying to raise the alarm about “something” about this virus in Jan that felt different, she told me it was negative thing patterns. My trying to alert the staff to prepare the older population clients in the clinic to prepare was also dismissed. I’m actually resenting her. I am so proud of myself for honoring my intuit and the science, and I was prepared. I, too, am inexplicably happy, and hyperfocused on making sure my teenager who because I stopped the generational trauma with her, she is struggling being away from friends, teachers, and home with her mom. She is an Aspie extrovert. I’m doing the best I can to practice mindfulness , gratitude, one hour am pm walk and keeping her flushed in art supplies, technology favorites, yummy treats. She’s very very sad with the online learning as she thrives with the i person contact. Please keep me in your prayers everyone!

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear REbecca, it sounds like you saw this pandemic coming which is good proof that you should honor your own sense of things. It’s wonderful that you’re so in tune with your daughter and what she needs. Thanks for sharing. Stay safe and well.

Mac - April 5, 2020 Reply

Hey Anna from one C PTSD to another…Call it an injury, This is what Vets prefer to call it, which implies it can be healed l…Bit of somatic meditation…look up John Amodeo ..This can help, you are healing rather than damaged. Love n Light!
Ho hum yes Dr Jonice.
Ancient vulnerable and isolated, tho in contact via this I/T stuff with family and friends.
Early days, I was so strung out and, living alone, I’d often wake up in the morning and go straight into panicky hyperventilating mode.
The blessings of a vivid imagination are fine for artistic expression, but whoa!
Luckily I took to reading my mostly unread library, which of course has a weird collection of spiritual stuff in which I got absorbed. Rowan Willams book Where God Happens which is about the Early Desert Fathers who went into monastic isolation. Roger Walsh Essential Spirituality. Tibetan Buddhism B Alan Wallace. A Course in Miracles.
Sounds very dry, but actually no.
There was a common denominator in my own rather fraught and isolated background at the apex of the first stages of development, plus something which could be euphemistically called a near death experience.
Is this crisis a return of Hello darkness my old friend?
The sound of approaching silence is now more manifest. No polluting planes droning above, far fewer cars.
Is this my cell aka the room in which I was locked for my own good as a kid
Not quite, more birdsong.
An electric spring under clearer skies.
Adding a practice of meditation and calming, and sending out healing to the planet and all before I get up.
Sounds daft , lil ole me making this effort, but even one can make a difference, besides way back in the 90’s , I did hands on spiritual healing as a member of a healing group working in a Friends Meeting House.
Sounds impressive. But was I really a healer?
I preferred to see myself as a channel or conduit for Something Else, because thats what it felt like to me.
Apparently there around 15 % of us like this.
I do intensely feel the pain and grief caused by this terrible disease and the way it affects so many people and their loved ones and their livelihoods and I express my compassion and empathy and hope that my quiet little voice is doing something to help and to heal.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Mac, I believe your voice is doing something. Keep talking!

Diana - April 5, 2020 Reply

when i saw the title i laughed out loud! I’m not really bothered by the pandemic situation at all (that is staying home and away from people – the deaths, economy, etc., does bother me). I am and have been reflecting a lot on my CEN upbringing and with my kids being remote-schooled, I am finally able to recognize and correct some of their behaviors towards me, such as not treating me with respect, etc. It has taken me a while to get to the point to realize that I’m worthy of respect and worthy of my feelings and that I ultimately teach others how they can treat me. So although i’m working more than full-time at home, even with a lot of stress, i’ve been able to continue to reflect and FINALLY take some control of my life (mainly how my kids treat me and how i should treat/parent my kids), due to the lack of socializing/social distancing. And I don’t have to hug people/feel uncomfortable in certain situations! I DON’T want to pass CEN to my kids, I want to continue to have a real relationship with them when they are adults. I’ve have always felt like I go where the current takes me instead of paddling to where I want to go – I just never knew that there were paddles (and still not exactly sure where i want to go anyway)!

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Diana, it is very impressive what you are taking on and what your goals are. You sound like a person who will do whatever it takes to end the CEN at your generation and I applaud you for that! You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

David - April 5, 2020 Reply

Great article. Always had feelings like this from different situations in life. I am in the tip 4 reasons you listed. As I have always felt left behind and have always been a loner and stayed away from crowds. Have CEN of course but it is a long road to go. Just so surprised by the article because this is me. Thanks.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear David, it’s a long path, yes, but one well-traveled and well worth traveling. Just keep on going!

Anna - April 5, 2020 Reply

Hi Jonice,

Many thanks for your reply- for some reason published comments won’t show to me so am responding here to what I read in email comment notification.

Thank you for encouraging me to remove the word ‘damaged’. It is definitely something I am glad to be able to have revealed in me so I can work on it.
I would also like to just respond to the phrasing that I put the word damaged in there- I did so to illustrate a perceived social attitude that was very visible in historic societal treatment of people who survived certain kinds of abuse, as well as people who didn’t fit the productive and conformist moulds, and I think the threads of that still linger in the collective psyche, so while I am glad to work on my own inheritance of the idea, I also am glad of the opportunity to name and counter that assumption of damage publicly- and thank you for also doing that.

There can be an attitude that we need to be fixed in order to rejoin the mainstream, and what I am seeing in other people’s comments is a lovely illustration of how maybe rather the mainstream can adjust its flow. That attitude of needing fixed has even pervaded cultural ideas about individual therapy. A lot of what can be fixed is collective, I think.
And a great deal can be healed just through acknowledgement, can’t it?

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and for providing this great material.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Unfortunately, I think there are even more than threads of that attitude in today’s world. Hopefully, that will change.

Jackie - April 5, 2020 Reply

It’s like the noisy nasty world has shut its mouth for a few weeks and I can hear that it has…quietness is nice.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    It’s good you’re enjoying the quiet, Jackie. Thanks for sharing.

Geoff - April 5, 2020 Reply

Uncanny. Just uncanny.
Wow Jonice, once again you have nailed it.
I had just finished writing a letter to a friend saying that i was actually feeling particularly calm and prepared. It has felt as though the world has come to me for a change.
I don’t think of myself so much CEN as I do CED – Childhood Emotionally Distanced. There was an emotional disconnect there, but it was more my withdrawn-ness as a kid than any neglect or lack of love from my parents. I used to just sit in my room and play on my own for hours. I just became self sufficient.
Anyway, thank you, your writings have been an inspiration for me. I have been on my own journey of discovery connecting with my emotions of late. I am astounded at how much more complete and vibrant life feels, when we let ourselves indulge in the full range of emotions available to us.
Kindest regards

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Geoff, I’m so glad you are experiencing life with your emotions and realizing how vibrant it feels. Keep up the great work you’re doing!

Megan - April 5, 2020 Reply

I’m loving everything about living in plague times. Thank you for some insight as to why I’m so jolly!

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    I’m glad to give you some answers, Megan. Take care and stay safe.

Anna - April 5, 2020 Reply

*little content warning- this is a personal negative take, so don’t read if you don’t need that just now*

Actually found that really hard to read. It is written with compassion, logically I know that, but I am responding to it feeling crestfallen and with shame.
What has happened for me, as a person with CPTSD and a long term chronic illness that leaves me often housebound alone, and also as someone with awareness of the damage to our biospheres – hence danger to us- resulting from busy, oil-fuelled consumer living,- I HAD started to feel better in certain ways, for reasons you nail here among others (even though I still feel heartbreak for the losses and global inequities this pandemic opens).

Strangely, this article has hit me as if it is saying- no, it’s not the world, it’s you, you’re different and damaged, the rest are just temporarily forced to be alongside you, but once they can, they will leave you out again.

Right in the shame and rejection axis.

I know that is coming from inside me, I just needed to share it as it feels very isolating.
Although, also, I do think that shame and rejection have been communicated to so many of us, a sort of widespread attack on vulnerability, and that we could benefit from always expressing an awareness that we are not a damaged subset, but a part of the whole, part that should be included and recognised by the whole, which can be so ruthless in its pursuit of individual wellbeing (a flawed goal).
I’d be glad of any tips or recognitions in response. Thank you for writing and for moving this emotion in me.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Anna, thank you for sharing your feelings about the article. I’d like to say in response that being different and being damaged are not the same and do not necessarily go together at all! All of the 7 traits in the article are just facets of being human, which is why so many people, I think, relate to the article. I wonder if the underlying problem could be that you put the word “damaged” in there. I encourage you to take pride in the way you are different because thoughtful, caring people like you bring something very valuable to others.

Russ - April 5, 2020 Reply

Dear Dr. Webb, I can’t thank you enough for publishing this article. You’ve explained something that I have been feeling somewhat ashamed about. I experienced CEN and narcissistic parents. I had a major breakdown in 2016 at the age of 40, and since then I have struggled with alienation from society, familial estrangement and agoraphobia. Possible CPTSD.
In my city we are on a stay at home order. Since this began, I have been taking walks in my neighborhood for the first time in the five years I have lived here. I see neighbors out in their yard or porch and we smile, wave and sometimes exchange words from a distance. This behavior would have been unlikely before. It is so much quieter and fresher outside with less vehicle traffic. I also hear from my friends and remaining family more often, as they now have more time to reach out. ‘Social distancing’ has me feeling more connected than before the pandemic!
I know there are many people experiencing hardship, loss and pain right now, and my heart goes out to them. For me, however, it’s as if a switch has flipped in a positive direction. I don’t look forward to the world returning to its previous frenetic pace. There’s so much to be learned about the society we must create going forward if humanity wants to continue on this planet. Our State Dept of Transportation slogan, “stay home, limit travel, save lives” is also how we save the Earth!
Thank you again for speaking to the experiences of those of us out here who have CEN. May you and your family be safe and well. Much love!

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Russ, I’m sure many folks who read your comment will identify with what you’re saying and will be comforted by your experience. May you be safe and well too!

    Alice - April 8, 2020 Reply

    Hi Russ!
    I was also brought up in a narcissistic family, where I was the scapegoat. I was a victim of physical and sexual abuse too, not just emotional abuse. My family were very right wing and extremely religious (and religious fundamentalists, creationnists, against women’s rights including the right to vote, to go to school and to study, to have a job and a bank account without their family’s permission, and to live on their own) and they claimed that the physical and emotional abuse was for my own good… When I tried to make a formal complaint, they claimed that the incest didn’t exist and was all in my head.
    I got absolutely 0 help from the State (I am French and was living in France at the time) and I was homeless on and off in my 20s. For a woman it’s actually safer than working on a farm as a seasonal worker, or in a family as an au pair, or than living in a houseshare and doing odd jobs : there’s less risk of being sexually harassed, sexually assaulted and even raped. Like many incest victims, being in a room with one or more people is hugely stressful for me, I feel never better than alone on a long distance walking path and my dream would be to own a little caban in the woods or a small sailing ship. In the movie Last of the Dogmen, one of the characters, Gates, (played by the wonderful Tom Berenger), a modern Archie Grey Owl, regularly goes off in the Oxbow, all by himself, with just his horse, a mule, and his dog. He says ‘I never feel happier than when theres’ 100 miles between me and the rest of humanity’. That describes me to a t!
    I didn’t start reading up about narcissism until my 40s, thanks to a politician who made the news. I was watching his interviews and thinking ‘This is my mother… He behaves and talks exactly like my mother!’ I’ve since read up a lot about it, Susan Forward, Donaldson-Pressman, and Pete Walker. I so wish I’d read these books when I was in my 20s (I’m middle aged now).
    This ‘crisis’ has been really restful for me: plenty of time to read, and when I go for a walk, people usually don’t try to make small chat, or stand close to me. If it were not for the financial issues, the fact that I’m renting, and the food shortages, I would love for this to become permanent. I’m now looking at ways to carry on this mode of living post lockdown, moving to a place where I can work from home, or with as few people around as possible (maybe as an undertaker?) and where I won’t have to make small chat and people won’t resent me being such a loner (Finland?)
    I also relate to points 3, 6 and 7. My relatives held extreme religious views, and they often accused me of being a witch, or of being possessed by the Devil (I was too good at school, especially at Maths, I was asking questions about the dinosaurs, which my relatives claimed never existed… and I was gifted and talented musically too, I played the violin – my mother had a complete meltdown, with screaming fits etc. when my violin teacher tried to make me study Tartini’s Devil Sonata when I was 12!), I even nearly got exorcised a couple of times… I am so grateful to my younger self that I left home and cut all ties with them (no contact) 2 decades ago: if I was still living with them, I am sure they would be blaming me with the pandemic, would be afraid of me infecting them, and they would either strangle me to death or lock me in the basement with no food and no water and leave me there until I die… and if I’d fallen sick, they would have refused to call a doctor. I had pneumonia twice in that house, as a child and as a teenager, both times the doctor (the school had contacted him) wanted me hospitalised because my oxygen saturation levels were low, and I couldn’t even sit up in bed, both times my mother refused, for religious reasons, and she wouldn’t even let me have a bottle of oxygen. She just locked me in my bedroom, hoping that I would die. I didn’t… The second time, when I was a teenager, my cat stayed with me the whole time, waking me up every time when I was drifting into unconsciousness, he seemed very distraught. I am really grateful to him for being my nurse, especially as he was an ASBO most of the time. RIP T.

      Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

      Dear Alice, after all you have been through, I can understand why you would have such a hard time believing that anyone has good intentions or is capable of selflessness or honest care for another. I hope you will be able, at some point in your life, to open your heart and find that there are genuine people out there for you. Sending you my best wishes and all the warmth that you deserve.

        Alice - April 9, 2020 Reply

        Hi Jonice, I did ‘open my heart’ when I was younger, but like many abuse victims I had fallen prey to a guy who just ‘selected’ me because he knew I was vulnerable (absent father, abusive mother etc.) He threw me away once he’d done with me. I’ve met many many other guys like this since (I do have to work for a living), as well as older women who tried to pimp me (I was very nearly a victim of human trafficking after this guy had dumped me – I ran away from the brothel but ended up on the street and was homeless for 6 months) and religious people who try to convince me to become a nun (I was brought up by fundamental Catholics). One of the convents where French social workers (themselves Roman Catholics) tried to send me, the Communaute St Jean, was closed by the Vatican in 2011, the 200 and so nuns who lived them, all women who had been ‘recruited’ by social workers and shrinks while they were homeless, suffering from depression, ‘claiming’ that they had been victims of incest (which, for a French psychiatrist, psychologist, policeman, teacher, or social worker, ‘does not exist’), were ‘sex slaves’ to the priests who visited the convent. Former nuns have signed NDAs in exchange for a small sum of money (no qualifications, no work experience, no family to go back to, and they can’t even apply for benefits because they’ve never ‘worked’, i.e. paid taxes and national insurance contributions), a few haven’t, and according to them, they had to spend the whole night with a priest at least once every fortnight, and to give oral sex to priests several times a week. The younger you were (these women were ‘recruited’ while they were in their early 20s) the more often you would be ‘summoned’. Once you were in your 40s, they lost all interest in you: you were too old.
        One of the things which makes me anxious is that people might want to ‘help’ me, by sending me to live with nuns and priests again, whether I want it or not, or locking me up in a brothel (which is what nearly happened to me) or in a house where I’d have to work undeclared in exchange for food and accommodation (it’s what happened to me, on and off, in my 20s, when I was trying to avoid homelessness – at one place, I ended up getting raped 3 times a day by my employer, and as he refused to use a condom, I got pregnant and had to have an abortion… illegally, i.e. without medical supervision, which means that I haemorrhaged heavily and could have died)… or worse, send me back to live with my ‘family’. All my life people, especially women, have wanted to ‘help’ me by making me reconcile with my mother, giving my mother my contact details. That resulted in me being abducted on the street once – like Sheikha Latifa Al Makhtoum’s sister – I was then sequestered for several weeks, threatened with death, beaten and raped, and when I escaped, with just the clothes on my back, that’s when I found this ‘hotel’ job which turned out to be a prostitution job. A couple of my female relatives went through a ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ experience, i.e. they left our abusive family where they were being beaten, raped, and where they were at risk for being killed… for the ‘protection’ of a guy who treated them in just the same way, once the honeymoon phase was over. No qualification, no job, no money of your own, no bank account, no address… One of the prostitution networks which offered to ‘help’ me made the news last year, again, the recruiter was an older woman who acted like ‘I want to be your mother’… If I’d ended up working for them, I don’t think I would still be alive, I was too ‘rebellious’ and I’ve definitely never enjoyed sex and can’t even pretend I like it… but they would have been frightened I might talk.
        Unless you have money, connections, and a family who can intervene to protect you, it is better NOT to trust anyone, except a cat or a dog. Especially not the social services, the police (just check their behaviour in France) or doctors. It’s a ‘dog eat dog’ world, unfortunately, or, as a former (male) victim of child abuse told me, ‘Once a victim, always a victim… and if you try to defend yourself, you end up being sectioned, with a diagnosis of psychosis… so better keep your mouth shut and avoid all contact with other people, unless absolutely necessary’. People often think I’ve got Asperger’s, I think I’m going to play that up… and ‘rent’ a fake boyfriend, so that men leave me alone.
        Thanks for your articles, some of them are really helpful.

          Jonice - April 9, 2020 Reply

          Dear Alice, your story is so painful. I am so sorry you have had to endure so much mistreatment, abuse, and harm. I understand your need to protect yourself and that you have no choice. Please take care.

Arnold - April 5, 2020 Reply

me to a ‘Tee’.
You nailed it on the head. In fact, one of the reasons i always liked gloomy/nasty/rainy days (and nights in general) is that i feel that no one else is enjoying themselves, and i’m not missing out. Much of this goes back to my childhood (duh) whereby i was kind of a loner, and not sports oriented (and a mama’ boy/ protected “don’t go out and get hurt”) and spent most of my time building things, inventing, experimenting, or just watching TV. In actuality, these may have prepared me more for ‘real life’, whereas those ‘friends’, or should i say ‘acquaintance’, now in retrospect’, really couldn’t utilize their sporting abilities to a real job. Mine was more palpable and useful.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Arnold, maybe you can work toward letting go of this notion that you are missing out on something. Old childhood feelings can interfere with your happiness, and you don’t sound like you’re actually missing out on anything.

Susanna - April 5, 2020 Reply

So – I feel better and happier during this pandemic and I have experienced CEN but none of the reasons quoted fit my reason which is that I am at home with my husband who is on furlough. I think the reasons given are quite negative when there are all sorts of reasons why it can be a positive experience for people.

For example, we have a small farm, it is spring, the weather has been dry and now fine, lambs are popping out and my veg is in. We are doing projects together. It’s BLISS.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    That sounds wonderful, Susanna. Enjoy!

    Monique - April 8, 2020 Reply

    I was thrilled to read this article! I have loved this time since the day it started! I’ve expressed it to other people and no one seems to agree. I have never felt so rejected in my life!
    I had social gathering to attend over these last few months that I dreaded going to. Now they are all cancelled! I had different doctors appointment and commitments and they ate all cancelled too!
    I do not want this tone to end. I am glad I am not alone.
    I am not happy about tbe heartbreak and death going on – and I do hope for a treatment, vaccine , ASAP.
    I just think this time is such a well needed rest for the wiorld and myself . I was feeling overwhelmed with things to do before this started and wondered how I could handle everything I had to do – and then, am abrupt halt to all of it. Believe me I’m nit interested in all that has to be done ( that wasn’t done during this time due to the virus.

    Needless to say, what this time has done fir marine is refreshing.

      Jonice - April 8, 2020 Reply

      Dear Monique, I hope you — and many others — will think about how to change your daily life after the pandemic lifts so that you are moe in control of the demands placed on you. We should not need a pandemic to give us a rest, right? Best case is we should be able to give ourselves a break when we need one. Thanks for sharing. Take care and stay safe.

Angela - April 5, 2020 Reply

Thank you for this article. This is exactly me and I was feeling guilty about it. Grateful to know this is something that might be expected after the childhood I’ve had.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Angela, it can be helpful to finally see that some positives can come from a negative childhood. Glad to take your guilt away.

B12Canada - April 5, 2020 Reply

Great post. I feel safer and more relaxed than I think I ever have before — for many of the reasons you discuss. And I have been wondering if I should be feeling guilty about this. Thanks for the permission not to be.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Permission granted, B12. Take care and stay safe.

Kathy - April 5, 2020 Reply

Thanks, Dr. Webb. Your article explains a lot to me about why I am not feeling as stressed as others. I was feeling a sort of weird guilt. Regards. Kathy

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Hope that weird guilt is gone now, Kathy! Thanks for sharing.

Jill A - April 5, 2020 Reply

So True! I was actually feeling some quilt because this time to ourselves…we can either self reflect or stockpile toilet paper and still shop shop shop on amazon.
We now have time to continue this progression of healing the emotional neglect and am finding this peace is so healing! The days go by so fast there is so much to create, explore in this stay at home policy. I am loving it for that. Certainly feeling for those on the front line and those succumbing to this awful virus. So doing my part to flatten that curve. I just thought of the little song Row row row your boat….gently down stream…we can do that at this time and realize we are not missing out….hope is on the horizon…Agapa’ Love, JillB

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jill, it sounds like you are using your social isolation very well. Thanks for sharing!

GWOR - April 5, 2020 Reply

For those you describe it is only natural where fighting off a drunken parent has more priority than what is happening next door ,down the street or in the world .

Once we learn to disconnect from this or any horrible incident currently within we should not dig ourselves back to then and see now as it is as now. as the reality now before us . And what we are going to do not about yesterday but now and. prepare for tomorrow incoming.

This time with the economy stalled and many without income and bills to pay no matter who we are, we all have issues and must frame them in a way to get through them and connect to the now even it is only within ourselves to remain strong and save the self because the difference between rational selfishness and selflessness must be clearly separated to get through it all not going down a hole but in the whole as best we can manage . Like the air line stewardess say in an emergency put your mask on first so you will be able to help the other person to breathe and not blacking out first .

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Yes, exactly, GWOR, we must care for ourselves first.

Amber O'Connell - April 5, 2020 Reply

I am feeling like this is my time, at the moment. And I want to make the most of it. As I did experience much emotional neglect as a child, your article has helped me understand why I may feel more in my element in the midst of a pandemic. I could live like this always if I had the choice. It has simplified life for me, and I would say it has made life more predictable not less. I welcome this change and the introspection it is bringing! It is radical and has caused a powerful disruption to the normative people and structures that usually hold power and control over others. This pandemic is now in charge and that makes me feel relief because it reveals the fragility and dysfunction of systems of modern life that usually behave as though they are invincible and unstoppable. It also reminds me that there are bigger more significant and important things in life than what I might waste my time worrying about or trying to control. Feel like I can breathe easier. But then I am currently lucky and comfortable enough not to be suffering from lack of income or shelter, food or health so my perspective is a privileged one which impacts on my ability to find positives. But thank you for making it clear that it is ok to feel positives, because I feel that this is insensitive and naive of me considering the amount of devastation thiS is causing.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Amber, I really love this sentence in your comment: “This pandemic is now in charge and that makes me feel relief because it reveals the fragility and dysfunction of systems of modern life that usually behave as though they are invincible and unstoppable.” Thank you for sharing your takeaways from this pandemic.

      Amber - April 11, 2020 Reply

      How nice to have your response Jonice. Means a lot. Thanks for taking the time. Hope you are well and finding the lockdown to be stimulating and positive too!

    Angela - April 6, 2020 Reply

    Thankyou Amber. I concur with you wholeheartedly. I too am grateful for this pandemic and the way it has forced others to re-assess their lifestyle and priorities.
    I have lived for many years with little social contact as a single parent to my 3 kids. So called friends & acquaintances have little understanding of what My existence is like. Whilst they have family/ friend gatherings, holidays, weekends away etc
    This is definitely a time for those people to see life from the other side.
    The world as they know it has ceased to exist, but my existence is relatively unchanged in most ways.

      Jonice - April 6, 2020 Reply

      Dear Angela, I wonder if you are content with your daily life outside of the pandemic. Maybe you could try to connect with people more so that they could understand better what your life is like as a single parent. Then, you might feel more supported? I only want you to feel more fulfilled and, obviously, I know nothing about your life. So just some gentle encouragement for you.

      Amber O'Connell - April 11, 2020 Reply

      Hi Angela. Glad you appreciated my post and thanks for your reply. It is interesting how the things that we usually feel excluded over or have struggled with have all of a sudden transformed into strengths and a reason to feel pride and recognise how skilled we are at life. Because frankly, life is hard, and harder for some more than others. I find that the trouble with society and how it is structured and upheld is that it serves and supports certain kinds of people and lifestyles more than others without awareness of, or just a plain disregard for, minorities or ‘other’ lives…but it’s also interesting and potentially validating to be on the outside looking in because you can gain a different kind of perspective and awareness of what controls and defines us. I try hard not to over invest or compare myself to what I perceive others have that I don’t – I am not very successful at doing this because I lack courage but I am learning to self-validate and to see through the bullshit that has been fed to me! Am hoping that this pandemic forces everyone to stop and look closely at their mental and physical health and life choices and at what keeps us all trapped and to size up what we can realistically do about it. People can’t run away from what they have been avoiding as easily..I hope! I should imagine a lot of people are sighing with relief, even if secretly, that something bigger has put a stop to the rat race for a moment. The trouble for me will be having to reenergise when quarantine is over to go out and face the same old lies we live by. Fingers crossed that there will be some profound shift in me, if not the rest of the world, so that I can live more freely and have the ability to let myself do that! I hope that you find a way to live your life the way you want to for you and your kids. Sending cheer and strength to you and your family!

Tawnie - April 5, 2020 Reply

This is spot on. Last week I was feeling like “Wow, I feel like I’ve been prepared for this my entire life” through what I have been through growing up. Thank you for putting into words to what I was feeling because I thought I was odd and slightly guilty.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Tawnie, I’m glad you no longer feel guilty for feeling better.

Olivia - April 5, 2020 Reply

What a wise post. I am one of these people. I have been a stay/work at home mum for over 10 years, my daughter was very sick for 5 of those. So I’ve spent over 10 years mostly alone and lonely, bored, exhausted and often very frightened because I was trying to look after my daughter mostly alone and trying to get medical experts to take my concerns about her health seriously and not just dismiss me. I had to work out my own structure for my days or it would just be a wasteland, and live a VERY low key life with very little mental, emotional, physical stimulation and few interesting things happening.

Now in this coronavirus crisis most people feel alone, lonely, bored, frightened…they finally understand what it is like to be me. I’m not the freak, I’m one of the normal people. I know exactly what to do when you feel like this…because I feel like this all the time.

I have shown my husband and daughter what to do and how to cope with such a dull, uneventful life and try to advise friends who ask me for help.

I feel like this is the time of the anxious introverts- we know what to do so we can step up.

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Olivia, I hope your daughter is OK. And please watch out to make sure you’re not overly caretaking others at the expense of yourself. Are you putting yourself first? I suspect not, and it is so very important to get better at that.

J - April 5, 2020 Reply

Hahahaha, yep. Now the whole world is as socially isolated as I have been for the last 50 years. It *is* validating and I *do* finally feel ‘normal’, which, honestly, is so weird. However, if CEN or whatever is this good of a survival mechanism, I’m not at all sure that I’m interested in ‘fixing’ it! LOL

    Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear J, all humor aside, there are some significant negatives that go along with those strengths. As you learn more about CEN you may be surprised at the helpful things you learn about yourself. Thanks for sharing!

    Sheila - May 9, 2020 Reply

    Yes. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
    I want to work from home and be with my children. I don’t enjoy socializing or hanging out with other women. I don’t want to go shopping with other women or have coffee. I like myself and have no intentions of ‘getting help’. I have an independent and pioneering spirit. It took a lot of that for people to survive and thrive and build a civilization. I don’t dislike people nor do I want them to be ill and everyone seems to like me and respect me but I don’t miss anyone except my immediate family. Others physically and emotionally drain me. Even in college when other people thought partying was fun I forced myself to go and ‘have fun’. Now, I only force myself because of my job and for my kids. I get more done working independently. Right now I’m soooo happy!

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