According to Buquè, anyone who experiences trauma becomes tender and more aware of their boundaries. “They become more emotionally raw, more attuned to their internal needs and their external boundaries,” she explains. “So a lot of what we’re seeing in terms of the boundaries has to do with that new threshold and that new window of tolerance.”
As for how to deal with it? “Everybody experiences trauma differently,” Glover Tawwab cautions. “Some people will run towards others, and others run away. Friends and family may think it is significant to have conversations about how their kids are doing, or what’s going on with their partners, but that could be very overwhelming for people who are already processing so much. So we have to have a certain level of grace and forgiveness.”
We all have an opportunity to level up our communication with each other, as well as our understanding of everyone’s needs. With that in mind, here are four action items that can double as acts of self-care:
Name Your Boundaries Out Loud
As we move forward with the reopening of society, it’s evident that some boundary violations are inevitable. Being perceived, for example, will be hard to avoid if you are no longer in isolation, and there may not be anything you can do about that. But if someone is standing too close for your comfort, you can advocate for your space, says Glover Tawwab.
If you’re a person who used to love hugging people, but hugs without consent no longer feel good to you, it’s important to let people know. It might be as simple as, “Hey, I would appreciate you asking me next time before you hug me.” Advocating for your boundaries is not just part of caring for yourself; doing so can give the other person an opportunity to name their own.
Reach Out With No Strings Attached
Remember that reaching out can be meaningful, even if it doesn’t lead to conversation or scheduled plans. Sometimes even “How are you?” can be overwhelming. Instead, Glover Tawwab suggests starting with a reminder of support. Try: “I care about you and I love you.”
“I think when you start with that, people are more open to really tell you how they’re doing,” she says.
Ask for More Contact If You Need It
If you are someone who would like more contact from friends and loved ones, again “it’s important to tell people what you need,” explains Glover Tawwab. “Sometimes, people don’t know that you want to be contacted more because they don’t want to be. Don’t assume that people are forgetting about you because they may be acting in a way that works best for them, and it could really have nothing to do with you. You can tell people, ‘It’s okay to call me. I would love to hear from you more often. Please call me twice a week.’ You can say that.”
Will we be like this forever? According to the experts, there is plenty of hope if we stay patient. According to Buquè, first we need the “instigator” of the collective trauma, which in this case is the pandemic, to subside for people’s emotional capacities to bounce back to the base levels they were at before the trauma initially occurred. Then people will start “experiencing themselves as people that are reengaging and functioning in similar ways as before.”
While some of the social changes that we are experiencing will be permanent, they will be that way by choice, as we apply new insights about how we can exist more efficiently and safely, says Buquè. So, yes, we will be different, but there’s an opportunity for increased understanding and acceptance.