• Daniel Heath

Psychoanalytic perspective. Discovering meaning in a pandemic?

Updated: Mar 1

Fear & safety; outcome & motivation.

It was once said by someone, that the average man or woman does not actually want to be free, they simply want to feel safe. To experience the phantasy of what the caregiver provides. The safety in being seen and understood. For fears to be considered; to be reflected somehow. For hopes and expectations to be noticed and ultimately, to be contained.

Handing over this sense of safety to the other, leaves impoverished that which we rely on. Our internal model. Our internal truth. Our reasonableness. Our ability to assess the landscape and find a realistic vantage point. Our inner voice. The discerning and critical mind that we have learned to trust, through time and experience.


When we place our sense of security outside of ourselves we become vulnerable to external forces and the whims of the other. We feel unsafe.

Setting this in today’s context, perhaps the average person experiences a persecutory fear mainly born outside the self and mainly contained by the other. This conundrum is in one sense justified but, for some perhaps, reflects the gaslit world of relational abuse. An intrusive, powerful, uncertain societal anxiety; a Foucaultian panoptical trap.


For some this fear anxiety is repeated with every headline, every inflated statistic and through every glance and conversation. The repetition of dramatic events serves a need to understand them and a curiosity for something darker. Can a population really leave it itself healthier, through suffering, through poverty, despair and uncertainty?

Questioning policy. Socratic dialogue has been attacked and devalued; maybe it is beyond repair? Who is able to hold their nerve and remove this imposing legislative fencing, first in narrative and then in practice? How do we repair ourselves and internalise what has occurred?

Carl Jung (1875-1961), suggested that in many cases the motivation behind an idea or experience can be determined in reverse, simply by assumption. That is to say, if someone leaves you irritated, maybe it’s not because you are actually irritated by yourself, but because they want to irritate you.


How do we understand what we feel in this present paradigm when we have little idea what is just around the corner? Perhaps if we can’t see the meaning behind, ‘what is happening to us’, we should ‘assess the outcome of what has happened and ‘infer its motivation’?


Does 'the other' intend to inflict suffering and for us to fear?