The Healing Power of Presence and Pandemic Implications

The article, How We Can Help Others Heal By Being Present speaks to me as I am a spiritual person.  Yet is this even an instance of spiritual phenomena?  

In the field of counseling, we are taught that one of the conditions necessary for therapeutic growth is presence (thanks Carl Rogers!).  Being present is vital for a connection to develop between therapists and clients.  It would make sense that this translates to the physical as well.  The therapist must be mentally and emotionally present in the same way this doctor was physically present for his wife.  This article seems to imply that human connection is much stronger than we are aware.  This does not seem surprising to me.  I remember when I broke my arm as a child.  I sat in the waiting room for hours.  Nothing gave me comfort – not my mother’s frequent trips to the vending machine, not reassurance from my dad, and not my sisters trying to cheer me up and make me laugh.  What did help was when my grandmother placed her hands on my arm.  I must have been 4 or 5 years old.  Her touch was cool and soothing.  My arm did not hurt as bad afterwards and I fell asleep in the waiting room.  This is my anecdotal experience.  Yet I could also tell you of many times when I was emotionally upset and being near a friend helped me.  Human beings are designed for connection.

But what now?  We are in a global pandemic.  This is the first time I have encountered anything like this in my life.  I cannot just go see my friends now.  It is not wise for me to go visit my mother or my sweet grandmother right now because I could put them at risk.  What do we do when the physical human connection is not available to us?  

We still “show up”.  We do the best we can.  Zoom meetings, social media video chats, and social distancing are the norm right now.  Phone calls are not insignificant.  I have a weekly group chat on Zoom with former classmates for support.  As a people, many of us are staying connected by substituting physical proximity for digital presence.  It may not be the first choice, but it is A choice.  

Research shows that therapy provided via video conferencing is just as effective as in-person therapy.  I imagine more research shall further inform this, but it is encouraging.  Physical, emotional, mental, and social connection can be healing.  We all need to take extra delicate care of ourselves now.  We may not be able to offer our physical presence to someone, but we can offer the next best thing – our attention.  We can still “show up” for people.  So, give someone your attention today.  Even if you cannot go hug someone, seeing their face might still bring you both some joy.  It might even be good for your health.   




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