Our contempt for weakness

In this paper, I explore the mental consequences of Covid-19.

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Starting with the images of the pandemic – the intubated patient, the anonymous mass grave, and the death on FaceTime – images that express the horrendous threat of the coronavirus death, I emphasize that the pandemic reminds us of our vulnerability and existential dependence on the other. Based on examples, I discuss different reactions to Covid-19 from a psychoanalytic perspective, specifically highlighting the mechanisms of denial, splitting and projection – the latter is illustrated in the scapegoating of the pandemic, for example, blaming China, the immigrants or youth parties. I argue that a common characteristic of those different defense mechanisms may be a contempt for weakness  as demonstrated when coronavirus deniers and Proud Boys are marching together. The paper also examines the importance of structure and the consequences of the loss of everyday structure – be it job, school, peer groups, training studios, senior centers, or culture. I conclude by emphasizing that the pandemic has taught us how dependent we are on each other – and that it should inspire us to greater tolerance for vulnerability, and less contempt for weakness.

International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 2021, 1-6, doi.org/10.1002/aps.1697

Published June 21, 2021 6:00 AM