Pandemic Archive

In between: How the sense of time and self dissipate during quarantine times

By Elena Tragou . . .

In March, corona virus dictated significant life changes in all of us, all around the world. I, for instance, closed down my office and cut down dramatically on my outs and abouts. I started walking around the block keeping the 2-meter social distance for 30 minutes and when needed to stretch my legs a bit longer, doing something more interactive, I would play in the garden with my pets. And that was it. I was working from home: doing sessions, having meetings and participating in therapy and education projects via online platforms. I started using the internet for all sorts of things: work, webinars, leisure, working out, meditation, you name it! I had online meetings with my colleagues, online coffee times with my friends, online exercise sessions with my trainers, online sessions with my psychotherapy, supervision and science groups, etc. Somehow a major part of my life started unfolding in front of a computer screen.

And surely the people were real and, surely the conversations were real and surely the ongoing discussions were really happening right there and then. But there was also something unreal about all of these experiences: I started catching myself drifting away, sort of mind floating. I was aware that I was listening to my conversants but at the same time I wasn’t; aware I was looking at them but at the same time I wasn’t; aware my brain was alert–focusing on the screen, on my counselees, on my friends, whoever happened to be screenfully present–but at the same time my mind was travelling to all sorts of times and spaces, near and afar, real and imaginary.

I was falling in in-between: daydreaming and in conscious awareness, in conscious being and in a hypnotic state. I was thrown away! I was perplexed, shocked, bewildered, at awe… How could that be happening? Moreover, the more I tried to stay focused, the looser I would get, and the more unease I would feel, the more perplexed I was becoming. Being in-between felt like I was being in multiple worlds at the same time. My ego–my sense of self, that is–was greatly expanding, reaching out to all sorts of cognizant and unconscious directions: It was intertwining between time and space, present and unpresent, here and not-here. It felt largely transcendent. My feelings were somehow finding their niche, my thoughts, their meaning, and my sensations, their interconnections.

In addition, this freshly provoked feeling of being in-between, inspired me to take a second look at my therapeutic habits and choices and helped bring forth my own and my clients’ creativity. Odd, you say? Well, I thought so too and that was my second thrown away! Seems that this new feeling of “trancestic” experience created a new sense of context for me where I could revisit my counseling work online and become playful within the therapeutic context.

To get a better grasp of how I was connecting with myself and with others during online sessions, I started noticing myself more: what, when and how I was saying whatever it was I was saying. I was concentrating more on the process of my interactions rather than on the context of conversations. And this is what emerged: Whenever I was drifting away, or mind floating, my counselees were getting more (screenfully) present, more alert, more upbeat, more daring, more open. They would make jokes, be in a cheerful mode, be humorous and more in tune with their feelings and actions. They would make connections between past and present times in their life and navigate through them with a rather vigorous and dashing manner, leaving me with a lasting sense of admiration and respect for them. It was as if my giving space to myself offered a mind-blowing space (choros) to my counselees to flourish, jumping into creative life connections and catching up on their life desires.

More importantly, it wasn’t “me”—my conscious, professional, helping self–who was provoking those changes. It was a series of emergent selves, voices, realities, feelings, thoughts and sensations that opened up this amazing transcending connection between us; as I was falling in in-between, the counselees were opening up to new possibilities, reinventing themselves and readdressing their life choices. It was as if we were engaging in an isomorphic tango dance where one would escort the other into freshly meaningful reinventions with ourselves and each other. Same dance unrolled when sides changed, namely between myself and my fallen-in clients. I noticed that I would get more vibrant, verbal, expressive, and vigorous when my clients were in-between; more curious with themselves and, thus, more intraconnected. The more my clients would embrace their bearable lightness of being—taking up on their multiple realities, feelings, and thoughts, all in one—the more creative and daring I would get, proposing insightful connections and trusting their keen sense of creating uncommon leaps, bringing forth their unique mindfulness and inexhaustive sense of being “present” right there and then.

It was like we had created a therapeutic merry go round where while one was mind floating, the other would instigate heart-beating connections among dreams and reality, wants and desires, doubts and strengths, possibilities and stalemates. It was ok for everyone engaged to be creative, paradoxical, freefalling, uncommon, playful and different. I can’t pinpoint this free floating experience to one particular thing residing in any one of us; it could have been the sitting on the chair while looking at the screen so intensely, the “staying home” slogan that kept us in between freedom and lockdown, the covid19 that forbade us to move around but letting us explore other “moving” options… whatever it was… I surely loved meeting myself and others at a level that felt so unreal, odd, wicked, awakening, majestic, awesome, thrilling and fulfilling I almost did not forgive myself for “coming back”!! Who’s ever “doing” this is, I am eternally grateful!

Flemons, D. (2001). Of one mind: The logic of hypnosis, the practice of therapy. London: W. W. Norton.

Haley, J. (1987). Uncommon therapy: The psychiatric techniques of Milton H. Erickson, MD. London: W. W. Norton.


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