Excerpt from Claude de Scorraille's conference of May 7, 2020

Viktor Frankl, neuropsychiatrist, author of " Discovering a meaning to one's life " works on the themes of the existential void and the autonomy of the individual. He hypothesizes that at the time of evolution when man becomes a human being, he suffers a double loss : on the one hand he loses instinct – which allows an adjustment of the behavior of the animal according to of his needs – the man thinking his life in addition to living it. He also loses his autonomy : his desire becomes shaped by the desire of the other, by a need for conformity.

In the modern Western world, instinct and tradition are on the decline. Autonomy is not self-evident and desiring what others impose carries the risk of totalitarianism. Modern man, "egocentric", no longer puts limits to his desires and lives in the illusion of control of his environment: in his ideal world, risk is under control. Education promises “if you don't want, you can”, which is very different from “if you want, you can, what you can”. Zero risk is the requirement: zero fault at school, zero death in war, etc. in a constant search for the absolute and the unalterable.

The relationship to oneself and to others, governed by a principle of equality, becomes rigid. Adversity trumps cooperation, closure trumps openness, individualism trumps relationship and the common good.

The period preceding the Covid 19 crisis is marked by stability and faith in the intelligence that allows us to adapt and get through hardships. Many people, before this crisis, did not really experience uncertainty.

This crisis arrives and suddenly the media floods us with uncertainty to the point that the subject becomes obsessive.

Illustration: nomadic ants. These insects usually live in very organized groups, they move in columns, refuel in the same way and are able to bivouac. What happens in the event of an unexpected event? A thunderstorm for example. Their behavior becomes rigid, the storm erases their tracks, the ants panic, clump together and go blind. Their behavior has become rigid due to the lack of communication between individuals.

What was the response of the states to contain the virus and to protect the population? The containment . The message that is being disseminated is therefore that to protect individuals they must be isolated (remember that isolation is also a punishment – ​​prison – even a means of torture in certain societies). The other becomes a threat to be avoided. And as a human being, I am faced with my vulnerability, far removed from the successful and all-powerful individual. Covid brings the experience of fear and suffering.

But confinement has also demonstrated that without the other we are nothing: those who have continued to care, to teach, to supply... have allowed life to continue its course. It is the collaboration, the relationship that has made this continuity possible.

So how can we help patients and clients in times of health crisis? We must return to the basics of communication, as they were developed by the School of Palo Alto, in particular in the work “ A logic of communication ” (Watzlawick, Helmick Beavin, Jackson). The flow of information, communication , the flexibility of relationships make adjustments possible . Helping means helping to confront paradoxes, soften perceptions, learn to change the vision of the world, while maintaining the singularity of being human. Like the tightrope walker who finds his balance in the preceding imbalance, it is undoubtedly possible to find security from insecurity .

Words transcribed by Pascale Baratay Lhorte