Coronavirus dreams and the quarantine journal: Charting personal and collective fears
Eleftheria Alavanou, journalist
Alexandra D’ Onofrio, anthropologist
Daphni Scaglioni, journalist
Katia Charalabaki, psychiatrist-family therapist
Abstract: 2020 is a year where most of us experienced an unprecedented situation: the spreading of the coronavirus and the quarantine. During lockdown, the internet proved to be life-saving for communicating with relatives, friends and acquaintances. It was the internet that “gave birth” to the two following projects.
The first one lasted for 10 days, and was a Q & A game with people who were confined to their homes. The person in charge was Eleftheria Alavanou (journalist), who would send one question every two days, to friends and acquaintances, who had agreed to take part after an invitation on facebook. In the course of the 10 days the newspaper headlines were also recorded, so as to compare them to the participants’ personal answers.
The second project is that of Alexandra Donofrio (anthropologist) and Daphne Skaglioni (journalist), of the Greek Draumar team (Draumar is the Icelandic word for “dreams”, but is also a link that bridges the words dream and trauma). It is another online project, for the purposes of which, dreams from the days of quarantine and beyond, were collected, so as to “be able to process this black dinosaur that walked into our living room and is at the verge of squashing us”, as Skaglioni and Donofrio characteristically mention. The two projects were independent from one another, and are combined in this article in order to present the identifiable emotions that can be recorded, by answering specific questions (Coronavirus journal), and the more hidden ones that appear in dreams (Draumar).
The introduction, under the title “Aufgabe auf der Akropolis” was written by psychiatrist and family therapist Katia Charalabaki.
- “AUFGABE AUF DER AKROPOLIS”: COLLECTIVE SELF-THERAPY AMIDST A PANDEMIC
How did people view the coronavirus, how did they describe it? “Like a big lizard”, “a flying cockroach”, “a bandit ready to invade everything”, “a disgusting slimy monster”…
This, however, is the first stage of the coronavirus: There is ignorance. The descriptions are spontaneous and original. They are deeply experiential, they touch on the unconscious… “I get through by doing things I have not done before”… The main characteristics are fear of loss and fear of solitude. Isolation. Our loved ones become strangers. Disorganisation. An unfamiliar and uncontrollable environment. Fear of death…
The pandemic, and especially the likelihood of becoming one of its victims, alters family relationships, in a mostly silent manner. The teenage grandson, consciously or unconsciously, despises his grandfather, because protecting him means losing some of the freedom that he enjoyed. The grandmother is, consciously or unconsciously, enraged with her granddaughter, because her carelessness may cause her undoing. The constant feeling of guilt (“is the fact that I secretly ate at the fast food joint with so and so, a big danger for my parents’ lives?”) spreads even faster than the virus itself.
The coronavirus, though, is even more toxic: it crosses the boundaries of mental health problems and poisons the space of social anthropology. Helping the patient or a person that is dying, physically or morally, contributing – if possible – to the prevention of death, is a fundamental element of European (and not only) civilization. “He needed my help to stave off ruin, and now far from his own land has he fallen” (Iliad Book XVIII). That is what Achilles cries falling to the ground, covering his body in the ashes of the hearth and pulling his hair out when he learns of his beloved Patroclus’ death,– so that his mother Thetis gathers the Nereids to come to his aid.
The loneliness of the seriously ill coronavirus patient, (who cannot even be in normal contact with the nurses, as they hide beneath their “space suits”) weighs heavily for every modern day Patroclus. It also weighs heavily, and maybe with long-lasting effects, for every modern day Achilles as well. It leads either to self-flagellation and guilt, or to insensitivity and to extreme selfishness.
The conflict inside society itself, which is manifested in a striking manner, between those who support the protective measures and the anti-maskers who are against restrictions – with their banners, their slogans, their demonstrations, their school occupations – in almost every developed country, is like an exaggeration (on a collective social level) of the usually underground processes inside a family.
I should note here, that the use of the face mask (albeit absolutely necessary in the present conditions), is not without psychological consequences. We no longer have a full view of the other person’s face. It is like a fragment of a shattered ancient statue’s head, whose full form we try to guess.
Is the nose and the mouth so important, one could ask? It is. The Renaissance has been one of the great revolutions of humanism, and liberation from the old shackles of spiritual and artistic creation. One of the most prominent (if not the most prominent) artists of the Renaissance was Leonardo Da Vinci. One of his most important paintings, and certainly the most famous in Greece, is the Mona Lisa. One of the most magical elements of this painting, the most magical one might say, is that which accompanies every narration about this magnificent creation: “I saw Gioconda’s smile”. The enigmatic and ambiguous expression of her face. The same part of the face between the nose and the jaw that is covered by the face mask.
It is this smile that we now are deprived of as relatives, friends, coleagues, compatriots…
I use the face mask as an example of the seismic shock that the coronavirus causes in family relationships. Let us go back to the time before Covid-19. A family is in a session with their therapist. Amongst other things, he asks each one of them to draw the family (I remember George Vassiliou, the mentor, now). The ten year old child draws the parents as villains, with their faces hidden behind masks. What will the therapist think about the child’s emotional state? Does this show terror towards its parents? Enmity and hate? A sense of being abused? Alienation? Loneliness? A feeling of being trapped? Aggressiveness?
Communication channels (not just the mental ones but the physical ones as well) are partly or totally blocked. Zoom and Skype offer a kind of communication (grandfathers and grandmothers become experts in online communication), but cannot have the power of a caress or a heartfelt kiss. The system is not only in entropy. It is on a course of destruction.
It is important to note that similar types of symptoms were manifested after the financial crises, especially in Greece, where it was severe and long-lasting. We did not have time to draw breath before the next flood came in. With more grave, perhaps, consequences.
In my opinion the thing that is mostly in danger is, what I call, “belonging”. Not in the sense of ownership, but in the sense of taking part in the collectiveness of solidarity and empathy, in the family and in society. The landscape that we would wish to be green and full of life, is gradually more reminiscent of a dry field full of uprooted plants.
Do I belong? Do I not belong? If I belong, where do I belong? What is the sense of “belonging” in my life and the life of my loved ones or even just my acquaintances? These questions are becoming dominant in our lives, in recent years.
It is precisely this unprecedented situation for us in Greece that has brought unprecedented images of people’s relationships. We are all “someone else”, a stranger to others and to ourselves. And a huge body seems to rise from the deeps of the ocean, to emerge and to submerge, to shake and to tremble, to collapse and to roar, like a sea monster that the decomposition of the social and institutional framework has brought to the surface.
“If I got out of the house today, I would take a long walk around my town, listening to my favourite songs on shuffle. I would smile casually, I would sit on a bench, I would roll my sleeves up so that the sun could burn my arms, I would talk with the people around me, who are finally there in the flesh…” is one person’s answer to a question. “A guy comes out of the used car yard and helps me. He brings me the dog and tries to explain to me how to reach where I’m going. I am happy and grateful that this man crossed my path. I somehow regain my composure and my strength. And we are back on our way…” is the description of a person’s dream.
So I must not be so negative of what I perceive as a therapist and also as a person. For there are also these kinds of narrations from our patients, and from our own experiences. It is the concept of “hope” that is present in almost all answers and dreams.
And these positive exceptions comfort us, make us rejoice and dream, make us hope and try to contribute (as therapists but also as people) to the emergence in our lives of a better family, friendship, work, social, and political “belonging”. Especially we, family therapists, who view the person as part of the whole, have an important part to play here.
Quarantine, social distancing, the face mask create social distance. Not necessarily or inevitably. Their consequences can be reversed. Let us remember the film V for Vendetta. In an extremely dystopic society, tens of thousands of citizens march in the streets wearing masks, to finalise the collapse of a criminal, authoritarian, totalitarian government, to celebrate its defeat and their own victory.
As I am writing this, I receive an email from my colleague, child psychiatrist, Katerina Theodorakis. She writes: “We had a session yesterday with a family with five members. All seven of us were wearing face masks, and I caught myself reading the eyes more attentively than usually, I had too. Who knows? We may acquire new skills! Later on I almost forgot we had the masks on…”
The Acropolis always hurts me
Someone might say regarding the Q & A and dreams that we publish: “This is not a scientific article. It looks like a chronicle. You can find articles like this one in popular magazines”. Is that so?
Two years before he is exiled to London, and three years before his death, Sigmund Freud publically congratulates his friend, French author Romain Rolland, for his 70th birthday. He begins his letter with his experience in 1904, when he and his brother – ten years his junior – visited the Acropolis. He mentions the shock of this visit, as he could not believe that the Parthenon of the phantasmagoric descriptions is a reality today. “… and now you will no longer wonder that the recollection of this incident on the Acropolis should have troubled me so often…”. With this estrangement from reality as a starting point, Freud publically addresses his internal processes, his depersonalisation, his tendency to antagonise and to prevail (his very own oedipal conflict) over his father, his narcissistic elements and his conflict with Moses.
“Unglaube auf der Akropolis” (A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis) resembles a psychoanalytic session. There is the analyst, an alter ego of Freud, and the patient with his narration, Freud himself. It is a sensitive work, written in his latter years, having the realisation of his age, of family difficulties due to Nazism, and maybe even of his imminent death. It is a mature legacy for self-therapy (along with psychotherapy).
And it is precisely this important topic of self-therapy that is posed through the Q & A and the dreams, during the first days of the coronavirus. During the first stage of the pandemic, as we were all treading unfamiliar ground, having lost our sense of direction and feeling like being drugged, as communication channels are starting to break down, and a quarantine and isolation culture begins to build up, these two initiatives (and of course many more which we are not familiar with) resist, create, build new communication channels. They seek a different system, based on honesty, confession, companionship, and fearless communication. It is not easy to publically answer questions like “how much are you afraid?” or to openly discuss your dreams, even under a pseudonym.
For us, systemic therapists, the goal is to help our patients function normally within a system whether it be that of the family, of work or of friends, by attempting to bring certain feasible changes to it. Now, after two deep crisis back to back – severe austerity and the pandemic- our goal is even wider. It requires bold, deep changes and radical alternative solutions.
We should not look down to these amateur initiative attempts of systemic self-therapy. We should not see them as competitive to our therapeutic potential. We should not pretend to be omniscient. We should not be afraid that they will be derailed. We should view them, not as complimentary, but rather as running parallel to the therapist’s task. We should cheer them on. We should call attention to them as much as possible. And, most of all, we should discuss the topic of (systemic) self-therapy – which up to now has been widely ignored – in depth, and process a series of suggestions and concerns for its further development.
And if in this discussion there is something that we can use from Freud’s example, it could be an initiative as a journal or as HE.S.T.A.F.T.A. for a public discussion with representatives of the systemic, the psychoanalytic, the cognitive approaches, online of course, where we would exchange opinions, concerns and suggestions about the issues posed by this dangerous pandemic that – at least as far as Greece is concerned – trails behind a vicious socioeconomic crises.
- CORONAVIRUS JOURNAL
Participants in the 10 day coronavirus journal answered one question every two days, with the exception of very few cases where a participant would respond with a slight delay. As the project was very broad, we were forced to omit certain answers or edit some others hoping that we did not alter their meaning.
Sunday 15th of March
Four dead in Greece due to coronavirus
One person for every 10 m² in super markets – All the preventive measures in detail
Fourth person dead due to coronavirus in Greece – He was hospitalised in the AHEPA hospital
Question 1 – Let’s assume that the coronavirus is a little monster. What does it look like? (Describe it)
It is an irregularly shaped, soft, semi-transparent mass, with lots of heads (with no eyes, mouth or ears), all of which wear crowns. Two small arms protrude from each head.
The coronavirus little monster’s appearance is not that repugnant. At least not as much as its reputation would suggest. I would say that it looks like a small, round, futuristic Christmas tree ball, whose entire surface is covered with small protruding antennae that end in eyeballs. It goes around in groups of different colours, like football teams, but that is simply speculation and cannot be confirmed. Although it has a load of eyes, it not visible by a naked eye. That makes it even more mysterious. That’s not to say that it isn’t mysterious and scary enough on its own.
Well, I picture it as green kind of plump bug-eyed “little monster” that came to our planet with good intentions. The first stages of being in contact with is a bit upsetting, but in the long run we will find out that we have a lot to learn from our interaction with it for as long as it needs to stick around.
Coronavirus. A little monster… A small round creature. Completely round like the full moon of August! It looks like a small sea urchin! It has little spikes around its body! A lot of them! That is why it is difficult for other creatures to get close to it. Thus, it is a creature doomed to loneliness and solitude. Its little spikes are very useful to this little monster. They are its sensory organs! It is through them that it can smell and ingest food. They help it to move around by rolling! And it also reproduces through them. The male shoots its little spike, like a brave Robin Hood, towards the mate it has selected! It seems we are in the mating season!!! And the arrows! The little spikes have a fluffy tuft of powder on their tips…
It is like a big lizard, as big as a cat. Its colour is dark green with blue spots and it has sharp claws so it cat cling on to you. It moves fast and in straight lines only.
No, no it does not look life Aldo the unanticipated dwarf in the shower, nor like E.T. the extra-terrestrial. It does not look like the boyfriend that dumped me, or my boss that shouted at me. It does not look like my nightmare, the flying cockroach that charges through the open window, or the one-eyed old lady that leaves her garbage on my front yard doorway. Or even like the blood-thirsty Boris Johnson. I observe it. It is kind of like an over-stuffed refrigerator, with a rope wrapped three times around its half-opened door. Steaks and chickens are packed together screaming and an expired milk slithers in the openings like a snake. It might be called “self-indulgent”, or maybe something else.
For me, this virus does not have the shape of a monster – but strangely enough – that of a human. It looks like a bandit. Kind of like from a comic book, short and small, dressed in black, with a hood and a black mask covering his face. A bandit because he is ready to sneak everywhere, invade every home, and he is very cheeky too. Because he will break into houses that are occupied at the time! He enters, however, discreetly, without being spotted. He has ways to hide from the light, and he has a well thought-out plan so as to “hit” many targets at once.
(Inspired by the Holy Synod): And I saw the man with the black robes sitting on a great throne, and I became fire and demon and surrounded him. Oh Lord, I will recount Thy name to my brothers, and praise Thee in the churches. And as a slimy and disgusting monster of millions of millimetres I invaded man… and fought… and man was defeated, and I came back stronger. And my seed will work in him. Announce to the Lord that my offspring are coming. Let us denounce the coronavirus from mister Tasos!! Amen!
Tuesday 17th of March
Churches: From the “schism” to the obvious
How did two isolated villages ended up in quarantine
“The new coronavirus is here to stay”
The New York Times
Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Urges Restrictions; Nations Lock Down
France confined by the coronavirus: resuscitation capacities “saturated” in the Haut-Rhin
Question 2 – What will I do today? Will I be alone? Will I be home? What will I be doing?
Highlight of the day: I went to the super market, wearing gloves, but trying to be otherwise normal. I went in smiling, and jested about the entrance-card that I had forgotten to return the previous time. We exchanged pleasantries with the employee at the entrance, and he was quick to reassure me that it was “no big deal”. What happened? Did my neighborhood suddenly transform into pleasant-ville? Refreshing! I was very precise in my movements, avoiding unnecessary movement in the aisles. I followed the shopping list I had made after checking what was missing from my cupboards, I paid with my debit card avoiding to touch bank notes, and returned home. I carefully emptied the packaging, washed the fruits, sanitized myself and extremely consciously completed the whole process. I hope I will not need to go again soon, even though it seems like the last remaining expression of normality.
Today was alright. It is a sunny day here in the areas around mount Parnassus. No matter what, virus or no virus, come snow or cold, on the mountains or on the beach… you wake up and you make coffee. After a while, I went out for a walk outside the village, where the birds’ chirping was the sole wonderful sound of nature. And as the blackbirds, the carderines, the sparrows and even the crows were trying to communicate with their mates, the steady repetitive sound of a beak hitting the bark of a tree, stole the show. Ladies and gentlemen… the woodpecker! Anything exceptional is also rare. I felt lucky, especially on a day like this, where my heart was heavy. After about an hour in nature with its endless horizons, I was in a better mood. Finally, I had an encounter with a squirrel that was climbing a poplar tree, and stood still as soon as it saw me. We were only two metres apart and I could see its heart beating in fear. After staring right at one another’s eyes, it let out a cartoonish sound and climbed higher.
I will go for a walk with my best mate around his village. We will gather firewood from the forest, we will light a fire in the fireplace and we will cook seafood pasta. It goes without saying that, outside the super market we will cough a lot to see people’s reactions. Music, movies on the laptop, news on the television, chilling on the patio with a view of the river, and then back home tomorrow night.
After having taken my cat to the vet, and having gone to the open-air market my day will be as follows: I will cook fish, I will study Russian, I will do pilates, and have a bite… I will read “A People’s History of the United States” (amazing book!). And then after my flat mate comes home from work, we’ll open a bottle of wine, eat, and watch Fargo (I’m hooked, you should watch it).
I get through by doing things I haven’t done before. Yesterday I baked a cake. It was awful because becel is not intended for this kind of use, as I later found out… Today I will try again using olive oil. I listen to the television for 8 hours, and watch it for 3. Today, after feeling very up to date with the coronavirus learning syllabus, and after finding out that I might even become right-wing, I will subscribe to Netflix! I stared working out at home, and also eating like a pack of wolves. Today I will follow the 5 meals rule again, and go out for a half-hour walk, for some vitamin D…
Thursday 19th of March
800 Euro aid to 500.000 jobholders
What quarantine regulations are in effect for travellers from abroad?
Coronavirus in Brazil: They are hitting pots and pans on the balconies – Rage against Bolsonaro
The New York Times
Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Offers Relief to Taxpayers; No New Local Cases in China
Coronavirus: European Central Bank launches historic emergency plan to calm markets
Question 3 – What do I miss more during the days of self-isolating?
I don’t miss anything for the time being. Communicating, which for me is fundamental, continues to exist. I could even say that I now communicate more than before. I have gone through other long spells of self-isolating in the past 5 years due to chemo side effects, but those times I couldn’t even stand up. The fact that now I am functional is enough for me. It is all a matter of perspective, cancer and everything… that goes with it, is like a big ruler for me. I take it out and measure everything in respect to it. I am confined to my home… so what? I am fine!
honestly, the only thing I miss is my friends. But I miss them a lot. It is driving me a little bit crazy!!! Also, I try not to think about it, but I miss the sense of freedom. Not being able to go wherever I like, drives me crazy. But it affects me very negatively when I think about it, so I try not to!
I miss hugging my grandmother. She is 89 and has been reduced to just a bunch of bones held together by skin really, so I don’t know how many more hugs we still have left. It is not that I simply miss these hugs we are both deprived of, so as not to put her very existence into danger, in the hope that this protection will help us hug in the future. It takes a toll on me. I don’t know if hope is enough at this point. I miss not being concerned about my parents as much. Let’s not kid ourselves. I am always concerned about them. Just not that much. I miss being more liberated from this concern. Even if I am never really free. Just a little bit more would be enough though. I miss my friends’ faces. Seeing them up close. Being able to touch the arm, the hand, the cheek, the leg, to wrap myself around their body like an octopus.
The morning greetings from the shopkeepers in the town square, training, having a glass of wine at the coffee shop in the afternoon… Oh! Also the possibility of ending-up in a tavern after a walk. Finally, it hurts me that I see the church door being shut, because I feel that it is now that it should be wide open.
Contact, human contact! I have been in the house now for 8 days!!! Being a hyperactive person and having lived a nomadic life for the past year – moving between Kamatero and Pagrati – the first days of enforced home confinement had a lot of upsides!! I almost didn’t have time to do the house chores I wanted!! And lo and behold here is some time for the things I didn’t have time for! And I enjoyed being home!!! Meanwhile though, I have this to say: For the first four days I was home alone, all by myself! And while all seemed to be fine (with the exception of having a small fever one day! A small, insignificant –under normal circumstances- fever!!!), and I was living at home, doing my chores, there was stress. A small stress somewhere between my solar plex and my stomach.
Contact. I am Klimt’s golden brush. Like a caress, a strong memory. My name is contact.
I miss the taverns, my friends and endlessly meeting new people.
Carelessness. Leaving home without checking if I have my sanitizing wipes and gels. Greeting people, touching them. Not running to wash my hands singing “Happy birthday to you” twice, as biologist Leven suggested. These are the things I miss the most. And then, it was Friday yesterday, a drink after work with friends, to relax after an intense week at work. I confess. I went to Ioanna yesterday. Her, Efi, and me, the three of us “have chosen to live under the same roof” and thus we can meet. According to Belgian law, people living in the same house can go out together. We do not live together, but we have silently agreed to be family at this time.
Breath… Seeing the convoy of trucks in Italy takes your breath away. In my daily routine, my jasmine that has blossomed does not smell anymore. Escaping… It was a good trick every time I felt trapped. Jump in the car and head to the streets. To a friend, to nature, to the gym. Touch… Hands gradually forget how to extend forward, only upwards and hanging at the sides.
I miss going to the cinema! I think it is the only thing I really miss for the time being. And it annoys me because only a few people seem to understand me. Everybody says: “It’s no big deal, there’s Netflix”. But for me, going to the cinema is, and always have been, one of the best things to do going out. It combined art, image, script, going out alone or with friends, having a drink before or after – or both before and after. Even going to the different cinemas, Asty, Astor, Ideal, Danaos, Elli, Panathinaia… was a destination on its own, regardless of the movie. I am consoled by the fact that I will probably start going again when the first open-air cinemas open, kind of like the first peaches!
Cinema, theatre and art visits. Travelling. Going out with friends. Dancing and exercising. Long walks. Seeing and hanging out with my parents. Visiting my aunt, who lives alone.
Saturday 21st of March
Changes in super markets’ opening hours and services. (Opening hours extended until 10 o’clock from Monday to Saturday)
Greece receives 8 tons of health care equipment from China
“We can breath again”. A Greek in China talks about returning to normality
The church brings charges against the bishop of Kithira – An angry mayor sends stern message. The first reactions against the provocative bishop
The New York Times
With New States Decrees, 1 in 5 Americans to Be Ordered Home
Coronavirus: facing shortage, Edouard Philippe announces test of alternative protection masks
Question 4 – On a scale of 1 to 100 how afraid am I (because of the coronavirus)?
When I’m home I feel safe, I am not afraid. But I am scared of people’s recklessness, stupidity, and lack of empathy. Then my fear is around 90 because I don’t know how to protect myself from something invisible, not knowing who has it. I wish I didn’t have to get out of the house at all. But sometimes I can’t avoid going out, like yesterday when I got out for my monthly visit to the hospital.
I’ll give it a 60.
Although I am by nature and by disposition a pessimist, it is the first time that I remain moderate. Even positive thinking requires explanations in order to have an effect. I will give a percentage of my fear for each aspect of my life. Health: 40%. I am not part of the vulnerable population, or the age groups that are irreparably affected. I do smoke a little, however. And I am reprehensive about the country’s health services, because of deficiencies. Work related: 60%. Even though it is a secondary fear, considering all that is happening, the situation is so precarious that there is a chance I will lose my job. Maybe it’s time for something new. Social life/Mental state: 20%. I love my friends, getting together, partying, festivals, trips.
The answer is multifaceted. The virus causes a different percentage of fear when I think of it in relation to a possible meeting with my grandmother (an easy 100%), than when it has to do with my parents (around 65%), or when I think of myself or some other beloved young person getting sick (not more than 20%). But it’s not just that. How much am I afraid of the coronavirus regarding human life on the planet in general? Or regarding those who do not have access to basic commodities? How much in regards to our mental state? The economy? Our everyday life in the post coronavirus era? Will we have resigned our freedom, or will we at last become more responsible? How much am I afraid of the uncertainty that the coronavirus has created for the present and the future? Because this equation is beyond me, I will answer 42. Who am I to question the “answer to life, universe and everything” anyway?
Regarding health 10%, a percentage that increases a point or two every two or three days. Then there is another 80% of fear for the consequences all this will have on our fundamental values and freedom.
“And my greatest fear, is afraid that I will not be afraid of it” Giannis Agelakas once wrote. Fear… Well the truth is that I am quite afraid. And I am so afraid because I love a lot of people out there, and I don’t want any of them to get harmed. And I am quite afraid because I love life, and I want it to go back to how it was. I will give a number… 80! It is a lot, right? Well the remaining 20 is not afraid! It is brave, and patient, and ready for battle, and it will do whatever it takes! I wish patience and all the best for all of us…
0 for me. 100 for my family. 100 for Greece. 100 for the financial recession that will follow.
I fear the virus itself 50. But I fear 100 all the things that I do not know, that will happen before the beast is gone…
- M. M.
So then, let’s count: I’m afraid for my mom, even though she is in a protected environment, I worry and I’m afraid because she has all the things you must not have in order to survive the coronavirus. And she is my mom. I am afraid for all my family, and I include my friends that are like family there as well. I am afraid for my relationship, because you never know what may go wrong in an enforced cohabitation, even though we have fun together and things look like they are going to go well. I’m afraid for my mental health and that of others that are stuck in their houses, because 7 days are ok but what about 70? I’m afraid of all the things that are happening around the world, and I don’t like seeing the pictures we’ve been seeing these past days.
Personally not at all. I’m only afraid for my dad who is part of a vulnerable group and needs to go to the hospital every week for a blood transfusion. But I trust him and I also trust his doctor. And I am also afraid for what it will mean for the economy, because unfortunately, a lot of people are going to lose their jobs.
At this point 83! (60 for me, 90 for my parents, my elderly uncles and friends, and another 100 for Italy and the rest of the world).
Monday 23rd of March
Curfew: How it is going to be enforced – Detailed guide for citizens
Thessaloniki: Police checkpoints around the city
Harvey Weinstein infected by coronavirus in prison
Italy: 651 dead in 24 hours – 5560 new cases all around the country
Curfew: Detailed guide of permitted movements
The New York Times
As Virus Deaths Grow, Families Want Loved Ones to Be More Than Statistics
“It’s a shock. It is but the first case”. Carers face the first coronavirus victim in their ranks.
Question 5 – What is my job, and how am I going to work today? Compared to the pre-covid era is my employment reality better now or then?
Bonus question, dedicated to the first day of curfew: If I could get out of the house today, I would go to the National Archaeological Museum, I would look at the sculptures for 2 or three hours, Pan and Aphrodite, and I would walk up and down Patision Avenue, like actor and poet Katerina Gogou, to become aware of my sense of freedom. I would start my evening with a bloody Mary and I would come back home at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning being slightly drunk. What is your perfect day out?
As a journalist I can work from home, spending a lot of hours in front of the computer and several on the phone. I don’t know if it is because of being tired of life in the office, with the petty and annoying behaviours that are bound to arise, but to a considerable degree I enjoy the change. Bonus question: If I could get out of the house today I would drive to Sounio, being in a mood for a trip. I would have all the car windows rolled down, so that I would feel the breeze. I would take all the blue of sea in. I would take the turns gently, like a skillful race driver in slow motion, listening to Everything I want by Billie Eillish loudly. I had a dream/I got everything I wanted.
Well, my job albeit all the more abstract right now! Running the only meeting point in the village, I sell cigarettes, and groceries, I make coffee, I am a psychologist, a doctor, a postman, I wash cars, I fix cars, and maybe, If need be, I’ll be a lightning rod too. However, my employment reality, meaning being more productive, is I feel, at a higher level than before. Bonus question: Regarding the bonus question the answer is clear. Wake up early, Greek coffee from the coffee shop along with the necessary morning greetings and explanations about where I’m going, plastic cup, two or three sips accompanied by the usual traditional sound that we first heard from our grandfathers. Go to the store, serve the first morning smokers. Then start up the car engine, load the gear and the companions from my village and the other villages, coffee, music, the road, good company and a rock waiting for us. We end up (assuming we have avoided the hospital) in a fish tavern by the sea at dusk, for fish, drinks, random philosophical conversations, laughter and fun.
I work as a carer in a facility for unaccompanied underage immigrants. I work in shifts all around the day. I am there as a friend, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, or a little bit as a dad. I am there to protect the children and care for them. Some of them don’t have anybody else in the world. So, nothing has changed. If the virus comes, it will find us together. Nothing has changed. Bonus question: If I could get out of the house today I would go for a walk in one of the villages close to the border that were deserted in the civil war, because my hobby is to photograph and collect information about these villages. At night I would go back to the town to hang out with friends, drinking till late.
I am a dance instructor, a dancer and an actress. Thus, my work conditions have changed a lot. I can’t go to rehearsals or to work. I did however try giving some dance lessons live streaming from my living room, and I think it went quite well. Bonus question: Regarding the second question… I would begin with a walk in Thisio, Filopappou, and then later I would end up in Varvakeios market. Amongst the smells, and the voices… I would stop for a quick beer, I would get an ice cream to go from the Russian grocery store, and walk through the Bangladeshi market. And then a walk on the other side of town… Up and down Panepistimiou Avenue till I get to Exarchia. Drinks at the Black Cat and Bicycle bars.
I love my job, but these days I see two more properties to it. First of all informing more people about what’s going on, what comes out, the news, what is true and what is not. And then, purely for reasons of selfishness, my job takes up too much of my time and energy. In other words, it saves me… I am a correspondent in Brussels, a journalist. And as always, in crisis like this one I have a lot of work. I wake up in the morning and I work from 9 to about 8 in the evening. More hours than before I must say, but I have time to cook before I go on the live evening news. I still don’t go out, not even to walk around the block. I compensate by working out for half an hour in the morning. Bonus question: If I could get out of the house today I would run to smell the sea. Straight to the sea.
Bonus question: If I got out of the house today, I would take a long walk around my town, listening to my favourite songs on shuffle. I would smile casually, I would sit on a bench, I would roll my sleeves up so that the sun could burn my arms, I would talk with the people around me, who are finally there in the flesh… I would ring Dimitra’s doorbell and we would sit on St. George church’s steps again in Kypseli together, nibbling on chips from Mairy’s tavern.
Bonus question: I will start off with the ideal day out, which under no circumstances would involve, museums, the office, galleries or anything else surrounded by walls. It would involve a lot of walking, the sun beating down on my face, a trip to the sea perhaps. Alcohol and the sea go well together (not drinking and swimming though), it would be margaritas all the way, not plastered, but slightly drunk. If we sat at a bar it would be outside, with a lot of friends, about twenty of them. And every five minutes I would get up and hug each and every one of them! What else! Oh yes, a walk! Sun! Friends! Maybe a little sea! And margaritas at night… from the afternoon till dusk! And then another walk! Now regarding work…
Bonus question: The ideal day out begins with walking the dog on Lycabettus Hill, then a coffee to go, and a stroll downtown till we reach the Tower of the Winds, and then the Acropolis where we stop to take a rest on the hill of Filopappou. Gaze the gleaming solar panels stretching all the way to the sea from atop Filopappou, and then, hungry, we go to Koukaki to eat.
- DREAMS AT THE TIME OF Covid-19
Draumar – The Anthropocene Age of Dreams is a project that started in Italy by anthropologist Matteo Meschiari and author Antonio Vena, and recorded dreams in the period of quarantine. The Greek Draumer group was created by anthropologist Alexandra Donofrio and journalist Dapni Scaglioni. The term “Anthropocene Epoch” was coined in 2000 by the nobelist atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen, to describe the geological period we are going through, during which mankind has a crucial effect on the planet.
More information in “Draumar: Συλλογικό Τραύμα και Όνειρα” on facebook.
Although a few months have passed since the global outbreak of the virus, there continues to be a generalised sense of unpreparedness which generates increased levels of social and individual anxiety, confusion and suspicion.
This is evident in the variety of ways that national governments are reacting to contain contagion, in the response of citizens to the continuous reviewing of security measures and interestingly in the nocturnal activity of our dreams, as we have seen in our collection up to date.
Collections such as ours are starting to blossom all over the world, starting perhaps most famously by the study carried out by Deirdre Barrett, an assistant professor at Harvard University and editor in chief of the journal Dreaming, who initiated an online COVID-19 dreams survey, in the week of March 22.Then, other initiatives also followed bringing groups of interdisciplinary scholars from the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Finland, and Italy together to collaborate.
It is the invisibility of the virus, as pointed out by Prof Barrett, that enables it to take many forms, which are especially manifest in our dream worlds. A very common feature to most dreams that we have collected so far is a generalised perception of disruption and shock caused by an event that has appeared so suddenly to create a rupture in our normality, finding us completely unprepared and unequipped.
In the first phase of Draumar’s dream collection during the quarantine period, the participant “dreamers” were aged 18 to 74 -most of them between 23 and 46 years old-, the vast majority of whom were women. According to their responses, during the quarantine period they had intense dreams with increased frequency, more adventure-like and vivid, with a plot, location and story that they had never seen before, “everything being all the more absurd”. “My dreams have now turned into a situational soup”, someone writes characteristically.
When asked if there are any images or sensations/emotions that are recurrent in their dreams at this time, the predominant emotions described are those of anguish, rejection, fear, anxiety, stress, confinement and drowning, while loved ones from the past, such as grandparents, parents, ex-friends, pets, as well as stressful situations from the past and old houses, return to their dreams as protagonists.
We selected some of these dreams, which we cite below. As you will see, common threads emerging in the dreams of our collection, include: missing an appointment, a train, a flight (dream 1); having forgotten to dress appropriately or wearing something that makes one visibly stand out or look weird (dream 1, 3, 5); suddenly realising that one’s common and daily actions/behaviours are completely inappropriate or have drastically transformed (dream 1, dream 6); losing one’s directions (dream 3); the familiar becoming unfamiliar, what was safe before becomes unsafe, something being out of place (dream 4, dream 8); feelings of suspicion and mistrust, questioning what is true and what is not (dream 4); the need to hide, and the sense that one’s normality or physical characteristic can be seen as a social threat and thus needs to be contained, punished, disciplined, controlled (dream 5, dream 7).
Many dreams express a sense of immobility, both in physical and temporal terms, with the person running and not reaching his destination, with the perceived sense of repetition, déjà vu and again with seemingly endless processes of waiting in enormous queues.
The present collective anxiety over one’s access to or presence in public spaces emerges very clearly in our participants’ dream life, such as in scenes where the dreamer needs to provide the right papers, have keys, or be appropriately dressed and be able to pass unnoticed. Those familiar with Michel Foucault’s discussion of social control that is manifested in practices and routines through which individuals engage in self-surveillance and self-discipline, would wonder how these socio-political processes become part of people’s oneiric lives.
Complementing the work of psychoanalysis that highlights and examines the individual trauma, the individual story and the individual therapy, the scope of collecting dreams for Draumar, both in Italy and in Greece, is to trace the collective imaginary of these uncertain times. Even in their dreams, dreamers ask themselves how long will this all last? How will we come out of it all? What is the world going to be like after all this has passed? Within social isolation people may seem to be responding to these dilemmas on individual terms, but what social scientists are demonstrating in their early analyses is that what is happening to all of us is most certainly social, and the pandemic is bearing many social repercussions.
Draumar was initiated with the intent to identify the social dimensions of dreams by drawing a map of the collective imaginary that emerges from the collection. In the hope that this map may serve the times lying ahead of us, to support future discussions of collective, more visionary and informed responses to what has been happening to us all.
I am in a large capital city, it’s dark and greyish, and I’m wearing my big grey coat, it covers me almost entirely like a sleeping bag. I’m running around in public transport, like being on a trip and I’m in a hurry. I reach an underground train platform. They stop me there to check my passport, I look for it, they take it, something is wrong, a set of weird keys appears (it seems I have done something illegal and they have to check me again, thoroughly). Suddenly I realise that I have touched everything and I have come into very close contact with people, and I am panicking that I’m in danger from the coronavirus! Panicking, I am trying to find hand sanitiser, I don’t have any. I have the idea to go wash my hands in a washroom. The people that have stopped me won’t let me. I miss the train.
It is night-time and I am walking in a town that does not remind me of any familiar/specific place. At some point I am intrigued by a building. I enter and see several people sitting silently in groups without talking. It is kind of like a bar but the light is very dim and there is absolute immobility, like time is standing still. I walk to the far end of the room, I reach the restroom, where there are some people talking quietly, they motion to me to get in the toilet. I discover a trap door with a bouncer inside the toilet. He lets me in and I go down to an underground decadent nightclub, similar to the one in Voulgaris’ film “Ola einai dromos”. Everybody is going crazy and things are wild but there is still this sensation that time is standing still, and also that things are on “repeat”, déjà vu.
I’m with my daughter, but she is not a teenager, she is around 3 or 4 years old. We also have her friend with us, who, in the dream, is also around that age, and we also have a friend’s dog with us, but without a leash. I want to go to Votanikos for a yoga class. We all set of together and walk towards there. I’m very stressed about the kids and about not letting the dog get away. At some point we walk into an alley and a crowd of people is coming towards us. In the dream I remember that we are amidst a pandemic and we need to avoid crowds. Panicking I get hold of the kids and the dog and I try to turn towards the opposite direction and exit the alley. We finally reach the studio where the class is supposed to take place, and it is the house I grew up in. We enter and the room where the lesson is held is my office in the magazine I work for. I start to change into my yoga clothes and realise I am not wearing a bra. I start searching the office for a bra, I find one and then I lose it. I find another one and another one and they keep vanishing before me. A girl walks in for the class and she is wearing a face mask. She says that she will keep it on for the duration the class. I stress-out because I have not thought about that. I leave the yoga studio/family home/office, with young daughter, young friend and dog and I get confused. We get lost. I don’t know which way to go home. We find ourselves in an empty area outside a used-car yard. The dog gets away and gets in the yard in between the cars. I have turned the GPS on my phone and try to find the way back home. The girls are afraid and they are complaining. A guy comes out of the used-car yard and helps me. He brings me the dog and tries to explain to me how to reach where I’m going. I am happy and grateful that this man crossed my path. I somehow regain my composure and my strength. And we are back on our way.
It was already evening, there were impressive black/blue/purple clouds covering the sun and a strong wind started to blow towards the open sea. The scenery was changing fast. It was very dangerous for one to be out at sea. We left the coffin where we had managed to drag it and we got out on the shore. The whole scene started to change into a big room, and the sea was going in and out through its two doors, one on the left and one straight ahead. I was alone there, but that was neither unpleasant nor pleasant. It was dark because the blinds behind me were shut and the light was coming in through the doors leading to the other rooms. It might have been the house I had lived in with that partner, its architecture was similar, but I only thought of that after I woke up. In any case, in the dream I had the feeling that it was my house. The coffin was also in the room, under water. I was kind of suspicious about what it contained so I opened it up again. The same smell again. I squeezed the sack and it had the texture of a thing that might not have been human, like a huge stale potato that had gone soft. Suddenly I find myself with my sister in a house on a mountain, in an island of the Aegean. It has a garden with bougainvillea etc. It is Sagri’s house, it is a summer evening and there are people gathering there acting as if she had never died. I find out, through conversations, that she is alive, she is in the house serving guests, and that the whole coffin thing was a work of art, where the artist aimed to stay in a coffin underwater for as long as she possibly could. I was still suspicious. What made me worry the most was the fact that I had taken a box that belonged to me from the coffin of somebody who was possibly dead. This made me afraid that I had either stolen somebody’s funeral gift, or that I got stuck with bad fortune, or even that somebody had chosen a box that was mine to accompany a possibly dead woman, which to me seemed to be the scariest possibility. But I did not know any of these things for certain, all possibilities were open. I had this feeling of generalised fear, where you don’t know what’s coming for you, but mainly I was wondering which one of those things was true, or if they could all be true at the same time.
I was an orthodox priest and, when I was young, I had had a relationship with a sex-worker who was now wanted by the police. She was hiding at my home even though we were no longer together. The world looked like a huge digital chess board, light blue, but with paved streets, alleys, houses and stores that were somewhat old-fashioned. I was walking down the street with my robes and my beard blowing in the wind, and I was fat and dark-haired. An acquaintance of mine saw me and told me to be careful because the police is now looking for me too. I asked him to tell my friend to lay low and started to walk looking for shelter that could protect me from the rain and the sun, so that I could pretend to be homeless for a while, until it would be safe to go home. After they have gone in, searched and not have found anything incriminating. And as I was running and my robes were blowing in the wind, I saw my reflection in the shop windows and thought “oh my! I am incredibly recognisable like this. I need to disguise”.
I am in the subway like before – I mean with no face masks – we don’t know anything about a pandemic etc., there are a lot of people on the train, the usual stuff. We wait for the doors to open, it must have been Syntagma station, but we all knew that when the doors opened the centre of Athens was underwater and it was like the subway would also become underwater. And we would just get out and go to work swimming underwater. With no equipment, just are plain clothes our bags etc. As if we were amphibians!
Lots of people, with a lot of children among them, in rigor mortis, with hands and legs tightly tied up with rope. They are lined-up by family, like a train with each one lying on his back on the other one’s stomach, on the lawn just outside the airport.
I saw a silver fish, on its own, no fish bowl, sea or water, on a white surface.