The COVID-19 Crucible: Confronting Our True Selves


A new series on navigating healthy relationships through COVID-19

This is the first of four articles on the topic of COVID-19 and individual, couple, family, and social issues viewed through a systemic marriage and family therapy lens. In this article, Dr. David Van Dyke, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and director of the Wheaton College Marriage and Family Therapy Program, shares skills and resources for individual and relational care and growth in the crucible of COVID-19.

The tough news: our true selves are being exposed, and we don’t like what we see.

Funny thing about introductions, they are usually followed by some sort of relationship. I have had introductions that were funny, socially awkward, endearing, and ill-timed. The world was introduced to the COVID-19 in its most recent and novel form in early 2020, and our first impressions (which usually chart the course of a relationship) of COVID-19 are all negative. Our current relationship with COVID-19 is unpredictable, disoriented, and marked heavily by a sense of loss. The virus, its effects, and our fear of it has shifted daily routines, family rituals and interactions with others. As with most relationships, we respond with varying degrees of reactivity. These responses have been intensified because we are now relating both with and within the COVID-19 crucible.

What is a crucible? Here are two definitions of a crucible that I find valuable for understanding COVID-19:

1) A vessel of a very refractory material (e.g., porcelain) used to expose materials to intense heat.

2) A severe test, trial, or extremely challenging experience such as those seen in Arthur Miller’s 1953 play, The Crucible.

I think about the COVID-19 crucible as the current context container in which we experience social isolation, loss, and intense …

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