For many of us, it has been a cold and traumatic year. But, as one reader found, difficult times can lead to new and revolutionary ways of thinking
Walking into the NHS clinic where I work as a psychotherapist, I saw that the daffodils by the path had finally flowered. My heart lifted: new life; spring springing; winter ending. But the change in the seasons may bring little relief to those whom this longest and bleakest of winters has tipped into “survival mode”. These are people who have found themselves choosing between heating and eating, or who are stuck on a waiting list for vital healthcare, or who have caring responsibilities that leave them drained of energy for themselves. Others feel despairing and hopeless, reading endless catastrophic headlines about the climate emergency, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis. All this is what you, our readers, wrote about when we invited you to tell us what living in survival mode means to you.
When I asked reader Nicky Marchbank, 40, from Kent, what images this phrase brought to mind, I found her answer striking. She studied history at university, and what she associates with survival mode, she told me over Zoom, is “winter before the Industrial Revolution, because that is literally getting from one day to the next and not dying, isn’t it? These days, emotionally, we’ve managed to get there without the harsh winters, somehow.” Perhaps what many of us are experiencing at the moment is a kind of internal harsh winter: a frost that creeps into the mind and the body, freezing green shoots and hope, stunting growth. Not death, but not quite life either. Survival.