Social Distancing and Affection

“Our choices determine our destiny.” A man called Alfonzo Bernard said this, and has influenced thousands of people with his words. He’s currently pastor of a Christian congregation in Brooklyn NY. I came across his name as I was listening to one of those people he influenced, and discovered his influence on me with what he said about distance in human relationships – so apropos for us all today.

In one of his many Youtube videos, he talked about the principles of life. The one that really grabbed my attention is this: The life principle that governs distance in human relationships is not in miles but in affection. Two people can be together and miles apart (we’ve all experienced this), or on opposite sides of the planet and affectionately close. We use affection to create distance by withdrawing affection. In reconciliation, we give our affection.

I am very sure there isn’t anyone who is reading this blog who doesn’t have personal experiences that speak to how we distance – it’s on all our minds. The prolonged need for us to remain physically distant from many and not distant from a few, if any, is causing both anxiety and depression. How we deal with this latest challenge can have long-term consequences – good and bad.

In my own life, I’ve lived and worked beside people I chose to dislike, shutting myself off from my own vulnerability and their humanity. Conversely, I have close friends who are countries away – including my husband – who I look forward to connecting with online because their lives mean a lot to me. I’ve withdrawn affection and, when I finally realize I’m shutting down and shutting out, I begin to close the distance by reaching out, human to human.

Today and for a while yet, the only people we can be physically close to are those we live with. We may find ourselves wanting – needing to – create more distance. It’s difficult – having to be physically close over long periods of time, with no reprieve. I’ve met many people who have come up with creative ways of making this happen; from taking scheduled solitary walks, to using their car as an extra “room” away from everyone, to finding an abandoned space they can retreat to. And I’ve met many people who have learned the value of being vulnerable over long distances, and the value of ensuring their long-distance loved ones remain safe.

How are you choosing to live today with social distancing that will inform your destiny tomorrow?



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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at 


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