Managing the anxiety of COVID19 and the surrounding conspiracy theories that go along with the outbreak, the spread, and the intentionality of the disease has been both amazing and tiring. I realise that this blog has the potential to sail close to a conspiracy. I will watch my tone as I explain my thinking.
Bare with me.
Amazing in that we want to make meaning from the amount of emails, WhatsApp shares, Twitter updates, Facebook Posts, News feeds and radio bulletins. Some information can be useful and thought provoking. Some information perhaps…
The tiring part for me is the conspiracy theories and secret society imaginings. Sent my way by well-meaning friends and family. The aim of the sender to receiver (me) is to inform and provide some good or useful information. Sometimes…
The effect of sharing conspiracy, is that when in a state of concern or panic the person who receives this information isn’t calmed or soothed. The oppoite effect is achieved. The receiver has a number of choices with this fear engendering information. They can either share it, or keep it to themselves. The want to be helpful in a seemingly helpless situation: CoViD19, can override an inbuilt system of holding onto suspicious unhelpful or slanderous material.
Using the ability to be suspicious/cautious of the intent of the information could be useful. Helping to begin a process of distancing ourselves from a heightened fear response. By engaging the human part of the brain (see Chimp Paradox) and keeping our minds thinking (pre-frontal cortex), potentially is the desired goal! Jumping to conclusions, or *scud assessments could be unhelpful in maintaining our equilibrium or anyone else’s.
First the unasked for idea or information arrives. On viewing of the sensory overwhelming video, our bodies react. The body is flooded by a cortisol response. We do not need to be aware/conscious of the response but our blood stream becomes a souped up system. Ready for Fight, Flight, Freeze or Friend. The response is automatic. Our heart rate may quicken, we might lose our appetite, we may find concentration on other topics evaporate. We simply want to act. Simply act we often do.
There is an interesting case that happened with laughter in the 60s. The event spanned months and started in a school in Tanzania. An incident caused a pupil in school to laugh uproariously which sparked a contagion that affected a community. I have walked and talked with clients who when realising the enormity of their situation have become both extremely upset and uproariously giddy with laughter. The event is called a psychogenic illness.
There may have been times when something like a confused response happens in the face of a significant life changing event. A joke, a youtube video is as ludicrous or upsetting as it is funny and witnessing the scene causes the viewer, to be swept up with the happy confused state. In these moments laughing without a care, with tears streaming and mouths agape can be cathartic. Relieving a pressure build up. The passing of joy can consume us. Hilarity can bring us face to face with our humanity.
World Wide Worries
The opposite affect can also be true when we have a concern. We seek truth and facts in all the right and appropriate spaces, and also in all the wrong places. News feeds. News cycles. Social media. The spinning and circulating of an ever growing concern. On this occasion it happens to be a global pandemic. Covid19 has consumed all hours and all days in an endless stream of updates, worries and many deaths. What then happens is when seeking truth, the material is passed forward. Asking friends if they have also seen or heard?
Corona Virus Disease 2019: CoViD19
The latest news about the deadly virus takes its discomforting place in our psyche’s. There stored the fear wreaks havoc with our natural defences: positive psychology, family ties and connections, friends, community, religious and philosophical gatherings, eating habits, work patterns, school and education, financial planning – all affected. The invitation is that we hold to this new reality like a raft in a storm, hoping it will bring us safely to shore. Can this vessel, with scant resources and ill meaning to humanity offer us sanctity?
Do or Do Not
Unlike the psychogenic laughing bug. Once caught the hysteria and hyperbolic concepts are passed along, they do little to make us feel better. Sharing, seals in the yuck with cortisol and adrenaline running the show.
What could help would be, to mentally walk away from the information and critique it. Rather than be pulled into a belief that all of the thinking, neg vid sharing, hand washing, policy making will deliver us from the disease.
Stay with the Known Knowns: Our world will change. It always has. What act will you perform to support yourself and others in the face of the pandemic?
Fear is Contagious – T.E.D. Talks
This American Life — One Last Thing
Ear Hustle – Us and Them
This is Money – How Bad…
Unlocking Us – Brené Brown and Alicia Keys
Cover photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Tom Radetzki on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
This piece was inspired by a conversation with a counselling client PK. Thank you!