From: L. Michael Hall
2020 Neurons #11
March 12, 2020
While the coronavirus (covid-19) is a new and unknown medical problem, and like the ﬂu and other viruses, it is to be dealt with intelligently. The real pandemic that we’re facing today, however, is the pandemic of fear. What we know today is that the great majority of people who will catch the virus will recover. That’s been the case in China.
The real pandemic is not even fear. Fear is a good healthy emotion when there is something truly threatening and dangerous. Fear motivates us to take precautions. In this case, washing hands regularly, social distancing, staying healthy, etc. Fear, however, becomes unhealthy when it is unrealistic and exaggerated. And fear becomes toxic and dangerous when we are fearing fear. With healthy fear, the energy that the emotion of fear evokes gives you something to do —a way of directing your energies to do what you can.
With unhealthy fear, the energy that is evoked has nowhere to go except to your mind, your emotions, and your body. You become fearful of yourself, your experience, and all sorts of concepts— like the future. This is what has been happening— mostly thanks to the media who puts it front and center 24/7. People are fearful of what the coronavirus means, or could mean, and that has led to a lot of panicking. It has led to runs on goods at grocery stores, the sell-off of the markets on Wall Street, cancellations on traveling, non-medical people wearing masks (which does nothing), etc.
What happens when you fear fear, when you become fearful, anxious, worried, and apprehensive about what could happen? You enter into a trance state of fear which then enables you to see fearful dangers and threats everywhere. You color your perspective with a dark fear that makes you imagine the worst, feel paranoid, and invent conspiracy theories. With the feeling of fear driving your psychology, you exaggerate real problems, personalize the danger, forget the actual statistics, awfulize, and develop a dark tunnel vision. All of that, in turn, creates psycho-somatic problems— headaches, ulcers, asthma, etc.
The panicking that happened during the Great Depression led Franklin D. Roosevelt to utter the famous words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” He made that statement in his inaugural statement in 1933 as he also described the problem with unreasonable fear.
“So, ﬁrst of all, let me assert my ﬁrm belief that the only thing we have to fear is ... fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustiﬁed terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
While realistic fear can be healthy and useful, unrealistic fear generates self-created problems. Then, as people panic— the panic itself gives people yet one more thing to fear. Investors, fearing the ﬁnancial panicking, themselves panic which then ampliﬁes the panicking. Like little children imagining the shadows are monsters hiding in the closet— so we are creating all sorts of monsters which only ampliﬁes the panic of fear. Add partisan politics to the mix as many are doing, and you have a perform storm of panic about panicking.
What’s a better approach?
∙ Remind yourself of the statistics—80% will recover quickly, 20% will have some complications, and the 2% with immunity-deﬁciency, resperatory problem will die.
∙ Stay calm and cool, prepare, don’t panic.
∙ Don’t empty the shelves at the grocery store.
∙ Wash hands regularly.
∙ Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for the required nutriments.
∙ Realize that this too will pass.
∙ If you’re under 60 and no underlying health problems— go for a trip.
∙ Set aside a 3 to 6-months emergency fund so you can easily handle the lack of employment for that period of time. (See Inside-Out Wealth).
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