Our anxieties about the COVID epidemic break down into two kinds; one is very reasonable, and the other can be irrational, and potentially harmful. It’s important to know the difference; to know what will help, and what will hinder.
Reasonable fears vs. unrealistic terror
Reasonable fears ask real questions and have rational solutions. Discovering those solutions makes us feel better. However, unrealistic fears are often based on childhood memories that still live within us; most of them in the unconscious.
The good news is that identifying our past experiences as adults can take away the helplessness we felt as children and this is a very effective way to put those fears to rest.
Now; realistic fears are easy to spot. Will I run out of money since I’m not working? How can I find help if I get ill?
Our childhood fears are not so easily defined.
And this can make them very powerful.
In the present moment, we can talk about fears of civilization falling apart or contagion being everywhere, like radiation after a nuclear attack. These kinds of fears are generally unrealistic, they almost sound supernatural. Being unrealistic, however, doesn’t make them less powerful. Left unrecognized, they can lead to panic.
In addition, when people explore their deeper, unrealistic fears, they often remember fears from long ago, of monsters under the bed.
And as children, we felt truly helpless. We didn’t have the adult coping mechanisms we have now. Superstitions and fantastic explanations existed alongside our discovery of how the world works because a child’s mind and brain are still forming. This is why a child needs parents to help them develop ways to deal with reality. Part of that reality, which is difficult for kids to deal with, is their own feelings. They need grown-ups to help them process what can feel like tidal waves of emotion.
However, this fantasy world still lives in us as a memory!
In fact, it’s important to have a connection with your unconscious mind. That is where mysterious and powerful things like love, passion and creativity come from. Who decides, logically, with whom to fall in love? It’s not logical; it emerges from deep within ourselves.
However, this fantastic level of experience can backfire sometimes, especially now!
Humanity has not experienced a pandemic in a long time, and the way viruses work still seems mysterious on some level (although science offers explanations). It feels like a mysterious threat, reminiscent of the scary dark room of our childhood. One’s fear of the dark wasn’t really understood, only made irrelevant by one’s growing, logical mind. Also, those fears can re-emerge when we are tired, under stress, or faced with uncertainty.
So here are some suggestions:
1. Keep up with the news, but not too much
We may even be attracted to horrific experiences, such as when we watch a horror movie or go to a haunted house. We can know details about the horror makeup and special effects and still be scared.
News sources take advantage of this. They sell by focusing on the worst of the headlines. However, we are blessed with the Community Voice and the Press Democrat because unlike many other newspapers, they do print hopeful stories of how many people have recovered, or when the infectious transmission curve may end.
So check the news periodically to keep up with events. However, watching it all the time doesn’t help.
2. Identify your real problems in the present and near future and develop a game plan for their solutions
3. Connect with people. It is our reliance on one another that keeps us in the realm of the realistic
4. Seek out help from a trusted mental health professional if or fears start to feel overwhelming
Again, and you have heard this before, we are in this together, all around the world!
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available on line at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.