Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. We’re All Afraid

 

Fear is a normal state in human beings. At one time another, we’ve all experienced it. Soldiers know fear when they dive from bullets; some of us know fear when we need to drive on black ice; others experience fear when our children are seriously ill. We’ve all known fear.

Fear should also be a temporary state. It heightens our senses and awareness to notice when our safety or well-being is threatened; once the emergency passes, however, our bodies, for the most part, should return to a “normal state,” which is different for each person.

The long-term problem, as I understand it, with the stimulation of the amygdala, is that we become conditioned to fear those things that caused our original fear. Those are learned responses that cause both physical and emotional reactions. I would like to suggest that the times we live in, which many people experience as chaotic, will have a long-term impact on our citizens and our society. What happens when much of society lives in fear?

When children are raised to be fearful, whether they are taught to fear death by climate change, nuclear bombs, Islamist terrorism, how does that distort their view of the world? How does it affect their quality of life? What happens when it damages relationships? How fearful will they become?

I began to think about this question just this week-end. I have a very dear friend who generally has an optimistic view of the world. She has guided her husband through two devastating bouts of cancer, and has dealt with her own cancer battles. In spite of her positive views, whether it is her temperament or her life experiences, she is fearful, particularly regarding her health. The coronavirus has intensified her fears to a new level, as I learned this week-end.

Saturday night I received an email from her, asking if I had concerns about the coronavirus, since she and her husband were joining us for a Sunday matinee stage play. My husband has a weakened immune system, is 74 years old, and has damaged lungs. So we do track COVID-19. But I also try to respond to the news with what I call common sense and reason. I wrote back to my friend, “No concerns.”

Sunday around noon we picked them up and went to a Panera Bread near the theater. My husband and I were in the front seats (we don’t like the girls in the back, guys in the front split), and when we got out of the car, I went to my friend to give her my usual big hug. She turned sideways and gave me a sideways hug; it was clear that she would have preferred not to hug at all. I don’t remember what I said at the time, but I’m sure my surprise showed on my face.

Later when we were driving home, we talked about it a bit. She said she was just being careful; that she was practicing not hugging people; that she hated to hug people and end up with their perfume on her hair and face (I don’t wear perfume); and she added some other explanations. The bottom line: she was afraid of the virus. At this point in Florida, we have 22 million people and have had two deaths.

This experience has caused me to ask about the long-term effects of the virus. In a culture that is already over-stimulated by fear, what will be the long-term repercussions, if any? What are the risks to the relationships among people? Will COVID-19 limit risk-taking in general? Will people be prone to isolate themselves so that they can feel safe? What might the damage be to the workplace, to friendships, to families?

In the next several months, I expect that we will know the damage that the virus has done in the short-term: people will become ill, incapacitated and some will die.

But will there be the long-term effects from people living in uncertainty, worrying about whether they will live or die?

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  1. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn:

    In the next several months, I expect that we will know the damage that the virus has done in the short-term: people will become ill, incapacitated and some will die.

    But will there be the long-term effects from people living in uncertainty, worrying about whether they will live or die?

    Susan,

    I feel exactly the same thing you do. Of course, we should do our due diligence to protect ourselves from this virus. However, there is always a balance. We can’t stop living to keep from dying. We shouldn’t descend into paranoia.

    Humor is the best antidote. At shul, people have been bumping elbows instead of shaking hands. So I called it the corona high five. Stupid joke yes but it breaks the ice and people stop being so obsessive.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #1
    • March 9, 2020, at 6:55 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    In the next several months, I expect that we will know the damage that the virus has done in the short-term: people will become ill, incapacitated and some will die.

    But will there be the long-term effects from people living in uncertainty, worrying about whether they will live or die?

    Susan,

    I feel exactly the same thing you do. Of course, we should do our due diligence to protect ourselves from this virus. However, there is always a balance. We can’t stop living to keep from dying. We shouldn’t descend into paranoia.

    Humor is the best antidote. At shul, people have been bumping elbows instead of shaking hands. So I called it the corona high five. Stupid joke yes but it breaks the ice and people stop being so obsessive.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I think that’s an excellent idea, Jim. I think I’ll try it myself. Humor, skillfully used, can be a great tool. Thanks!

    • #2
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:02 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    My husband has an ongoing cough, exacerbated by allergies. To anyone sitting next to him, he explains his condition. He is also diligent about muffling his cough with a wadded handkerchief (to help keep down the noise, too). But I’m waiting for the day when someone tries to kick him out due to his cough.

    • #3
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  4. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Susan Quinn: In a culture that is already over-stimulated by fear, what will be the long-term repercussions, if any? What are the risks to the relationships among people? Will COVID-19 limit risk-taking in general?

    I had a different experience this past weekend at the gym. Saturday afternoon is usually a very quiet time at the gym. I paused my self-torture on the Jacob’s Ladder machine to have a drink of water and a woman looked at me and said, “You touched your nose! Are you going to wash your hands before you touch that machine?” (Using a Jacob’s Ladder involves putting you hands where your feet have been moments before.) She then proceeded to lecture me about hygiene, saying it was safest to smear my nose in my own clothing than it was to use a Kleenex. She even gave me a demonstration. Her stair climber was covered in towels to protect her from whatever. My husband thinks I am goofy for continuing to think about this woman, but I just wonder how many more fascist busybodies this virus will create. I want to come up with some retorts for this sort of thing. Humor certainly is the way to maintain my own sanity.

    • #4
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:24 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  5. I Walton Member

    I think it’s no more un real than most of our fears. We live in a world in which our politics and our media are abstract so that the fear they purposely project on us is mostly fabricated. There are always some real threats out there, like driving anywhere, or catching any disease, or falling and harming ourselves, but we’ve seldom allowed ordinary low risk realities to determine our attitudes; they lead us to pay attention when we drive, avoid crowds when their are epidemics, check ladders before we get on them. But the 24 hr political/media unreality we live with just wears us down.

    • #5
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:25 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    My husband thinks I am goofy for continuing to think about this woman, but I just wonder how many more fascist busybodies this virus will create.

    I live in a 55+ community, and frequent the gym. I cringe at the thought of someone trying to give me a lecture. If you can think of any way to use humor to disarm them, @9thdistrictneighbor, let me know. Otherwise I’ll be tempted to punch them in the nose. Then they can use their sleeve to clean it off. [Sorry–this nasty behavior brings out the worst in me.]

    • #6
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:28 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  7. Kay of MT Member

    I have a compromise immune system so I take care, but not overly so. If I go shopping prefer early mornings when stores are less crowded. Restaurants after the noon rush hour. Folks don’t get to close to me as they are afraid they might trip me on my “Trekkers.” Para-transit usually only has a couple of folks on it. So I don’t really concern my self in fear. 

    Since I have now passed my 82nd birthday, @kentforrester, I don’t live in fear. Like Leonard Cohen, “hineni, hineni” I’m ready Lord.

    • #7
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:35 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  8. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    20,000 Americans have died of the flu so far, this flu season alone. A disease for which (I think I read somewhere) over fifty percent of the US population receives a yearly vaccination to prevent such an outcome. Yet nobody seems to be afraid of the flu, which is far more infectious (it appears) than COVID-19.

    I’m not equating the two, and there are still many unanswered questions about the new virus, and it’s smart to be smart about it. But, as usual, the 7x24x365 news cycle has to have something to talk about, and right now, this is it. What bleeds, leads, and stories about rational people doing rational things don’t sell nearly as well as the one about father whose one daughter has the virus and who, instead of self-isolating, as was supposed to be the case, took his other daughter to a crowded school dance. Stories about stupid people doing stupid things, and evil people doing evil things are much more titillating than stories about dull and responsible people quietly doing the right thing. And unfortunately, there are millions of people willing to take the bait.

    • #8
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:44 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  9. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    My husband has an ongoing cough, exacerbated by allergies. To anyone sitting next to him, he explains his condition. He is also diligent about muffling his cough with a wadded handkerchief (to help keep down the noise, too). But I’m waiting for the day when someone tries to kick him out due to his cough.

    Having recently met Mr. Susan, I’ll testify to the grace with which he handles his condition. And meeting him did make me re-think my long-standing immediate reaction to someone with a severe cough, which has always been that the person is spewing infection every time he goes into such a spasm, and that he should immediately remove himself from the venue (still think I’m right most of the time, probably). But it must be a burden to live with, when that’s not the case.

     

    • #9
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. Boss Mongo Member

    Susan, I agree, and would add that, per Gavin DeBecker in The Gift Of Fear, one needs to learn to distinguish between fear and anxiety. DeBecker’s recommendation for significantly reduce anxiety is don’t watch the news–particularly local news. Given the (sad-sack, slovenly, negligent, gleefully partisan) media coverage I’ve seen on the virus, I endorse this recommendation. 

    • #10
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:52 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  11. OldDanRhody's speakeasy Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    I want to come up with some retorts for this sort of thing. Humor certainly is the way to maintain my own sanity.

    • #11
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:53 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. KentForrester Moderator

    Susan, your post and mine (one below?) are a pair. As usual, you’re the thoughtful one, the philosophical one. Right now I’m going to go up and give you a Like. 

     

    • #12
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:57 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  13. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Sanity:

    • #13
    • March 9, 2020, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  14. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    My husband has an ongoing cough, exacerbated by allergies. To anyone sitting next to him, he explains his condition. He is also diligent about muffling his cough with a wadded handkerchief (to help keep down the noise, too). But I’m waiting for the day when someone tries to kick him out due to his cough.

    Susan,

    That’s a tough one. I know a number of the most elderly that have read the stats and are canceling a lot of their outings. You’ve got to keep living. Funny what we are afraid of. As of this moment, the Purim Party will take place but someone this morning told me they were considering canceling it. In 2005 when the hurricane came ashore on Yom Kippur we kept davening until we duchened at the end of Mussaf. There was still time to get to shelter but we cut it as close as we could. I really liked that. However, we seem to be much more frightened by the virus than the hurricane. I hope not.

    I hope the Party goes on. People should take extra precautions as far as contact with others but the Party goes on because you’ve got to keep living. Some people won’t come and the attendance may be off but on with the show. Remember the doctors & nurses aren’t shutting down the hospital because of the coronavirus patients showing up. We shouldn’t shut down our entire life because of this threat.

    Our friends the Catholics are dealing with it too.

    Love in the Time of Coronavirus

    Typically, when you walk into a Catholic church, there is a font for holy water, water that has been blessed. It’s what’s known as a sacramental, a sacred sign meant to remind us of baptism. But one recent weekday, I dipped my hand into a familiar font in a prominent church in our nation’s capital before morning Mass and encountered it empty. Caffeine-less, I was confused. We do this closer to Good Friday, but we are not there yet. It was only later, when the sign of peace was skipped during Mass, that I realized: coronavirus!

    Everybody has got to make their own decisions but I hope we stay brave.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #14
    • March 9, 2020, at 8:47 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    I have a compromise immune system so I take care, but not overly so. If I go shopping prefer early mornings when stores are less crowded. Restaurants after the noon rush hour. Folks don’t get to close to me as they are afraid they might trip me on my “Trekkers.” Para-transit usually only has a couple of folks on it. So I don’t really concern my self in fear.

    Since I have now passed my 82nd birthday, @kentforrester, I don’t live in fear. Like Leonard Cohen, “hineni, hineni” I’m ready Lord.

    Good for you, @kayofmt. Life goes on, so let’s get on with the show!

    • #15
    • March 9, 2020, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m more afraid of going back home and making my parents sick than of anything else.

    • #16
    • March 9, 2020, at 9:13 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  17. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    In the next several months, I expect that we will know the damage that the virus has done in the short-term: people will become ill, incapacitated and some will die.

    But will there be the long-term effects from people living in uncertainty, worrying about whether they will live or die?

    Susan,

    I feel exactly the same thing you do. Of course, we should do our due diligence to protect ourselves from this virus. However, there is always a balance. We can’t stop living to keep from dying. We shouldn’t descend into paranoia.

    Humor is the best antidote. At shul, people have been bumping elbows instead of shaking hands. So I called it the corona high five. Stupid joke yes but it breaks the ice and people stop being so obsessive.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Yes, when you look at the numbers, one is in about as much danger of dying from a lightening strike as from the coronavirus. But then, if you are really paranoid, there is always the possibility of an asteroid strike wiping us all out. As you I believe you are saying, take the same precautions as for the normal flu virus.

    • #17
    • March 9, 2020, at 9:27 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    I can’t help thinking of something, I think @kozak said. Once the test kits are distributed and begin to be used, I expect the numbers will skyrocket. That will probably tell us the number of people infected, but it will distort the pace of infection.

    • #18
    • March 9, 2020, at 10:09 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Old Buckeye Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Susan, I agree, and would add that, per Gavin DeBecker in The Gift Of Fear, one needs to learn to distinguish between fear and anxiety. DeBecker’s recommendation for significantly reduce anxiety is don’t watch the news–particularly local news. Given the (sad-sack, slovenly, negligent, gleefully partisan) media coverage I’ve seen on the virus, I endorse this recommendation.

    Glad you mentioned this book (again?) Boss. I have it in my Audible library but have not listened to it yet. I must have added it at someone’s recommendation on Ricochet because that’s where I get my best reads.

    • #19
    • March 9, 2020, at 10:12 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Rodin Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I can’t help thinking of something, I think @kozak said. Once the test kits are distributed and begin to be used, I expect the numbers will skyrocket. That will probably tell us the number of people infected, but it will distort the pace of infection.

    And to further confuse things: the test guidance materials indicate that the detection of the virus does not preclude the presence of other viruses and bacteria. That means that someone can have detectable virus that causes COVID-19, but be sick from something else. So long as the treatment is broad spectrum that is fine, but if you have a COVID-19 specific medication (if such a thing exists) then you have the possibility that the true cause of the disease you have is not being treated.

    • #20
    • March 9, 2020, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Well chosen words, as always.

    I am frustrated because I see fear being used as a political tool. I am particularly concerned about how it’s affecting our young people. We teach them that the planet is burning up, and there’s nothing they can do about it; their country is hopelessly racist; there are no heroes, only despicable old men; and if they happen to have the misfortune to be male and white, everything bad is their fault and they can never apologise or make amends. Then we wonder why they get messed up on drugs and/or commit suicide.

    • #21
    • March 9, 2020, at 2:07 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Well chosen words, as always.

    I am frustrated because I see fear being used as a political tool. I am particularly concerned about how it’s affecting our young people. We teach them that the planet is burning up, and there’s nothing they can do about it; their country is hopelessly racist; there are no heroes, only despicable old men; and if they happen to have the misfortune to be male and white, everything bad is their fault and they can never apologise or make amends. Then we wonder why they get messed up on drugs and/or commit suicide.

    Doug,

    You’re right the total package that is thrown at them is incredibly negative. That really needs to change.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #22
    • March 9, 2020, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: My husband has a weakened immune system, is 74 years old, and has damaged lungs. So we do track COVID-19. But I also try to respond to the news with what I call common sense and reason. I wrote back to my friend, “No concerns.”

    Good response! If you two take normal precautions against the flu, it will work with coronavirus too. I’m more worried about what the media-induced panic is doing to my retirement nest eggs than catching it and having to subsist on Campbell’s Chicken & Rice soup for three days . . .

    • #23
    • March 9, 2020, at 2:39 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  24. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Susan Quinn: But will there be the long-term effects from people living in uncertainty, worrying about whether they will live or die?

    Some might suggest that for most of human history, the spectre of death constantly hovered around people, yet they carried on. We have had it pretty easy. Once fatal diseases or conditions are now easily cured. Workplaces are much safer.

    But it is only within the last 100 years that medical miracles have so thoroughly kept the grim reaper at bay.

    Perhaps what we’re experiencing psychologically is the long-term effect of living in a really safe era of human history and the inability to cope with the harsh realities that so many previous generations dealt with.

    And to be clear, I prefer it this way.

    When this crisis passes (as I routinely assure myself that it will) we will likely forget this moment and once again worry about how to cope when it happens the next time.

     

    • #24
    • March 9, 2020, at 4:30 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. Clare Day Member
    Clare Day Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    My husband has an ongoing cough, exacerbated by allergies. To anyone sitting next to him, he explains his condition. He is also diligent about muffling his cough with a wadded handkerchief (to help keep down the noise, too). But I’m waiting for the day when someone tries to kick him out due to his cough.

    I’ve been doing the same for two years on a semi-regular short hop. I feel pleasantly supported in what I sometimes thought might be a too eccentric habit knowing, now, I am in excellent company. Thank you both.

    • #25
    • March 9, 2020, at 4:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer (View Comment):

    Perhaps what we’re experiencing psychologically is the long-term effect of living in a really safe era of human history and the inability to cope with the harsh realities that so many previous generations dealt with.

    And to be clear, I prefer it this way.

    When this crisis passes (as I routinely assure myself that it will) we will likely forget this moment and once again worry about how to cope when it happens the next time.

    I think your point that we’ve become accustomed to living in a safe era is true, @drewinwisconsin. I doubt that we will likely forget this moment, however, and doubt even more that we will think about what to do the next time. But we can disagree!

    • #26
    • March 9, 2020, at 4:44 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Old Buckeye (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Susan, I agree, and would add that, per Gavin DeBecker in The Gift Of Fear, one needs to learn to distinguish between fear and anxiety. DeBecker’s recommendation for significantly reduce anxiety is don’t watch the news–particularly local news. Given the (sad-sack, slovenly, negligent, gleefully partisan) media coverage I’ve seen on the virus, I endorse this recommendation.

    Glad you mentioned this book (again?) Boss. I have it in my Audible library but have not listened to it yet. I must have added it at someone’s recommendation on Ricochet because that’s where I get my best reads.

    I’ll double-up (double-down?) on the recommendation both on watching the news, and on the book itself. It’s an excellent, and clarifying, book.

    • #27
    • March 9, 2020, at 5:11 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: In a culture that is already over-stimulated by fear, what will be the long-term repercussions, if any? What are the risks to the relationships among people? Will COVID-19 limit risk-taking in general?

    I had a different experience this past weekend at the gym. Saturday afternoon is usually a very quiet time at the gym. I paused my self-torture on the Jacob’s Ladder machine to have a drink of water and a woman looked at me and said, “You touched your nose! Are you going to wash your hands before you touch that machine?” (Using a Jacob’s Ladder involves putting you hands where your feet have been moments before.) She then proceeded to lecture me about hygiene, saying it was safest to smear my nose in my own clothing than it was to use a Kleenex. She even gave me a demonstration. Her stair climber was covered in towels to protect her from whatever. My husband thinks I am goofy for continuing to think about this woman, but I just wonder how many more fascist busybodies this virus will create. I want to come up with some retorts for this sort of thing. Humor certainly is the way to maintain my own sanity.

    Next time she suggests not using a Kleenex, ask to borrow her shirt to wipe your nose.

    • #28
    • March 9, 2020, at 7:04 PM PDT
    • 3 likes