Will We Ever Escape the Circle of Fear?

 

Apparently, we not only need to be aware of the effects of Covid-19 on our children; I’ve discovered that senior citizens are also trapped in a fear response, and I wonder if they will be able to free themselves from it.

I live in a 55+ community; during the past month residents who are 65+ years of age were able to get the Covid-19 vaccine, both doses. I received my shot earlier in another location. I was hopeful that this step would resolve the fears of many, but I know of three women who are still wearing masks, restricting their interactions with others, and staying home as much as possible.

One of these women is a friend. Yes, she does have co-morbidities. Recently another friend and I invited her to join us for a morning visit in a couple of weeks. She responded that if we met on the lanai, she would come, but if we met indoors, she would have to think about it. I have not talked to her myself, but I’m struggling with whether to ask her this question: “What would need to happen for you to feel you can return to a somewhat normal life?” My concern is that my question is (I believe) a fair and rational one; I anticipate, however, that she would not have a rational answer. I might be putting her on the spot, and I’m not even sure it would stimulate her thinking about how fear is dominating her decision-making process.

I was also at my manicurist (who is sane and practical) who also lives in this development, and she told me a story almost identical to my friend’s. She also told me about a woman who got the vaccine and won’t visit her grandchildren because she believes she carries the virus inside her and is afraid of infecting the children.

I’m not kidding.

* * * * *

From my own understanding, I realize that the vaccines don’t make me immune to the virus, but if I catch it, it will likely be a milder case. I also don’t know at this point how long the vaccine will be effective. Still, we are assessing when we will be going out, with whom, and how often. We only wear masks where they are required, and never outdoors. We’ve talked about taking small trips as soon as I’m fully recovered from my surgery, and I already have a trip to Baltimore on my calendar. So I’m looking at my neighbors and wondering what their thoughts are now about being vaccinated and how their lives will change. I may just do a little survey with them.

* * * * *

There are not only psychological but physiological factors that could affect our reaction to the pandemic and the follow-up period. I decided to investigate the role of the amygdala in our brain in our response to fear, and learned some intriguing facts. There are two systems that can determine our response to Covid-19: the amygdala and the pre-frontal lobes. Dr. Joseph LeDoux, a leading authority on neuroscience and fear, made the following observations:

‘The amygdala is not a fear centre,’ LeDoux said. ‘It’s a system in the brain that detects and responds to danger. But fear is our awareness that we’re in danger.’

But the fear is not the end of the process. The way we respond to the fear is determined by the pre-frontal lobes. The frontal lobes receive the fear message and try to deal with it rationally:

When the threat is mild or moderate, the frontal lobes override the amygdala, and you respond in the most rational, appropriate way. However, when the threat is strong, the amygdala acts quickly. It may overpower the frontal lobes, automatically triggering the fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response was appropriate for early humans because of threats of physical harm. Today, there are far fewer physical threats, but there are a lot of psychological threats caused by the pressures and stresses of modern life.

When stress makes you feel strong anger, aggression, or fear, the fight-or-flight response is activated. It often results in a sudden, illogical, and irrational overreaction to the situation.

There is no consensus over whether the amygdala responds in the same way if a person experiences a similar stimulus over and over again. For example, when a person is continually dealing with reminders of the virus, especially seeing others wearing masks or repeatedly having to don a mask, I wonder if the amygdala sees the mask as a danger and causes a reaction of fear. Or when a person sees Dr. Fauci, or someone from the CDC, or other “experts” on Covid-19, is it possible that people are continually being charged with fear, and therefore reluctant to “use their pre-frontal lobes” to consider whether they could respond differently?

As long as the government insists on mask-wearing; as long as businesses expect customers to wear masks when we enter the premises; as long as we repeatedly receive the mantra of wearing masks, social distancing, and hand-washing, will the average person be able to free himself from this overwhelming circle of fear?

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I suffer from anxiety to some degree and the Wuflu is really close to the bottom of my list of concerns. It seems to me that armature worriers are the ones most suffering now. I have strategies and coping skills to manage as worry is an old frenemy. I have seen people not used to anxiety just get caught up in fear. 

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I suffer from anxiety to some degree and the Wuflu is really close to the bottom of my list of concerns. It seems to me that armature worriers are the ones most suffering now. I have strategies and coping skills to manage as worry is an old frenemy. I have seen people not used to anxiety just get caught up in fear.

    That’s a fascinating observation. I too have a relationship with anxiety, and have the ability to manage it. It would be interesting to know if your theory is true; my friend who is hesitant to visit indoors is self-confident in some ways and anxious in others. Her health does create angst for her, but I’m not sure how well she manages it. Thanks, Bryan.

    Edit: I manage it fairly well most of the time (not always)!

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I suffer from anxiety to some degree and the Wuflu is really close to the bottom of my list of concerns. It seems to me that armature worriers are the ones most suffering now. I have strategies and coping skills to manage as worry is an old frenemy. I have seen people not used to anxiety just get caught up in fear.

    That’s a fascinating observation. I too have a relationship with anxiety, and have the ability to manage it. It would be interesting to know if your theory is true; my friend who is hesitant to visit indoors is self-confident in some ways and anxious in others. Her health does create angst for her, but I’m not sure how well she manages it. Thanks, Bryan.

    Oh goodness, more of a hypthosis than a theory. But, I will note, that in fellow travelers with anxiety as a default, we have all moved one. 

    Then again, we all work in healthcare and have had to move on. The enforcement of hiding may reinforce the sense of danger. 

    • #3
  4. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think part of the widespread fear and concern about becoming infected with this virus has to do with our desire to control our life. We do get vaccines. We buy insurance. We check the weather before we go out. We have places to go, people we love, things to do. We want to make a plan and be able to carry it out all the way through.

    And worry is built into our imagination. Human beings have survived by being careful about unseen things we’ve not actually experienced.

    It will take time, but I believe the human psyche will heal this coming year. I’m confident that most people will recover from their fear.

    That said, I am afraid of Lyme disease, and I go through several cans of Deep Woods Off every spring, summer, and fall. :-) So some people will never fully recover from the fear they experienced from reading about this virus. :-)

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):
    It will take time, the human psyche will heal this coming year. I’m confident that most people will recover from their fear. 

    I hope when people see others expanding their activities that they will be motivated to do the same. But these folks are in their later years; death is standing at their shoulder, and it terrifies them. So they have that added burden. We’ll have to see, @marcin

    • #5
  6. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    I also live in a retirement community.  While my wife and I have had both doses of the COVID vaccine (and so have the majority of our neighbors), we tailor our behavior to what our neighbors are doing.  It’s just a matter of respect.

    I think that, eventually, things will loosen up. However, in the meantime, I’m not going to do anything to endanger the people that I’ve chosen to live around.

    • #6
  7. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    MarciN (View Comment):
    That said, I am afraid of Lyme disease, and I go through several cans of Deep Woods Off every spring, summer, and fall. :-) So some people will never fully recover from the fear they experienced from reading about this virus. :-)

    I’ve had Lyme disease. Twice. Because where I live is one of the nation’s Lyme disease hot-spots, it’s assumed that if a deer tick bit you, you’re infected, and they’ll start you on the antibiotic regimen right away. No waiting to see if it develops. (Although in my case I had the telltale “bullseye” rash both times.)

    Imagine if they’d done that with COVID. “You tested positive? Here’s the drug regimen.” Instead they said “Go home and rest and call us if it gets worse.”

    I wonder how many lives would have been saved if they’d started people on drug therapies right away. I have friends whose septugenarian parents might still be alive.

    • #7
  8. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    It will take time, the human psyche will heal this coming year. I’m confident that most people will recover from their fear.

    I hope when people see others expanding their activities that they will be motivated to do the same. But these folks are in their later years; death is standing at their shoulder, and it terrifies them. So they have that added burden. We’ll have to see, @ marcin

    I spoke to a friend in his 80s yesterday who is so anxious to get back to church. He reported that he was about to get his second shot, and then we’d see him at church again. I’m glad. His wife passed away a couple years ago, and church has been his only real social outlet. The vaccine has given him hope that life will get back to normal. We don’t need Fauci telling people that even with the vaccine they still need to isolate until 2022. Fauci is the devil.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    I also live in a retirement community. While my wife and I have had both doses of the COVID vaccine (and so have the majority of our neighbors), we tailor our behavior to what our neighbors are doing. It’s just a matter of respect.

    Is it? Think about that for a minute. You are “respecting” their decision to behave irrationally. In a way, I wonder if it says more about our (I include myself) not wanting to rock the boat or speak the truth. I’m not saying you should do anything intentionally to upset them. At the same time, it’s interesting that we are prepared to restrict our own behavior to adjust for others who are not being rational. Haven’t completely thought this out but I’d welcome input.

    • #9
  10. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    I also live in a retirement community. While my wife and I have had both doses of the COVID vaccine (and so have the majority of our neighbors), we tailor our behavior to what our neighbors are doing. It’s just a matter of respect.

    Is it? Think about that for a minute. You are “respecting” their decision to behave irrationally. In a way, I wonder if it says more about our (I include myself) not wanting to rock the boat or speak the truth. I’m not saying you should do anything intentionally to upset them. At the same time, it’s interesting that we are prepared to restrict our own behavior to adjust for others who are not being rational. Haven’t completely thought this out but I’d welcome input.

    When it comes to an 85 year old widow or a Korean War vet with one lung, there’s not much to contemplate…

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):
    I spoke to a friend in his 80s yesterday who is so anxious to get back to church. He reported that he was about to get his second shot, and then we’d see him at church again. I’m glad. His wife passed away a couple years ago, and church has been his only real social outlet. The vaccine has given him hope that life will get back to normal. We don’t need Fauci telling people that even with the vaccine they still need to isolate until 2022. Fauci is the devil.

    Now this is interesting. I wonder if seniors who are missing their religious communities are more likely to “take risks” than those who have very few connections. As they age, many seniors have a tendency to isolate themselves or find themselves alone (as your friend does) and may not have the incentive he has to connect with others.

    • #11
  12. Marythefifth Member
    Marythefifth
    @Marythefifth

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    That said, I am afraid of Lyme disease, and I go through several cans of Deep Woods Off every spring, summer, and fall. :-) So some people will never fully recover from the fear they experienced from reading about this virus. :-)

    I’ve had Lyme disease. Twice. Because where I live is one of the nation’s Lyme disease hot-spots, it’s assumed that if a deer tick bit you, you’re infected, and they’ll start you on the antibiotic regimen right away. No waiting to see if it develops. (Although in my case I had the telltale “bullseye” rash both times.)

    Imagine if they’d done that with COVID. “You tested positive? Here’s the drug regimen.” Instead they said “Go home and rest and call us if it gets worse.”

    I wonder how many lives would have been saved if they’d started people on drug therapies right away. I have friends whose septugenarian parents might still be alive.

    I think tens, maybe hundreds of thousands would have survived, not to mention all those who would not suffer lingering damage. Unforgivable and unfathomable! 

    • #12
  13. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Marythefifth (View Comment):

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    That said, I am afraid of Lyme disease, and I go through several cans of Deep Woods Off every spring, summer, and fall. :-) So some people will never fully recover from the fear they experienced from reading about this virus. :-)

    I’ve had Lyme disease. Twice. Because where I live is one of the nation’s Lyme disease hot-spots, it’s assumed that if a deer tick bit you, you’re infected, and they’ll start you on the antibiotic regimen right away. No waiting to see if it develops. (Although in my case I had the telltale “bullseye” rash both times.)

    Imagine if they’d done that with COVID. “You tested positive? Here’s the drug regimen.” Instead they said “Go home and rest and call us if it gets worse.”

    I wonder how many lives would have been saved if they’d started people on drug therapies right away. I have friends whose septugenarian parents might still be alive.

    I think tens, maybe hundreds of thousands would have survived, not to mention all those who would not suffer lingering damage. Unforgivable and unfathomable!

    I’m still having breathing issues eight weeks after my positive test. It comes and goes. Some weeks are better than others. But the breathing issues didn’t develop until three weeks after the positive test. (And during those three weeks I never felt like I had anything at all.) I keep wondering if I was given something right away, if I’d be dealing with this garbage now.

    • #13
  14. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    There is an advice columnist that I read, who in the main is pretty reasonable and pretty sage, Carolyn Hax.  She got a letter the other day from someone with concerns about a friend that she thinks “jumped the line” for the vaccine, as well as fears about others who weren’t taking the precautions the letter writer thought should be taken.  Hax gave one of the best answers I have seen in ages.

    “… there’s a theme here that will outlast the vaccine-rollout story and leads to another point:

    “When something dominates the national news, it’s common to feel highly engaged but also mostly, if not entirely, helpless. We feel it, but we can’t fix it. So our very normal, healthy impulses to do something start to wander around, looking for a place to go.

    “And like any entity with a lot of energy and nothing to do, these impulses start to cause trouble around the neighborhood. Namely, we can feel very tempted to judge, correct, fixate on, fume at and try to micromanage what we see, or rename it Karen. Our friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, that guy behind us in the checkout line.

    “… most of the time, and especially when the impact of the person we’re correcting is drop-in-the-bucket negligible — or when the stakes are highly abstract — we risk doing more harm by butting in than by a strategic choice to look the other way. Our affectionate ties to others, after all, are the most potent, underrated weapon we have against just about every threat we face as people.

    So when you catch your sense of righteousness loitering outside the minimart, looking for trouble, please call it home and find it something constructive to do.

    I think this is so apt for a lot of what is going around.

    • #14
  15. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    EB (View Comment):
    So when you catch your sense of righteousness loitering outside the minimart, looking for trouble, please call it home and find it something constructive to do.

     Mine loiters around Washington DC looking for politicians to . . . explain things to.

    • #15
  16. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: From my own understanding, I realize that the vaccines don’t make me immune to the virus, but if I catch it, it will likely be a milder case.

    Everyone thought the vaccine would be the end of mask mandates.

    WRONG!

    My guess is the drastically reduced flu deaths this year will be a sign that says, “Masks work, so we need to make them permanent.”

    • #16
  17. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Stad (View Comment):
    My guess is the drastically reduced flu deaths this year will be a sign that says, “Masks work, so we need to make them permanent.”

    Oh, I’ve already seen that.

    • #17
  18. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’ve seen polls indicating that there is a large partisan divide in the level of fear.  Generally speaking, Democrats are highly concerned about Covid, while Republicans are not.  Here are a couple of links from last year (various times):

    • In June 2020 (here), in Arizona, just 32% of Republicans were “at least moderately concerned” about the virus, compared to 85% of Democrats.
    • In July 2020 (here), 46% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats thought that the virus was a major threat to public health.

    One hypothesis is that Democrats decided, consciously or otherwise, to overemphasize the danger of the virus, as part of their hatred of Trump.  Under this hypothesis, the politics actually causes the fear.

    Another hypothesis is that people who are more cautious in general, or less capable of accurately assessing risks, tend to be Democrats.  Under this hypothesis, the politics does not cause the fear, but is merely correlated with the fear.

    Susan, I have no idea how to get through to people who seem, to you and me, to be excessively fearful of this particular disease.  The fear does not seem rational, and it is difficult to reason your way out of an irrational fear.

    There is legitimate grounds for some minor fear.  Covid is not nothing, and most people face a somewhat elevated risk of death since the spread of this particular virus.

    • #18
  19. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    The only reason that Fauci and the other faux experts refuse to say that wearing a mask after vaccination is unnecessary is that if they allow someone to not wear a mask because they have been vaccinated, they fear that everyone will say that they have been vaccinated even if they haven’t been.      
    They can try that but now that more and more states are lifting mask mandates it becomes a moot point. I have friends who have been vaccinated and still cling to their mask as tightly as a nun grasps her rosary beads. I just smile and add them to my prayer list.

     

     

    • #19
  20. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    “Scare You To Death Stories” are a feature of the local and national news networks. Every night in 2020, and now into the third month of 2021 we’ve had SYTDS on the ChiCom-19 virus every night  on the news. Suicide deaths, and mental health issues for high school students have soared. It’s much easier to control people with fear of what they can’t see.

    If Walter Cronkite were alive he would end his broadcast; “That’s the way it is”. He was wrong when he was alive, and he would be wrong today.

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    EB (View Comment):
    think this is so apt for a lot of what is going around

    She nailed it, EB. A rational voice in the wilderness!

    • #21
  22. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Susan Quinn:

    will the average person be able to free himself from this overwhelming circle of fear?

    I just went for a walk and at one point I noticed an attractive woman coming towards me. As we got closer to each other she walked out into the middle of the street rather than share the sidewalk with me. I’m telling myself it was her fear of COVID . . . and I’ll just pretend that type of thing never happened before.

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    will the average person be able to free himself from this overwhelming circle of fear?

    I just went for a walk and at one point I noticed an attractive woman coming towards me. As we got closer to each other she walked out into the middle of the street rather than share the sidewalk with me. I’m telling myself it was her fear of COVID . . . and I’ll just pretend that type of thing never happened before.

    Vance, more and more, fewer people are leaving the sidewalk when I walk by them. But some still do. That says more about them than about me. 

    • #23
  24. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    will the average person be able to free himself from this overwhelming circle of fear?

    I just went for a walk and at one point I noticed an attractive woman coming towards me. As we got closer to each other she walked out into the middle of the street rather than share the sidewalk with me. I’m telling myself it was her fear of COVID . . . and I’ll just pretend that type of thing never happened before.

    Maybe she’s a racist.

    • #24
  25. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    will the average person be able to free himself from this overwhelming circle of fear?

    I just went for a walk and at one point I noticed an attractive woman coming towards me. As we got closer to each other she walked out into the middle of the street rather than share the sidewalk with me. I’m telling myself it was her fear of COVID . . . and I’ll just pretend that type of thing never happened before.

    Maybe she’s a racist.

    Hey, Welsh Lives Matter!

    • #25
  26. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Susan Quinn: We’ve talked about taking small trips as soon as I’m fully recovered from my surgery, and I already have a trip to Baltimore on my calendar.

    Out of the frying pan . . .

    • #26
  27. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    will the average person be able to free himself from this overwhelming circle of fear?

    I just went for a walk and at one point I noticed an attractive woman coming towards me. As we got closer to each other she walked out into the middle of the street rather than share the sidewalk with me. I’m telling myself it was her fear of COVID . . . and I’ll just pretend that type of thing never happened before.

    I hope she looked in both directions before stepping into the street, although if she was hit by a vehicle it would probably be classified as a Covid death.

    • #27
  28. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    will the average person be able to free himself from this overwhelming circle of fear?

    I just went for a walk and at one point I noticed an attractive woman coming towards me. As we got closer to each other she walked out into the middle of the street rather than share the sidewalk with me. I’m telling myself it was her fear of COVID . . . and I’ll just pretend that type of thing never happened before.

    That happened to me all the time before COVID. I put it down to my Resting Thug Face.

    • #28
  29. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The National and local press have been stoking the constant fear of the virus every day for over a year. Every story with good news of vaccine approvals and lower deaths and hospitalizations  has a huge BUT in it, to make sure everyone remains fearful. This is wrong, and evil, and we should not be paying attention. The government reactions have done vastly more harm than good to every part of Society. 
    My opinion is that I am not responsible for anyone else’s feelings. I am not infected and I refuse to act like I am. The mask mandates operate from the assumption that everyone is infected, which is an obvious fallacy. 

    • #29
  30. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I think for me to feel it was back to an acceptable level of normal the hospitalization rate would have to come down. That’s the real criteria, how many people are getting hospitalized. Now what that number is I don’t know. Perhaps 25% of the recent peak. 

    • #30