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'Tired of my coronavirus!': Why people no longer fear pandemics



The fourth month of the world coronavirus pandemic has gone. At first, it was clear that people really took the necessary measures: empty streets and places, masks on their faces, gloves and antiseptics in their hands. But in the last few weeks with the arrival of warm weather, it has become noticeable that people have ceased to be afraid of getting sick. Psychologist Nadezhda Grishina told the portal, Why is this happening.

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More and more of those who reached out to offices for work, and then for walks, to shopping centers and to all the usual places. Revenues began to grow in stores and not only in departments for summer residents. People who continue to observe safety measures and demand to keep their distance often began to provoke an aggressive reaction in the queues: "How are you sick of it with your coronavirus," "Are you scared? Sit at home! ”

At the same time, statistics show that the country (Belarus - ed.) Is at the peak of the disease: more than 800 cases of confirmed coronavirus are detected every day. And the situation in the world is getting worse.

So why do people do things that run counter to logic and common sense? This is an interesting phenomenon for the observation of a psychologist. After all, a pandemic is not only a medical phenomenon, but also a social one.

What is fear?

There was no official quarantine in our country. Thus, external restrictions were not imposed on people; they had to independently take responsibility for their health and for adequate behavior in a pandemic. (Let’s understand by adequate behavior, which, according to experts in the field of epidemiology, will lead to a reduction in the spread of the virus).

Adequate behavior is relying on the sane part of our personality. Psychologists view a person as a system consisting of subsystems. For example, in transactional analysis (the direction of psychology), a sensory-bodily part called the "inner child" is distinguished in the personality structure. This is our naive and selfish part aimed at getting pleasure and joy in life. In addition, we also have an “inner adult” - this is a rational, thinking and social part. She can understand principles, see cause and effect, acknowledge other people's rights, and draw conclusions.

The child is the part with which we are born, and the adult is the part that is acquired during parenting. This happens when a person absorbs the rules, beliefs, ideas about the structure of the world, which are transmitted to others by people.

From the point of view of neurobiology, the human brain is also divided into 2 parts - the limbic system and the cortical brain. The limbic system is an older part that makes us similar in our reactions to animals. And the cortical brain is what distinguishes us humans: the ability to think, accumulate experience and make decisions consciously, and not reflexively. The reaction of these two parts of the brain to danger is different, and it can also be roughly correlated with the reaction of the child and the reaction of an adult.

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When the pandemic just arrived, it generated a wave of fear of danger to life, one's own and those close to oneself. Feeling fear, people tried to observe the necessary precautions. What is fear? This is a condition in which the body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released from the ancient, limbic part of the brain. It mobilizes the body's forces to search for ways to reduce stress from danger - either flight, or an aggressive attack, or depriving the body of signs of life. All these are energy-consuming states, and cortisol gives strength to their implementation.

But how long does fear last?

The stress hormone in nature is produced for an extreme situation that ends when an individual “burns” the energy mobilized by cortisol for flight, fight or suspended animation. But this hormone is not intended for long-term presence in the body. Those people whose cortisol levels are chronically elevated suffer from depressive or anxious mental disorders. In a healthy person’s life, fear is not constantly present; it ends its action after the necessary actions have been taken.

What will happen if action is taken, but the threat continues to hang? There is an addiction - a decrease in the response to danger. Addiction is common to all living things. To prevent it from happening, there should be a constant reinforcement of the stimulus. That is, when weakening the precautionary measures, the danger should become more noticeable, as if reminding that it is too early to relax. And in a pandemic, danger is invisible. And this eased the fear, as well as the motivation associated with it.

Are there any other ways to motivate people to action other than fear?

Yes there is. This is a conscious choice, responsibility, love, the desire for self-realization. When a person does something not because he is afraid, but because he has decided so himself and wants to achieve something.

In order for this type of motivation to appear, it must be cultivated in the process of raising a child. To do this, parents should not use bullying as a way of influencing the child, but explanations, love, patience and negotiations, which is much, much more complicated. The famous psychologist Lyudmila Petranovskaya writes that forcing a child to do something out of fear is how to fix a TV by tapping it with a fist instead of taking it apart and finding a broken part. Shouting, spanking, to make you behave well is fast, convenient and effective.

However, getting used to using fear as the main motivation, a person absolutely cannot learn to hear himself and act according to his own free will, according to his own intention: "I decided so, and therefore I do it."

In order to make a person out of a child, one needs to treat him as a person, activating in him not the ancient instinct of fear, but using his higher human abilities: to think, analyze, draw conclusions, create, make decisions.

The action motivated by fear is the attitude of the frightened “inner child”. An adult commits actions based on an understanding of the consequences of their actions. He can withhold momentary momentum for a long-term goal, when the results of actions taken now will bring rewards only after a while.

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He can understand the needs of others and act in ways other than his own interests. In a pandemic, the “inner adult” understands that although the virus is not visible, it is still there. And if the statistics reflecting the actual reality remain as they are, then it is too early to remove the precautions and live as if nothing is happening. Like an ostrich that hides its head in the sand so as not to see unpleasant facts.

Therefore, to comply with the restrictions, we use the "inner adult". But that part of the personality that needs impressions (“child”) gets tired of limitations. This leads to a weakening of the psyche, to neurosis, or to the accumulation of aggressive energy.

The adult part must find socially acceptable methods of realization for all these impulses, so that the embodiment of the desires of one person is safe and does not lead to the violation of the rights and desires of others. In a pandemic, such a path is to find new ways to spend quality time and with pleasure. For example, traveling more in Belarus, spending time in cottages, riding bicycles, and more often talking with friends on the phone and on the Web. Also, adult behavior in a pandemic is to continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

What happens if the adult part is weak? After all, it is strong only among those whose parents invested in its development, or among those who themselves were engaged in personal development during their life. The fear that was holding the “child” back at first disappeared and ceased to be the main motivation. I'm tired of being afraid. And to act according to the principles of “human community” (social benefit) is difficult, there is no such skill. And since the state does not impose a strict quarantine, there are no brakes left. The desire to enjoy life among many "children" tired of the pandemic finds neither external restrictions nor an internal filter on its way.

Therefore, the freedom of the population in a pandemic - like democracy in principle - is designed for psychologically mature people, for those who think, have their own moral norms and principles. If these internal supports are absent, then without an external governing principle, people turn into a spontaneous crowd. And since the pandemic, as we have already said, is a social phenomenon, measures are needed at the social level to influence it. If they are not there, the pandemic gains strength and lives its own life, collecting new victims. Because a “child” is, in addition to joy and egoism, our defenselessness. He needs an “adult” as a shell that protects him from the difficulties and dangers of a big life. If the adult part is underdeveloped, people become like unintelligent children. They go towards danger, not understanding either the threat to themselves, or the fact that we are all in the same boat.

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