Covid-19 Anxiety and Automatic Behavior By: Andrea Schara

What Happens When Anxiety Rises?

Both for leaders of the country and for each of us personally, this is a perilous, difficult, and confusing time. The future becomes harder to predict when we are faced with a threatening situation. The corona virus is exposing the overall weakness in various social systems: medical, financial, the various levels of the government, and for our neighbors and families.

What Can We Learn from How One Reacts?   What took so long to understand the virus would be everywhere, not just in China?  Who thought that the government would fight over who should protect us? Who is responsible for medical equipment, for hospitals, and hospital beds? How do you make decisions with such confusion? What have we learned?

January 25th – Andrea’s Thinking: My oldest grandson lives with a lovely Chinese woman, who I care about. I wrote, asking her if her parents should come here, where its safe.  What kind of thinking was that?  I was feeling that there was a safe place. I could not comprehend that the United States was not safe. Our personal history impacts the way we react to life changing events: I was born 3 weeks before Pearl Harbor and am a little bit jittery as to changes in society. I emotionally prepare for some kind of war faster than most. What in your history prepares you for this time?

February 2nd – Dreams, are they helpful?

Woke up from a dream featuring a fox.  I knew it was time to get ready, the fox is coming. Sell your stocks, get two weeks of food, move out to the country. OK, a little over-reaction. Friends and family told me so, but I had to think about my reaction. What are your dreams telling you?

March 5th – Andrea’s process: Reorganized my finances, put my important papers in one place, froze food and decided to stay isolated in D.C., to make sure I had not been infected by visiting friends, seeing my brother in a nursing home, and being in stores, the gym, and hot yoga. What is your process?

Leadership – President Trump also has the challenge of perceiving the reality of the situation. On January 24 Trump tweeted, “It will all work out well.” Okay, I can identify, I was worried about the people in China not in the US, so neither of us could perceive this threat. Since then I have gone one way and he another, but he has to worry about many more things than I do. Who are the leaders you listen to?

Perception of Reality – It seems each person’s brain varies in the ability to perceive reality.  Under stress our brains take two easy paths: 1) follow the “leader” (might be your spouse) and 2) polarize and blame the others.  Our brain automatically follows an authority person. Automatically people blame, take sides. Conflict helps us feel strong when times are tough. But cheap, aggravated energy leads to higher stress and higher emotionality along with low rationality. How do you manage reactivity?

Stanley Milgram’s research on authority figures, pointed out, an authority person, a leader can convince 65% of us to participate in shocking people to death. All because the authority asked us to do it. Even with knowledge it is always hard to question authority, to step away from the social group and think for self.  If one is working on differentiation, one may still suffer from the real threats that await. Perhaps there is some solace in knowing one has been disciplined enough to be guided by reflection and rationality instead of heightened emotional reactivity. What process directs your choices?