Fear – The COVID Tool

Bird of PreyThoreau is quoted as saying, “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear!”  From February 1918 through April 1920, the globe experienced an H1N1 viral infection, which came to be known as “The Spanish Flu.”  Stories abound regarding the Spanish Flu, how healthy people went to bed and woke up dead.  Stories abound about what governments did, how people reacted, and the science involved in this global panic.  The media during this period was not yet a mouthpiece for radicals and tyrants, and elected representatives and unelected representatives of government worked to stabilize their populations, care for the sick, bury the dead, and recover the financial losses.  Eventually, the world will experience the “Roaring 20s” because of the world leaders’ efforts to recover.

What changed in the century between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19; fear!  Fear has become a tradeable good, a tool for beating people, and a method of communicating lies and half-truths as the ultimate word in human communications.  Why was fear allowed to go from being disregarded into something that can control every population across the world, except for a small minority?Why

Fear Defined

From Psychology Today, we find this gem of information regarding fear.  “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger that has been pivotal throughout human evolution, but especially in ancient times when men and women regularly faced life-or-death situations.”  One of the many pathways to fear leads through the badlands of disgust as an emotional response.  Understand something; emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social construct.  How to emote correctly in that situation and environment is part of a survival trait and popularity tool to connect to other people (Solomon, 2003).

Social Aspects and Mental Connections

Matthew D. Lieberman (2013) authored “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.”  This book discusses how and why people connect and also disconnect.  The following quote from philosopher Jeremy Bentham discusses the biggest issue in connecting as social beings, “Pain and pleasure … govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think.”  With the brain wired, hard-wired from birth, towards a lust for pleasure, and avoidance of pain, the third aspect of hard-wired encoding is being social.  We need each other to completely experience pleasure and avoid pain.

Not Passion's Slave - Emotions and ChoiceHowever, it is also clear that emotions are a choice, a cognitive, conscious, and clear-cut choice.  We learn to read social situations as children, and these early experiences teach us about proper emotions in social situations.  Since our emotions are a social construct and choice, the connections to society, pleasure, and pain become our reality if we allow emotions to rule our minds, which is also a choice, with social influences and a judgment for basic survival.  Fear, especially as it applies to COVID-19 and other viral infections, we must understand our brains’ hard-wired coding and social aspects, plus the emotional decisions we consciously make.  If we fail to understand these connections, we miss how every person was manipulated and propagandized into a method of thinking and acting during a viral infection with a 99% survival rate and why COVID reactions were one way, and every other viral outbreak elicited the exact opposite response.

There is an entire branch of science dedicated to studying these connections and responses called social-cognitive neuroscience.  I am barely scratching the surface of these topics to provide the COVID response explanation, and I encourage further research if you doubt or would like more information.  I am not a social-cognitive neuroscientist, simply an industrial and organizational psychologist who works to understand the why in human interactions.Apathy

Lieberman (2013) points out some interesting aspects of fear; in the top ten lists of fears, three categories emerge, fear of physical harm and death (including emotional and mental harm), the death or loss of loved ones, and public speaking.  The hard-wiring of reward and fear, pain and pleasure, and our need to connect are physically exhibited through oxytocin release and the septal regions of the brain.  fMRI’s have reflected this physical connection and hard-wiring in every person’s brain.  When oxytocin is administered, humans show favoritism towards liked groups and strangers but increased hostility towards disliked groups — making the connections to fear being a product of disgust.

Daniel Kahneman (2011) authored “Thinking Fast and Slow.”  In discussing how the brain works, Kahneman (2011) introduces intuitive heuristics.  A heuristic or heuristic technique is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational but is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an immediate, short-term goal or approximation.  Intuitive heuristics is problem-solving using intuition.  In the US Military, we called these “WAGs” or “Wild-Arsed Guesses.”Plato 2

In reviewing the literature on the social dynamics of Spanish Flu and COVID-19, we find two main concerns.  The early stages of both health crises show leaders acting with intuitive heuristics, trying to solve the problem, e.g., avoiding pain, through educated guesses and flat-out WAGs.  The second dynamic is the social fear spread by, influenced with, and spurred to new heights by corporate media and politics.  We all remember how Dr. Fauci was first for and then vehemently against hydroxychloroquine, even though Dr. Fauci’s research had reflected the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine since the 1990s against viral SAR-Cov (coronaviruses) viral infections.

Where we are today – Nowhere Good!

VaccineIsrael announced they are planning to re-enter restrictions for wearing a mask inside your home as a government mandate due to a COVID-19 mutation called “Delta.”  The vaccine news continues to discuss whether or not the original vaccine developed will be effective against the new mutations of the coronavirus or if a booster vaccine will be required.  We have a causal relationship between giving children and teenagers the vaccine and a rare heart disease.  There are still doctors worldwide reading Dr. Fauci’s research and trying to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and being thrown in jail or facing ridicule and loss of license to practice medicine.  Worse, we still have doctors who recommend doing nothing if exposed to COVID until you cannot breathe, taking the lackadaisical approach to practicing medicine.

Emtional Investment CycleAll of these stories have a similar root cause, fear!  The politicians fear losing their job, so they overreact.  The media stirs up fear in a populace, for scared people are easier to keep emotionally distracted than logically thinking; hence fear sells advertising, and the media knows how to sell advertising.  Fear drives irrational purchases, like packing your garage full of toilet paper and bottled water.  Fear drives avoidance and acceptance of freedom stealing government mandates.

Question 3Fear drove a recent business interaction, where a person hard of hearing had removed their mask to lip-read during a conversation.  The business leader demanded they both put their masks back on per “company policy.”  Only later was the hearing impairment made known to the business leader.  What has been the company response, investing in transparent and expensive masks.  Fear driving irrational business decisions based upon fear of risks rather than proactive methods for conducting business.

One of the most problematic aspects of COVID has been accepting fear as a valid reason to take action, report your neighbors, and make wrongheaded business decisions.  When COVID-Hysteria finally concludes, how foolish will people feel for blindly following instead of logically thinking and acting?  Worse, what will the fallout be from being made to feel foolish?  Long-term, does the feeling of foolishness and fear change how people listen and follow government mandates in the future?  What laws will change social interactions and societal morals due to the fallout from COVID?

Knowledge Check!Honest questions, to which the answers must be sought and explored before the media decides the populace is too stupid to think for themselves, and they force solutions onto the politicians through shoddy statistical lies.  America and every representative government globally, we the owners of our governments, need to become more proactive before we wake up one morning, and freedom has been lost, rights trampled, and liberty was stolen for the power of politicians and the media.  Not fear-mongering.  Just a concerned citizen looking for answers.

References

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Lieberman, M. D. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect. NY: Oxford University Press, USA.

Solomon, R. C. (2007). Not passion’s slave: Emotions and choice. Oxford University Press.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: School Thy Feelings

Calvin & Hobbes - Irony HurtsI know what you’re thinking, not another article on controlling emotions and feelings – well, yes.  However, I wanted to approach this subject from a different tack.  I discuss this topic so often because of the dearth witnessed in choosing proper emotional responses or not choosing an emotional response to the improvement of the environmental conditions in a situation.  Across the globe, we find daily, even hourly, instances where emotional diatribes are ruling common sense, destroying logic, and creating hordes of emotionally charged people hell-bent on destroying.  If I can help just one person understand this cycle of emotional abuse and then choose to correct their behavior, even if that person is only me, I consider these articles successful

Emtional Investment CycleToday’s title comes from Charles W. Penrose (n.d.), who penned the following poem, which has been set to music; the poem is based upon Proverbs 16:32, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”

School Thy Feelings

School thy feelings, O my brother,
Train thy warm, impulsive soul,
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings, there is power
In the cool, collected mind;
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.

School thy feelings; condemnation_
Never pass on friend or foe,
Tho’ the tide of accusation
Like a flood of truth may flow
Hear defense before deciding,
And a ray of light may gleam,
Showing thee what filth is hiding
Underneath the shallow stream.

Should affliction’s acrid vial
Burst o’er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial,
Half its bitterness hath fled
Art thou falsely, basely slandered?
Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom’s standard;
Keep thy rising anger down.

Rest thyself on this assurance:
Time’s a friend to innocense,
And the patient, calm endurance
Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings,
Quiv’ring strings a breath can move,
And the Gospel’s sweet revealings,
Tune them with the key of love.

Hearts so sensitively molded,
Strongly fortified should be,
Train’d to firmness and enfolded
In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason’s might;
School thy feelings, sister, brother,
Train them in the path of right.

Knowledge Check!Consider with me these words for a moment.  Controlling emotion is hard, I understand completely.  However, how often do we try to control emotion?  I have been driving, stuck in restricted traffic, and becoming a raving lunatic through choice because of how someone else drove.  My feelings caused them no harm but embarrassed me.  I witnessed road rage, where a 30-car pileup at 45 mph was narrowly avoided.  These two gentlemen would speed up, get around the other, then brake check, hindering and hampering the smooth flow of traffic due to selfish emotional choices.

Besides traffic, where else do we frequently witness unchecked emotional interactions?  Politics, the news, sports arenas, the supermarket, but worst of all is social media, and especially in the emotional controls social media companies exert upon those wishing to use the service.  Consider LinkedIn, they have policies in place to police thought, and curb conversation between professionals, solely because another person complained.  Facebook banned President Trump, using false pretenses and sophistry when the reality is that the media giant always wanted to exert control and thwart free and open communication.Foghorn Leghorn - Medication

Speaking of President Trump, what about the behaviors excused under the banner, “Trump Derangement Syndrome?”  The behaviors of these adults, acting worse than a spoiled toddler, was beyond deplorable, detestable, and needed public shaming.  Instead, their behavior got excused, tolerated, and America is worse for having emotional behavior justified in this manner.

Semper GumbyAs a kid, if my parents did not like another child’s behavior, I was refused the opportunity to play with that child for fear the child’s emotional behaviors would rub off on me, and I would begin to act like a nincompoop!  Yet, as an adult, I can witness rampant emotionally charged conduct, and I have to tolerate nonsense due to helicopter parents, political choices, and the media; I think not!  I firmly support Robert Solomon’s claim that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social construct.  In supporting this line of reasoning, I affirm I am not perfect in choosing better emotions, choosing the proper emotion, or even judging social situations properly to emote at all.  However, now that I have been made aware, I am actively striving to emote less and know the why behind my emotions to empower better decision-making down the road.

There is a piece of golden advice given to commanders in the military, choose when to become angry as a method of commanding performance improvement.  I had a commander who understood this principle well and many an officer who had no clue.  I met non-commissioned officers who understood this principle well and others who had been promoted above their level of incompetence, who chose not to understand the value of controlling emotional outbursts.  I have worked with managers across America in a myriad of positions who could learn this lesson, and I have met some amazing people who know this lesson all too well and apply it perfectly.Plato 2

Consider well the words from Charles Penrose, and believe you can choose to emote or not to emote, when to emote, where, and how to emote, as tools for improving communication, performance in yourself and others, and in making better decisions.  Runaway emotions hinder, not help, performance.  Emotional hyperbole thwarts and hurts everyone, everything, and everywhere it is found.  How embarrassing to you is it when you witness emotional meltdowns?  Be it a toddler, teenager, or adult; the sight is truly embarrassing when emotions run away.

Image - Eagle & FlagThus, on this Memorial Weekend, let us firmly recommit to living life with more controlled emotions where we are choosing our emotional states more precisely.  Selecting our emotions more carefully and allowing the emotions of others to have less hold upon our minds and bodies.  As I continue to make strides in not allowing myself to be hooked into other people’s emotions, I do not lose anything, and the control gained improves how I feel mentally and physically.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.