Think About It: Fear antidotes

Years ago, as part of my personal search, I put myself on the email list of a few spiritual leaders. Every so often I receive a quote or lesson that comes at just the right time to lighten the weightiness of life. Two weeks was one of those times.

We come to realize that the appearance of novel coronavirus and the infliction of its version of the flu, COVID-19, adds an incredible weight and disruption to our daily lives that is without precedent in our modern times.

Most of us went on high alert meaning our anxiety level increased and each sense of our bodies started a search for safety. Hear, watch, read, careful what you touch. That’s what we do when we’re threatened.

Fear driven by lack of information and direction led people to buy up supplies like masks, water and toilet paper in preparation for the dangerous unknown. There were some reports that some people thought that since the virus originated in China, Chinese people must carry it — an irrational fear, but no less a fear.

Fear is its own generator of action especially when the threat is ill-defined and there is no sure way to relieve our fears, to quell our free-floating anxiety. Fear causes us to pull in our resources and protect ourselves even at the expense of others because we don’t know what else to do.

I haven’t seen it in our community, at least not around coronavirus, fear manifesting to the extent we fight over food, supplies, space or access to needed health care. Our providers started preparing for the sickest at the first notification of the virus in Kirkland.

Fear antidote No. 1

The first line of defense against rational and irrational fear is fact; specific knowledge of the threat – what is it, what can we do to prevent it and what can we do to avoid it? The second line of defense is to be responsible for our own actions, in this case for our own good health and the good health of others.

Public health experts are working overtime with our leaders to get information and perspective out so that effective policies and actions are put in place to manage the virus and a major economic downturn.

We’re learning more than we ever thought we would need about infectious disease prevention, control and mitigation. That’s a good thing because next time, we’ll all know what to do.

The lesson is if all individuals take responsibility to learn and use our new-found knowledge and assume responsibility for those not able, we will bring the outbreak to a manageable level. We can cause the demand to meet the supply in our own lives.

Our elected officials can cause the demand to meet the supply in our communities for the good of the whole – local, state and country. We see it happening. Schools, churches, sporting events, any gathering of crowds, are being canceled. State and local leaders in our state, the first epicenter of COVID-19, and others rushed in early to provide leadership and direction.

Even though we can’t consistently test for the disease, we know it is highly contagious and better to be safe than sorry.

The confidence of public health experts and confident action by our leaders provides solace to our fears. We can let go of our worst fears and focus on living in relative isolation.

The ‘new normal’ (PDN headline)

Really … it’s not what I would call normal. And, we’d better hope it will never become our normal or we are doing something very wrong as human stewards of our species and the Earth. Coronavirus and COVID-19 are temporary; this will pass.

I call it weirdness, out of the ordinary and much more disconcerting than a “snow” day. We will spend much more time at home with whomever lives with us. No doubt, that will be a learning experience.

We may learn things about ourselves that we’d rather not know. All this aloneness is going to bring thoughts to mind that we haven’t contemplated in a long time. It’s a great time to reassess us and our priorities.

We do have the diversion of Facebook, television, internet and streaming. Even then, some of our escapes and enjoyments like sports events are unavailable. No doubt, we will miss the closeness of our outside others. There’s a reason all that touching and hugging goes on.

Which brings me back to the letter I received from a spiritual teacher …

Fear antidote No. 2

The letter that came across my desk called fear “the most invasive virus.” I was reminded that when fear becomes our dominant controlling emotion around an issue or, in this case, a pandemic, we seek to escape the threat and assure our survival. We make decisions out of fear. We see enemies in others we think might be contributing to

the threat or taking all the supplies so we have none. We hoard. We stop listening and learning which deepens our fear now out of our control. We infect others including our children with the fear.

The letter writer (Gary Zukav) offered a lesson and an antidote which I will pass along. He suggests we open ourselves to learning from the experience, to identify the feeling of fear and learn what we need to do to move beyond it. We conquer fear instead of it conquering us. We learn to manage future fears. Finally, he reminds us of the time-honored remedy and power of love of self and others. Love and fear cannot occupy the same emotional space.

Learning and loving sounds like a good use of time in this time of temporary weirdness.

Bertha Cooper, featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation. Cooper’s book “Women, We’re Only Old Once” is due out this summer. Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim over 20 years. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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