The case for honest fear
Why would anyone be embarrassed to be scared while those around them are dying? Why are we turned against honest emotion?
Don’t catch feelings.
Be the “chill girl.”
The fear might be more dangerous than the disease…
As of this year, people are considered “fearmongers” if they talk honestly about a pandemic in which 40,000 people have died in fewer than two months.
I’ve got an idea.
Let’s be strong and admit that it’s ok to be scared of a once-in-a-century virus that sometimes appears to kill quickly and indiscriminately.
People have searched for reasons to believe it won’t affect them — to believe their fairy tale that it will only touch certain people. “Oh, it’s only people with this or that condition.” Even if that were true, those folks don’t deserve to die that way either.
It is perfectly ok to be angry, sad, or passionate, or even to love someone who seems unreachable. It means you’re a human being with a good heart.
Today we’re hearing from people who dislike the idea of worry. The danger is, they may choose to downplay or squelch life-saving facts in order to avoid feeling — even if the right information may help us comprehend, cope, or prepare.
When a tragedy happens, we often seek to place blame more than to acknowledge that it’s simply sad and unjust. Although there is some order in the universe, bad things do happen to good people — why not acknowledge that and simply say it’s sad? When people are sick, they didn’t do anything to deserve it.
We all want control. We all want to believe it won’t happen to us.
We love to fantasize that when people are hurt, maybe they did something wrong. We see this now with people repeatedly responding on the internet to any story of someone dying, adding a comment that perhaps they had an underlying condition or didn’t get the right help. Does it make it any less tragic?
Our desire to not express emotion is spiraling out of control.
It’s led to the claim that discussing facts is “fear mongering.” With a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, it’s important to look at numbers, research, and not to overblow them — but also not to purposely hide them. (Some of the same people who say that other countries hid facts, are blaming those in America who report the facts!) It’s good to look at facts and research from a number of sources and decide for yourself.
It takes a long time to get people to pay attention to what’s happening. Something you think everyone knows, or has heard about, may remain unknown by people right in your community. That may surprise you, but it shouldn’t.
Last year, a few people casually mentioned to me that they feared losing their job, because they couldn’t afford private insurance. I noted that Affordable Health Care Act insurance was based on income. “I didn’t know that,” they replied, which shocked me. If some people don’t know a basic fact that can affect their well being, it only reminds me how information gets lost even when you think it’s been covered in depth. People need to be reached by facts in different ways.
When Roosevelt said the only thing we had to fear was fear itself, he also noted, “We are stricken by no plague...”
When Roosevelt said the only thing we had to fear was fear itself (in 1932, not 1918 or 1941), he never said fear was wrong. Roosevelt made the statement about the economy. As he noted soon afterward, “Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it.” Had he been faced with an actual plague or war at the time, perhaps the message would have been different.
There are brave souls right now who have battled cancer, survived wars, but are dying from this. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. It is scary. It’s sad.
Can’t we admit that?
It’s our personal responsibility to decide what to do with our fear. we can protect ourselves as best we can, protect others, educate ourselves, be wary of false information, and correct inaccuracies when we see or hear them in discussion. We can also find any large or small way to help — by comforting one person, and even by acknowledging our own worries so others don’t feel alone. We can stick to facts or numbers (for instance, from the CDC website).
Admitting your fear is one of the strongest things a person can do. Telling people not to worry, cry, or have emotions, is weak.
The only thing harder than that, is to admit we made a mistake. We see very little of that these days. If you haven’t apologized for anything yet this year, perhaps think about why.
If you are scared, it’s perfectly okay. Go ahead and acknowledge it — then decide what to do with it. Educating yourself can make you less scared, as this doctor noted. The nice thing about worrying, being scared, sad, or being joyful is, it means you’re alive to continue to put some good into the world, in any way you can — and to remember departed loved ones who would want you to keep being the kind person you are.
Guess what: You feel the way you do because you have a good heart — and that’s important to know, too.