2023 Author: Jessica James | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 03:31
The world has declared a coronavirus pandemic: this is a very strong epidemic situation. Against this background, even those who did not succumb to the general panic felt uncomfortable. Our expert, a practicing psychologist, Tatiana Ogneva-Salvoni, lives with her husband and two children in northern Italy. She knows the situation from two sides: as an ordinary man in the street going through a difficult story, and as a specialist understands all the mechanisms of action of panic. We asked her to write instructions on how not to succumb to mass hysteria. Even when you're in the middle of the coronavirus.
Practicing psychologist, journalist
The virus has paralyzed over a hundred countries. Our zone, Lombardy, was one of the first to become red. We went through all kinds of panic attacks. These days I clearly observe on myself and others - in practice, not in theory, how fear affects us.
First, the body responds immediately. A person has three built-in defense responses to severe stress and threat to life: flight, fight, or numbness.
Fleeing somewhere to Brazil or to Russia was the first thought when we declared quarantine. The fastest ones got their bearings at lightning speed: they bought tickets on time and are waiting for the peak of the epidemic, sitting somewhere on the tropical coast. But these are units. Those who did not have time stay at home. Any movement is now legally restricted, and the need to leave home in Italy now needs to be proved by filling out a form from the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The second reaction is to fight. OK! But with whom? You can't fight a virus, you can't hit it in the nose, you can't figure out the relationship. The third reaction is numbness, and then you fall into procrastination, as if time dissolves in some useless occupation, you walk as if stunned.
Panic includes a state of powerlessness and learned helplessness. Unhealthy defenses of the psyche are immediately activated. Someone begins to talk avidly about conspiracy theories, someone "fights" on social networks, someone turns on "black humor" and laughs at silly jokes on the topic. People get angry over trifles, write many, many posts and share things that in a normal state they would not even pay attention to. These are all ways to deal with impotence.
I hear how many of my acquaintances began to complain of pain in the body. And this is psychosomatics, a signal of the splitting off of important feelings. In a panic, we immediately begin to separate into the unconscious all negative feelings - fears, anxieties, anxiety. And in general, it creates nervous tension, because all this must be kept inside. And at the same time, with all his might, keep his face, think positively and outwardly as if not to panic. But she's there.
Panic "succumbs" to us. You are still smiling, but already together with everyone you are immersed in the “body” of universal concern, it exists, we are already inside it. And the laws of panic are starting to influence our behavior. Because we are social beings. In the crowd, the laws of the crowd apply.
What can we do to prevent panic from finally taking over our brain?
It is necessary to switch the thinking process from the “ancient brain”, which knows only three types of reactions, to the cerebral cortex. Here's what I recommend as a practicing psychologist.
- Slow down and ground. Just start doing routine things that have been going for a long time. Knitting, sewing, praying, ironing, washing windows, baking pies, painting a fence, this is something grounded and understandable, and most importantly, obviously useful.
- Naming feelings out loud. At the session, we with clients literally get out of the psyche all the feelings that are, and find out how they are provoked. All that is hidden from consciousness, about which one does not want to think. What are we hiding under the bravado? “Oh,” says one client, “I'm not afraid of the virus, I think it doesn't exist.” And we begin to pull out the hidden feelings, and there is horror and fear for our elderly parents. And it is easier for her to deny that there is any problem in the world at all. Well, they say, the world just decided to go crazy. Through the realization of your true feelings and fears, that very nervous tension subsides and a little sobriety appears.
- A course for joy. You need to please yourself as much as possible. And try to see what is good and joyful specifically in your life. As soon as a person begins to believe that everything that happens is unfair and that everything around is dictated by someone's evil will, his sense of anxiety increases tenfold. When he takes what is happening for granted and seeks to see new opportunities that the situation has brought useful, then perception changes. Managing stress correctly releases a lot of healthy energy. For example, at first my husband did not know what to do with himself in quarantine, and then he nailed the shelf, which he had asked for a long time, did something useful around the house, began to communicate more with his sons. I heard an Italian woman say that she thinks, “It was the Lord who visited us, stopped the Babylonian pandemonium, people can now stop, think about something more important,about yourself, about your life. And when it’s over, they will start to rejoice at simple things that they didn’t appreciate before.” Right or wrong, she found a very surefire way to stay in good spirits. Perceives the epidemic not as a catastrophe, but as something useful. With such a mood, the ability to assess reality adequately remains - to see the real level of danger without going to extremes.
But the main thing is, even if you succumbed to panic and performed some actions that can hardly be called adequate, in no case should you blame yourself or shame yourself. Because when the ancient mechanisms of survival are activated, many of our reactions are simply unpredictable. If you hurt someone with a careless word, you can ask for forgiveness. But you cannot betray yourself through shame, you should take care of yourself, your self-esteem. And don't let anyone shame you.