Almost two-thirds of Americans are suffering from upsets in this volatile covid-19 time. Worse yet is the mood contagion effect. We instinctively spread and reinforce the fear we feel. It’s our pack mentality. We quickly check the situation for danger. We don’t listen to words. We don’t believe “controlled” facial expressions.
Our primal knowing cuts through social masks to feel the fear. Within seconds, we communicate our feelings with each other – intensifying whatever feeling we have. “Some stress is healthy and necessary to keep us alert and occupied,” says Spencer Rathus. In fact, “Most people do their best under mild to moderate stress,” finds Janet DiPietro, a developmental psychologist at Johns Hopkins University.
Unfortunately, since our brain is wired to enable us to survive, we feel fear faster, more intensely and longer that any positive emotion. Plus we spread it faster amongst each other.
Worse yet, according to a study by Neumann and Strack, we least like the person who looks or sounds the least happy. That’s a downward spiral that isolates the least happy from the herd of us while we make each other increasingly upset.
That’s why Emotional Freedom author, Judith Orloff believes that “Fear is the mother of all negative emotions.” It is often expressed as anger, blaming or frustration. She adds, “Fear renders intelligent people dumb. They are not clear-headed or intuitively in synch enough to make brave decisions.”
Yet, as Nelson Mandela said, “Fear is contagious, so is fearlessness. To choose fearlessness, begin by “naming what scares you. If you can do that, fear won’t take you by surprise,” advises Orloff. Start with smaller fears first – don’t start with your mother. View the source of your fear as an obstacle not an insurmountable wall. Further she suggests:
1. Rather than catastrophizing about the future, focus on your current situation.
2. Work fear down, Step-by-step, not up. Otherwise your fear may become a self-fulfilling prophecy in future situations.
3. Breathe deeply and slowly, inhale and exhale – even for just a minute.
4. Your response to pain determines how much you suffer:
o Take small, positive steps to correct a situation.
o The sooner you act to improve the situation the more easily you can transform the energy of your negative emotion into fuel for a positive mood and productive action.
o If you stay stuck in fear you deepen the rut of that memory in your brain. Then what? Any future event that looks like that experience in which you got stuck will evoke the same fear response again and again and again.
Here are two behaviors that have helped me, when I remember to do them:
1. To protect yourself from the downside, spiraling into fear: Don’t let a negative person determine your behavior. (Be sure you question your perspective before you judge theirs.)
2. To enjoy the upside of any situation: Act as if she meant well, especially if it appears she did not. It will reduce her toxic effect on you because it will confound her. Plus it may inspire her to live up to your positive characterization – making the situation better for everyone.