If the pandemic isn’t sci-fi movie enough, it feels like half the world has regressed to adult-toddler-tantrum or teenage-sulking-zombie mode.
I’m going to whisper this. All these anti-government rants, conspiracy theories and overall pandemic venting on my social media timelines are annoying me. We’re all agreed that the news is depressing, the rules don’t make sense and the politicians could do better to say the least. I’m just as frustrated as anyone else, but now more than ever, I crave loveliness, niceness and kindness. Only it’s not happening. Out I venture and someone is acting out IRL. What’s going on?
Unresolved mental health problems
Psychotherapist and trauma expert Dr Vasilios Silivistris agrees that people have become ruder and more abrasive. ‘I was at the supermarket and this hysterical woman screamed to someone close to her, “Two Meters”. The person closest to her screamed back: “F–K Off you bitch!”
Yes, we’re all anxious, but why is anger exploding at this level? Silivistris explains that the pandemic has exacerbated underlying mental health issues that people may not have previously dealt with. With this unprecedented time triggering fear of the unknown, he goes as far as predicting that Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) will increase. His advice is simple: steer clear of any conflict situation with unstable people, and resist interfering to help.
Being in control to feel better
Dr Maria Turri, lecturer at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine’s Centre for Psychiatry, explains that when we are anxious, we tend to use psychological mechanisms to deflect our uncomfortable feelings so that we can feel better. ‘Many of us will feel trapped, vulnerable, and anxious by being under threat of an unknown and potentially dangerous illness and /or having to obey rules that limit our freedom. Some of us may try and deflect those feelings onto others.’ We’ve all got a view on what’s happening, however, some people are more bullish about converting others to their particular theory. Turri says when we do this it’s more about projecting anxiety onto other people. ‘It makes us feel better because we are in control, “we know” what this is all about.’
Of course this deflection strategy doesn’t happen consciously. Refusing to follow rules, such as wearing masks, might seem like a conscious decision to challenge rules, but is in fact a fear of one’s own vulnerability. Turri, who is also a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, describes the refusal as reversing the dynamic. ‘Someone else is now in a position of being controlled by our unruly behaviour and trying to impose our rules on others.’
One theory about why some people resist advice on how to behave in the pandemic is based on a phenomenon known as solution aversion, which explains much of this acting out. Denying the problem, in this case COVD-19, is a way of avoiding the solution because it’s too uncomfortable. During this global pandemic extroverts for example are more likely to be averse to not being able to socialise, whilst introverts might be more fearful in supermarkets.
Anger is grief
Anger is acknowledged as one of the stages of grief, and right now many people are grieving loss of jobs and support systems. Understanding that somebody’s anger over coronavirus may be grief can help us treat them with compassion. If we’re the one lashing out we need to explore why coronavirus is making us angry and what to do about it.
Is it a rant or is it activism?
Instagram coach Katya Willems says that people venting on social media are doing this to make themselves feel better. ‘They’re not thinking through what negative consequences their post might have.’ With even influencers ranting under the guise of speaking up, the difference between recycling negativity and promoting activism can seem blurred. ‘Good activists are trying to educate, not blame,’ says Willems. ‘They share really valuable information and resources. Finger pointing and ranting tends to switch people off. People should consider whether their post is going to achieve the desired effect before posting it: “Is this post going to help raise awareness and help change people’s minds?” If not, then consider whether it’s worth posting.’
Tackling friends and family on social media who may be posting negative content is awkward and Willems agrees it’s not worth getting into a public disagreement. If you choose to challenge someone posting questionable content, be prepared for how ugly it can get, warns Willems, and only go for it if you feel brave. ‘Try to ask questions to challenge someone, rather than attack their point of view,’ she recommends. ‘That might disarm them.
Collective good vibes
As the world goes into meltdown and the media is saturated with negative news, there is another option. Willems has set out to create a community of people through her Instagram who uplift each other. ‘For me throughout 2020, which has been such an angry and scary year, my way of “helping” has been to put kindness and good vibes out there – and Instagram is a great platform for that. I suppose that’s my own personal rebellion and stance against negativity and anger in the world right now!’
Here at Colomba we’re looking to nurture our mind, body and spirit as individuals and to boost each other collectively.
Let us know in the comments below which communities you are joining to build good vibes.
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