Expression of Fear

FEAR

Expression of Fear

            Fear is an emotion, without which we could not survive.  It alerts us to danger either real or imagined.  Sudden exposure to a fearful circumstance triggers the so called “fight or flight” mechanism.  Information about a threat to the organism is transmitted to the brain’s amygdala, which instantly sends signals to the hypothalamus.  It responds by directing the adrenal glands to secrete more epinephrine (adrenalin) which prepares us to take action against the perceived threat.  Our pupils dilate to enhance visual acuity, the heart rate increases to provide more blood to the brain and muscles, breathing quickens and the alveoli of the lungs open wider to absorb more oxygen.  Muscles tense and the famous “cold sweat” appears as a preparation to prevent over heating during the anticipated battle or flight.  Blood sugar levels increase to provide more energy, and there may be involuntary emptying of bowels and bladder (yes, the term “scared shitless” is for real).

            The process is automatic, nearly instantaneous and completed even before a decision can be made as to how to respond to the threat.  It can also be activated by fears for others, and most of us have undoubtedly experienced it when we are faced with a child running out in front of a moving automobile, and can even be provoked by imagined threats as in the case of those with phobias.  Many seem to be born with a hair trigger for initiating the response and for many it erupts without any stimulus at all, which we call Panic Disorder.  It is a common condition, said to account for 12% of Emergency room visits in the U. S.(link to article is here) Panic attacks frequently mimic the chest pain associated with heart attacks.  Panic disorder is amenable to treatment and in my experience a detailed explanation of the mechanism involved is helpful, as most are relieved to find they are not suffering from a life-threatening condition.  

The Physiological Response to Fear Was Key to Survival

            If the threat persists the endocrine system takes over and the amygdala stimulates the pituitary gland to produce adrenocortical hormone (ACTH) which further activates the adrenal glands to produce epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol.  This mechanism served Joe Caveman well allowing him to either climb a tree or stick a spear into the saber tooth tiger confronting him, but modern-day Joe can neither kill nor run from a boss who he is convinced is determined to destroy him, leaving today’s Joe chronically stressed.  Even minor stresses such as being stuck in traffic may lead to fears of missing an important appointment or attendance at his kid’s game.  Those hormones so eloquently designed to save the lives of his ancestors were not designed for long term use and their presence at high levels is analogous to keeping an engine revved up for long periods of time while it sits at the curb.  This phenomenon is felt to be a major contributor to a variety of medical problems, especially cardiovascular disease.   

Existential Fears

 Existential fears are not new to our planet.  The threat of natural disasters has always been present and persist to this day, but even though we now have a greater understanding of such phenomena, we are still helpless to deal with them in most cases, and find ourselves seeking divine protection from the big ones like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, asteroids and the like.  I have vivid memories of fears of World war II during which invasion of the west coast by Japan was felt to be imminent following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Even in our small mid-western town there were designated bomb shelters as we were predicted to be next on Hitler’s list for invasion after they conquered England.

 I also recall the tears in my Mother’s eyes as we watched my brother board the train headed for training camp only a little over a month after celebrating his 18th birthday.  A few weeks later we received a call that he was “shipping out”, but he was not allowed to reveal his destination.  Nevertheless, there was some relief since the call came from New Jersey indicating that he was likely headed for the European theater rather than the South Pacific from whence came endless horror stories.  In the following months the fear for the family increased as more gold stars appeared in neighborhood windows, and the appearance of a Western Union messenger in the area would fill families with the worst kind of fear i.e. of reading “we regret to inform you…….”.

Since those early days of my life, in addition to a series of senseless wars, a a string of potentially apocalyptic events have occurred with some regularity with only brief periods in which there was nothing to fear on a grand scale. The development of the atom bomb was unique in that for the first time in history it gave the human race the power to destroy all life, and when Russia developed their version, backyard bomb shelters sprung up all over the place.  The worst of those fears came close to realization with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  In the 1970s, discovery of depletion of atmospheric ozone also resulted in fear of drastic consequences for mankind.  At the same time, there were also warnings about climate change which went unheeded, but now sow fear in many of us for our children, and their children. 

Fear & Pandemics

Fear is an unpleasant feeling.  It is understandable that we prefer to put it off if the threat is not imminent.  Such is the case of the source of our most recent global fear, i.e. the COVID-19 pandemic.  Viruses were discovered at the end of the 19th century, and 100 years ago a viral pandemic killed an estimated one third of the world’s population.  When I was a kid, polio was endemic, the world recently experienced a frightening Ebola epidemic, and for more than 50 years, scientists had been warning us of another pandemic.  In spite of all that experience and warnings we were woefully unprepared for COVID-19.  Now, more that 2.2 million people have died from it, and only the pandemic deniers are without fear.  As I mentioned in my opening statement, fear is protective, and sadly those who deny put themselves and others at risk. 

For many the fear of contracting the corona virus is superseded by more urgent fears such as: job loss, eviction, homelessness, or hunger.  There is also the sad fact that a primary concern about closing schools means that without the benefit of school breakfast and lunch programs many kids will go hungry.  It is estimated that 13 million kids arrive at school hungry and that 1 in five live with “food insecurity” (I wonder who is in charge of making up these kinds of meaningless terms, but I assume it means they don’t get enough to eat).  Yep, here we are, living in the world’s richest country where we pay farmers not to plant crops, but can’t feed our children.  Go figure!

The Fear Tactic: A Tried and True Motivator

Throughout the ages, leaders of all stripes have stoked fear in order to provoke the fight response as a motivator to followers not unlike the way our ex (thank God) president cranked up his followers on January 6 to storm the Capitol building.  They obeyed their charismatic leader when he told them they must “fight like hell” to save their country [link to video of Trump at Pre-Riot Rally].  During the insurrection they were recorded chanting: “fight for Trump.” The mob was a disparate group.  Among the most bizarre were the Q-Anon followers who were there in support of their leader (Trump), who they were convinced was destined to save the world from a secret cabal of Satan worshippers, who among other things, butchered children in order to drink their blood.  There were also groups of white supremacists, fascists, and anarchists, along with misguided patriots who had been convinced that the election had been stolen and that our democracy was about to be taken over by socialists.  Indeed, in subsequent interviews, some participants were proud of what they had done. 

Regardless of motivation, the mob’s behavior confirms the presence of a great deal of anger.  It raises the question as to from whence it came.  Did it arise from fear?  It does appear that they all were motivated by fear of something usually enhanced by misinformation.   We still don’t understand much about mob behavior, but I suspect that it must be exhilarating to be able to express suppressed anger when in the midst of like-minded people.  Why is it that when angry people congregate, anger tends to escalate, often ends in rage, and draws people into behaviors that they would never consider under ordinary circumstances?  Are they drunk with the mob’s power, or is it the need to belong?   Does group-think allow them to rationalize their behavior, or is it simply the thrill of acting out?   With the crowd shouting “hang Mike Pence’’ and hunting for other members of congress by name, the results of the insurrection could have been disastrous.  Unfortunately, the problem has not been resolved as polls indicate there are millions of citizens who still believe the election was fraudulent, the election was stolen, and vast left-wing conspiracies persist. 

Fear: The Seed of Hatred

Fear leads to anger, but long-term anger results in hatred, undoubtedly the most destructive force of any society.  We now have people in Congress who say they are afraid of suffering physical harm from their colleagues.  Some object to the prohibition against carrying a gun during deliberations.  They act as if it pains them to conform to the traditional decorum of the institution, and negotiation is a dirty word.  We now have large numbers of members of both political parties, each concerned that the other is a threat to our democracy. The Trump followers who invaded the Capitol were determined to destroy democracy in order to save it.  They continue to devour misinformation especially the “big lie” that Trump actually won the election.

In my early years I was also witness to other times in which right-wing political groups wrought havoc.  In the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy managed to instill fear into the citizenry with baseless allegations of communist spies having been recruited into important government and military positions.  This was in the early days of TV and his hearings were widely watched.  Many careers were destroyed as his House American Activities commission extended their “investigations” to include anyone of note, especially those in the arts since they were known to generally have liberal political views.  Later the John Birch society, a political group organized by John Welch, produced all manner of big lies mostly consisting of a grand conspiracy to take over the American government, the most outrageous of which was the accusation that Eisenhower, widely hailed as the one most responsible for winning world war II was actually a communist agent.  In both these cases the obvious goal was to create fear, but wiser heads in the Republican party intervened, whereas today’s Republican office holders fear going head-to-head with the exiled king Trump.   

Courage: The Antidote to Fear

Courage occurs when values overcome fear.  On January 6, 2021 small force of Capital Police courageously faced a mob of thousands in attempting to protect the occupants of the capital building.  Two died and multiple others were seriously injured, yet the news of the day was replete with inferences that there may have been some who were complicit in the insurrection.  To this day there has been very little mention of the other four souls known to have died that day as a result of anger gone wild.  Are they not also victims?  And what of those millions of others who have been convinced that the government of which they were once proud is now corrupt, and now fear the consequences? 

Active Listening: The Antidote to Divisiveness

The saber-toothed tiger is long gone and we humans have gained dominion over all our enemies except for those darn viruses – things so small we can’t even see them.  Now that we have destroyed most other critters, we are so secure in our dominance that we now try to save those who are left, and we find that our only enemies are each other.  We talk a great deal about our divisiveness, but do very little to correct it.  Back in the days when I was practicing my craft, I saw many couples who were deeply divided.  In nearly all those cases it was apparent that they did not listen to each other.  Oh yes, they heard each other loud and clear but did not listen.  Listening involves more than words.  To listen one must be attentive, and hear not only the words but the music i.e. the feelings.  To acknowledge those feelings provides validation, a feeling which affirms one’s humanity.  For example, to say to a true believer that he/she is crazy for believing the election was stolen is unlikely to be helpful to either party.  On the other hand if one responds with something like: “I don’t believe it was rigged, but since you do I can understand that you are pissed off”, you might go on to a meaningful discussion.  You might even find that person wanting to know why you were not a believer.  God forbid, but you could even end up respecting or even liking each other.*

Since we all have our fears, I can’t finish this thing without once again mentioning my favorite quote on the subject of courage. 

TO BE LOVED DEEPLY GIVES US STRENGTH, TO LOVE DEEPLY GIVES US COURAGE

P.S. This was a difficult paper to write because I continue to ignore the advice of my high school English teacher Miss Higgins who said that most authors select topics that are too broad in scope, and consequently do not do justice to their topic.  Some of us are just slow learners

*Editor’s Note: I recall an interview with former FBI Director James Comey after the election and prior to the holidays. When asked for any advice regarding the holidays and interactions with those who were upset about the election results or even believed the false accusations that the election was rigged. I thought Comey’s statement was interesting and relevant to eshrink’s blog subject this week. Comey talked about people’s fear of being wrong…their fear of being duped. He talked about the countless cases he had seen where people had been defrauded of their life savings and/or their retirement by unscrupulous “investors” who promised their money was safe. To his shock, many of these victims would not only refuse to testify against the accused shyster, they sometimes would testify on the shyster’s behalf. Oftentimes, the fear of being wrong or the fear of being “taken” trumps everything else. Victims of these crimes had a belief that they could “see through” a fraudster and they had a deep seated belief that the shyster was a good business person. His advice was to understand the person’s thinking from the lens of fear.

USA Tops COVID-19 Cases and Deaths Map from Johns Hopkins

The Speech I Wish President Trump Would Have Delivered at the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic

INTRODUCTION by EshrinkBlog.com Author, Darell J Smith, M.D.

It was not until the death of my parents many years ago that I realized how little I knew about their childhood, and set out to write some vignettes for my grandchildren (and children) about what growing up was like for me.  These stories morphed into one story about a year in my life as a 12-year-old during WWII.  Imagine my surprise when I was presented with a book [link to Reflections for the Future book. Free download. On-demand printing of hard cover book] with my name on it containing a bunch of the stuff I had written.  This was the doings of daughter number four, Maggie, the journalist.  I was so pumped at the sight of my name on a dust jacket that when Maggie signed me up for a blog, I jumped right in, convinced that I was to become the Grandma Moses of essayists.  She has remained involved as my editor, but rarely makes any changes in the copy always insisting that it is good even when it sucks.  

Now you have the opportunity of reading Maggie’s marvelously comprehensive and detailed treatise as to how the COVID-19 pandemic should and could have been handled.  It begs the question as to how many lives might have been saved and how much suffering could have been averted by the exercise of such leadership.  The format, as the speech which should have been made, is a very creative means by which to deliver the message, and is a very typical Maggie approach. 

Although this type of critical thinking should not have surprised me, I still have difficulty at times reconciling myself to the realization of the talents exhibited by this once skinny shy little redhaired girl.  Since we now have less than a month until the election, it is too late to mount a write in campaign to elect Maggie, but I am certain that after reading her speech, you will agree that she should be sitting behind that big desk in the oval office.  


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—The speech I wish the President of the United States of America would have given in February. As the leader of the free world, the President of the United States had the opportunity and the responsibility to inform Americans. Time and again throughout history, great leaders have emerged due to their unselfish sacrifice, character, compassion, strength, and communications skills during a time of crisis. Americans don’t panic, as Trump said regarding his rationale for not telling us the real score. I wrote this speech in an hour after hearing the tapes of President Trump being interviewed in early February by Bob Woodward.  This is the speech I wish the President of the United States, Donald Trump, would have given in February. The USA accounts for 4.5% of the world’s population, but has 20% of the world’s cases of COVID-19 and 20% of the world’s deaths from COVID-19.

Words matter. Leadership matters. We, as Americans, deserve more than a president who hides information because he thinks we are a bunch of panic-stricken cowards who can’t handle the truth. We deserve a president who cares more about the country, all Americans, and the future and well-being of our Republic than he does himself, politics, his image, and celebrity status. Please read the following and see if it you think our country would be in a better place today if we had a president who would have been willing to put his ego aside and give us the following information. I’m just a normal American, with a normal job, two children, who loves this country and the opportunity it represents. We’re not perfect. No human is perfect. No government is perfect. No system is perfect, but our founders certainly built an exceptional form of government for the people and by the people. It’s our job to do our best each day to build upon that foundation to learn, improve, and get better. It’s our responsibility to make sure we build upon that foundation and elect people in all branches of government that showcase the best attributes and characteristics we possess as Americans.

THANKS FOR READING:
Maggie Smith

The SPEECH I WISH OUR PRESIDENT WOULD HAVE GIVEN at the ONSET of the CORONAVIRUS

Fellow Americans:

We have a challenge in front of us that is unlike any other we’ve faced in our lifetime. COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is an invisible threat to our health and welfare. Together, we will find the best way forward and we will prevail. We will remain calm but also vigilant.  As Americans, we have overcome crises before and we will use that same dedication to hard work, sacrifice, ingenuity, focus, and teamwork to overcome this crisis.

Today, I will outline what we know, the steps we have taken. What you can expect from this administration, resources you can use, and what you can do to help.

Now, is the time to put politics aside. Now, is the time to put divisiveness aside. Now is the time to rely on the brilliant scientists who are dedicated to learning about this new virus and finding the best ways to treat it with the ultimate goal of developing a safe and effective vaccine.

We must work together as Americans and citizens of the world to navigate this viral threat in order to minimize the damage and stop the spread as quickly as we can. This will require vigilance from all of us. We want to contain this virus and stop the spread in order to save lives.

Here is what we know:

As of today, we know that a new coronavirus has infected Wuhan, China. I have Dr. Faucci, who is one of our nation’s top epidemiologists with me and he will share medical information about the virus when I’m finished, but in broad terms, coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that cause diseases in animals and humans. They often circulate among camels, cats, and bats, and can sometimes evolve and infect people. You might remember SARS that affected many in Asia back in 2004 and there was MERS, the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, that affected many countries in 2012. Both of these were coronaviruses. The origin of this coronavirus is still being investigated. As I mentioned, we know the first recorded case was in WuHan, China, but again we will learn more as scientific investigators amass information. You’ll also hear the term COVID-19, where the CO stands for corona and the VI stands for Virus, the D stands for Disease and 19 is the year this particular virus was identified when China reported it to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019). The World Health Organization has provided the following information about testing, symptoms from the people infected so far, and how the virus spreads. [LIST ALL THE INFORMATION THAT WE KNOW WITH EACH SOURCE OF THE INFORMATION LISTED. (How many people infected worldwide, how many in the USA- for instance, in early February, we only had 12 cases and they were people who had returned to the US from China but some had not been in the Wuhan province, the CDC’s guidance that was published February that urged all people who had travelled to the US from mainland China since January 19th to self-quarantine and report their status to health officials, etc., just the facts and who is providing the information. Who What When Where and Why. Back to the speech

What the U.S. Government has done so far to prepare:

Here are the steps our administration has taken to combat the pandemic as of today.

We’ve set up a governor’s task force to help each state get the information and resources they need. Each member of the task force has been assigned 5 governors. They start their day with a meeting with each governor and then again at the end of the day to identify progress on action items established during the morning meeting. I am briefed at the end of each day by the task force members. We know that each state will have different needs and different levels of outbreak. The best way to minimize the spread of COVID-19 right now is for us to stay ahead of it and minimize contact with one another.

I have daily meetings with the leadership of both parties in Congress in conjunction with the Surgeon General, CDC director, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, FDA, and FEMA. This is a time for transparency, not politics. This is a time for scientists and epidemiologists, not conspiracy theories or snake oil cures. Please be especially careful of sharing inaccurate information. We know we will learn more each day, each hour about this virus. Therefore, truth and transparency is critical, but an understanding that information may change as doctors, epidemiologists, and scientists learn more about how the virus spreads, what treatments are the most helpful, and how it affects different populations.

The World

That brings us to the world. This pandemic doesn’t know any boundaries of country. We’ve organized a global COVID-19 task force that is comprised of each branch of government here in the United States and key members of my cabinet that will be in constant contact with the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and our allies to get key updates. This is a time when it’s helpful to have relationships around the world, especially the 80 years we’ve partnered with NATO. This Global Coronavirus Task Force is working to find the source of this novel coronavirus, COVID-19, to gain as much information as possible about the virus in order for us to understand it so we can combat it effectively. Again, information sharing and coordinated research efforts will help us be more effective to stop the spread of this virus, find the most effective treatments, and to identify the most accurate tests to diagnose coronavirus.

Accurate and reliable tests to know who has been infected with coronavirus is step 1 right now. The World Health Organization has provided testing information. Obviously, since this is a new virus, tests are limited. Therefore, we will work with the private sector and our government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control to find the most efficient way to increase the number of accurate tests. We will need to triage based on real data that shows where contagion is the greatest. Just as manufacturing ramped up during World War II, converting factories of all kinds to make much needed supplies such as tanks, airplanes, etc., that were critical to our success during the early war effort, our brilliant and dedicated scientists and doctors are critical to our success during this early part of the pandemic. Together, they will find the best path forward to get accurate and reliable tests while also working on treatment for this who are sick and also working with the world health community to find a safe and effective vaccine. But you are a critical part of our success to mitigate the spread of this virus, too. We all must do our part and there might be some short-term sacrifice involved, but as Americans, we play the long game and are willing to make sacrifices today to create a better tomorrow.

ACCURATE INFORMATION IS KEY

When crises are unfolding, it’s easy for inaccurate information to be distributed. Sometimes, it’s because the information appears correct but later is proven to be incorrect as we learn more. That’s why I encourage you to be extremely careful about your information sources and be responsible in what information you share. In short, always cite your sources. You should know where you are getting your information and let people know where you read it, heard it, or saw it.

One good source of information is the Johns Hopkins Hospital website. They have created a COVID-19 tracker that the entire world is using to track the virus. Their statistics and data input have been vetted by my administration and those in the scientific and medical community.

IMPORTANCE OF THE MEDIA

In talking to you about information, I must include the media. I know I have talked about FAKE NEWS and ALTERNATIVE FACTS in the past. However, this type of rhetoric is not useful during a time of crisis. Responsible reporting and distribution of the facts by the journalists in the media is imperative. While I’ve continuously called out reporters and news outlets during specific examples of what I think is an inherent bias during my term as president, the majority of reporters are dedicated to truth and responsible reporting. My personal opinions and popularity are not important during a crisis of this scale. Therefore, I implore each American to follow the truth, follow the facts, and I pledge that my administration will lead by example and be transparent with the media and with you. With that said, please know that information and data will most certainly change as WE LEARN MORE. This administration will work very hard to release information that has been properly vetted through reliable sources. All of us must work together to stay safe, stay healthy, and take care of each other.

I pledge that our administration will address the American people each night at 7 pm with the latest information. My team will provide access through every available channel, whether it be online, social media, streaming, network TV, or radio.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

So, what can you do as an American in the face of this crisis. First, remain calm. Secondly, do the normal things to stay as healthy as possible, including good hygiene and hand washing, getting enough sleep, watching for the symptoms we know are part of this virus (especially loss of smell and taste). If you have a fever, please call your doctor. Tests are limited and you want to minimize exposure to other people, but you don’t want to ignore symptoms. Please contact your doctor’s office and have them help you figure out the best option for your situation. Finally, accurate information is important. Please know that we are doing everything possible to find the right answers, minimize the negative impact of this virus, fight this pandemic with all of our resources. You can help by making sure you are responsible and careful with the information you share. This is a time for us to work together as Americans. We have faced challenges before and as a country we have succeeded by working together and bringing out the best in each other. I pledge to make sure I lead by example. I will not allow politics, rhetoric, and conspiracy theories to take center stage during a pandemic. We need everyone right now to be at the top of their game and that means you. Republicans, democrats, independents, and everything in between…party doesn’t matter, politics don’t matter…we are all in this together! All of our energy must be focused on minimizing the impact of coronavirus on the lives and health of Americans.

Please tune in for updates each day. If you have specific questions, you can contact the coronavirus hotline (it is a partnership between the federal government, state governments, and the private sector). You can call 1-800-555-1600, email info@cornonavirus.org, and get information at that website www.coronavirus.org.

Finally, please thank the nurses and doctors and all the healthcare workers. They stand ready to take on this virus. We appreciate their service and sacrifice. Obviously, we hope the protocols and planning we are putting into place now won’t be needed, but we must hope for the best while we prepare for the worst.

Please stay strong. Stay safe. God bless you and God bless the United States of America and the world.”

Final Note from Eshrink Editor and Daughter of Eshrink
When I wrote this speech, I wasn’t trying to Monday morning quarterback as they say…I was trying to illustrate how leadership makes a difference, especially in a crisis. Below are some resources I hope you find interesting and informative.

First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States

What Is Coronavirus from Johns Hopkins University

The World Coronavirus Tracker by Johns Hopkins University

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases – a non-profit founded in 1973 to provide dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the burden, causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases across the lifespan.

Daily Updates for the Month of February to MIT staff regarding COVID-19

List of Deaths Per Capita (the USA is – Click here for the full list

  • Peru
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Spain
  • Ecuador
  • Mexico
  • USA

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