A few people have now asked me why other people panic. It seems bizarre to them that anyone would worry about getting the flu especially if they are not in the at-risk group.
To them, the measures being taken to stop the virus from spreading seem over the top. Why risk the whole economy to prevent everyone from getting an illness they most certainly will be getting anyway?
I don’t pretend to have the medical or scientific knowledge necessary to explain the logic behind it all.
But what I can explain is people’s emotional reaction to what’s going on in the world.
We can look at it and shame it.
Or we can look at it through the lens of compassion and attachment and see it as a fear response.
Not a fear of a virus.
But a fear of loss.
If you are at home cosying up and resting without having to worry that anyone you love is going to die, then it’s a very different experience to the one of someone who loves someone old, sick or vulnerable very deeply.
You might be more able to relate if you have children and you imagined that they were the ones most at risk. How scared would you feel then? How much would you worry about losing them? What measures would you take to protect them from getting sick and potentially dying?
Or what if you are a nurse or doctor who sees people suffer and die all around them? How would that change your experience?
Is it possible that you would begin to fear losing people even if you didn’t love them but just because it can be incomprehensible and unbearable to the human mind to witness so much pain and suffering?
Maybe that would make you start to fear loss too …
In any case, what we require more now than ever is empathy and compassion.
Just because something doesn’t affect you the way it does others doesn’t mean that they are overreacting, being ridiculous or out of control.
It means that you have a different experience. Probably one you can be grateful for. And I am happy about that.
The fear always lessens when there seems to be less to lose.
Most human beings love someone so deeply that the loss of that human being feels unbearable. And so we worry and panic and try to do everything we can think of to help and protect them in whatever way we can.
And if that’s closing schools and businesses, staying at home for a long time and buying lots of supplies to keep yourself and those you love safe, then so be it.
What we need in challenging situations like this one is not more judgment and shame.
It is more understanding and compassion.