Lately, I’ve not missed a single newsbyte or forward on the 20 odd chat groups that I’m part of. When chat groups went silent, I mindlessly toggled between my SM handles, YouTube and News apps, keeping abreast of the latest Corona notifications. Not just that, I liberally forwarded with evangelistic fervour, anything from important to frivolous and at times (must I admit?) even foolish. And also, got busy giving free opinions, unsolicited. Call me a Corona evangelist!
I’m sick of and not from Corona! Social distancing is coming at the cost of gadget gorging and specifically Corona bingeing. A new menace in the making.
During calamity and crisis it’s common for humans to experience negative emotions – Anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt, apathy and despair. Behavioural Psychology tells us that we use various coping mechanisms to react or respond to the threats around us. Adaptive mechanisms, attack mechanisms, avoidance mechanisms, cognitive mechanisms, defense mechanisms (Freud), etc.
Looking around, I see some of these playing up, in part or whole, in people around us. Here are some important, interesting and informative observations that I picked up.
Find your fit 😉
- The Hyper-vigilant
Some of us are careful, others vigilant. Being careful is sure, wise. But being ultra-careful and hyper-vigilant are impractical excesses that could steal the life out of us, as we attempt to protect the very thing we have already traded. Hyper-vigilance calls for one to be on top of the information game, at all times. Bingers-of-sorts. Info-bingers (C’mon, that’s not me!)
- The Broadcaster
Bingers make good broadcasters. ‘Sharing is caring’, that’s the oath by which they live. Some of us strongly feel an altruistic calling to share and when this is compounded with WFH incentives, we go on an overdrive and spam our ‘ultiverse’. Mission accomplished!
- The Fearmonger
The Binge-Broadcaster, totally oblivious, may be fear mongering yet another hyper-vigilant soul! Perhaps a well-intentioned deed that has the potential to be vilified into a vicious web of fear, anxiety and possibly panic.
- The Panicky
While fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, anxiety is anticipation of future threat. Some of us find ourselves to be more fearful than the others (the reasons for which are beyond the scope of this write-up). Fear that is constantly fed, could lead to anxiety. Anxiety unaddressed for prolonged periods of time may lead to panic. Panic could loosely be described as a sudden rush of fear and anxiety, intense enough to cause both physical and psychological symptoms. In Panic, the level of fear/anxiety experienced is extremely unrealistic and way out of proportion to the events or circumstances.iii
- The Catastrophizer
I touched the doorknob, I sure am infected, I will die within a few days, my children would be orphaned, they will be dragged to the streets and become anti-social and soon rot in prison! That’s a ‘Catastrophizer’. This distorted type of thinking leads people to dread or assume the worst when faced with the unknown. When people catastrophize, ordinary worries can quickly escalate.
All the above observations born out of our negative emotions, could wreak havoc on the individual’s emotional health and therefore should not be nourished. Let’s discover more!
- The Iron Man
Feel free to call him Thor or Hulk – this is our very own Corona Avenger! Unfazed, brave, mighty, gutsy and I must include brash. He thinks that COVID-19 is shivering in its pants to approach him. And so he ventures brazenly towards it! Rubbishing everything from social distancing, to sanitizers and soap and is even checking tickets to Wuhan or Milan next weekend. What a contrast to the ones above!
- The Jester
The guy in your group with the extra pair of funny bones. The clown (can’t use the ‘Joker’ anymore). He uses humour and satire, even sarcasm from time to time, as an avoidance mechanism to diffuse threat. Not unhealthy, within limits. Sometimes helpful too. As long as his humour doesn’t livid COVID. All izzz well!
- The Know-it-all
Mr. Know-it-all is the local expert around. With medical professionals in steep demand, he graciously rises to the occasion and disseminates half-baked knowledge, courtesy WA, Wiki and Google and bets other’s lives on it! Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s, give it up for him!
- The Sorted
He has a 6 month stock of tissues, masks, sanitizers and paraphernalia in his backyard for his house-helps. And whatever else that one needs to party for a year, in the wake of the 3rd World War. Did I forget, the seven medical insurances and a Pulmonologist wife and an Intensivist son? They even have a spare ventilator at home for their pets! He has painstakingly thought of everything and meticulously prepared for every contingency. He’s dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. There’s a thing or two, we could learn from him. Good luck!
- The Cynic
He scoffs at everything. He has a penchant for always spotting glasses ‘half-empty’. Here’s our quintessential pessimist. He has a negative opinion on everything, except of course, his negative opinions. He sees Corona wiping away the whole human race and is optimistic that all the efforts by world governments, are plain humbug!
- The Detective
From Kabbadi to Cricket, Corona to Carcinoma, Carrots to Caramel, everything is shrouded in conspiracy, for our Conspiracy Detective. His research obsessions are, one-world-order, the moon-landing myth, alien sightings and the like. COVID-19 is his latest pet project.
- Mr. Apocalypse
Here’s our ‘hobby-end-timer’. He swings into swift action, as though he were waiting for Corona to show-up. Rapture, Left-behind, Tribulation and Apocalyptic Spiritualizing are his ‘strengths’. Sometimes terrorizing souls into the kingdom. Often, well-intentioned. Perhaps, a tad skewed. At least, he does what he knows best. Eternity will tell.
- The Apathetic
Who cares, what Mr.Apathetic thinks about COVID-19?! Even if it came to get him, or we are at the brink of oblivion, so what?!
- The Spectator
Two-thirds of every WA group and 990 of your 1000 FB/Insta/Twitter followers – the silent Spectators. They are watching. Perhaps they are reading, hearing. But you have no way of ever finding what they think or feel, one way or the other, about this pandemic or anything for that matter. But they will continue to be, to see. No they won’t – like, share or comment. They will continue to exist for a long time to come!
- The Sympathiser
He sees the struggle, he sees the pain. He’s compassionate and tender-hearted enough to wish it away, perhaps even pray. That’s a sympathizer. At least he is sympathetic!
- The Consultant
He is wise. So, he would advise. He would suggest. Share ideas. Give directions. Alas, without lifting his wee little finger.
Each of us is some of this at some point in time (at least I am). Some positive, some negative. Each behaviour, freely left to its excess, without moderation or correction, can clearly become Corona-triggered collateral damage. Causing more and lasting havoc – emotional, physical, social and spiritual, than Corona itself!
How Now Shall We Live?
- Be Sensitive
Fear, anxiety, panic and despair is writ large across the globe. We don’t have to fuel the fire and amplify fear and despair. Hope diffuses fear. Anchored hope, is the need of the hour.
- Be Sensible
While many panic, there are some Iron Men strutting around. As though they are immune to infection. We should be bold, yet cautious. Even if one were asymptomatic, he could be carrying bugs around and cause the weaker brother to stumble, because of his faith! Comply with governmental norms. Let’s be responsible for the sake of others.
- Be Sacrificial
While we are sensitive and sensible, hope emanating, dispelling fear, we need to be purposeful and practical. Sacrifice is the hallmark of Christian discipleship. We need to be prepared to walk the talk and validate our faith through our deeds (when called to, in this specific context).
A delicate balance indeed. Back in 1527, a deadly plague hit the great reformer Martin Luther’s town of Wittenberg and he wrote a letter to a friend, explaining how churches should deal with such complicated circumstances.
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
In Jesus Christ alone, we have the true Messiah, uniquely qualified, not just to sympathize but empathize with our struggles and sorrows. For “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”. He tells us today, ‘Fear not, I AM with You.’
Charles P. Joseph is a speaker and trainer with RZIM. He holds a Masters degree in psychology. An alumnus of Christian Medical College, Vellore, Charles served as a lecturer and lead clinical Therapist. Answering a call to rehabilitate the soul and not just the body, he made a major career shift and joined the RZIM team. Charles enjoys public and private Q&A sessions and delights in discussing faith one on one with both seekers and skeptics
 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 119–38.