Has the "new normal" become the "new abnormal" fuelled by fear?
Posted on 16th September 2020 at 07:36
There’s been much talk in recent months about the “new normal” and exactly what that may be. We’ve even mentioned it in our blog posts. However, having given the matter some thought, we’ve decided this is one phrase we won’t be using in future.
Well, for the simple reason there’s nothing remotely “normal” about what’s been happening in recent months. Or people’s reactions to it. Let alone what’s now being forecast for the months ahead…
In our view, a much more accurate description would be the “new abnormal.” Now we appreciate this may sound a little harsh – or, possibly, cynical – to some people, so please bear with us while we explain why.
Let’s start by taking a look at the definition of “abnormal”, courtesy of our trusty dictionary:
“Abnormal, deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying.”
It highlights both of the aspects we’re talking about. The deviation from what was previously considered “normal” AND the worry – and fear – underpinning it.
Whether we like to admit it or not (!) we all like some degree of normality in our lives. To give us some stability and a feeling of safety. It lets us know what’s going to happen, when it’s likely to do so and the end result we can expect. While we may all have our own particular preferences about just how much normality we’d like (!), routine and certainty – of some sort of another – are important for all of us.
So, when things suddenly change without any warning, it can feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. The normality we’ve always relied on is no more, leaving us feeling exposed and vulnerable.
And this is where fear comes rushing in, as our basic survival instincts kick in to help protect us from whatever it is. However, by a strange twist of fate, it’s also where our instincts can inadvertently start to work against us.
Why is this?
Well, for the simple reason that our instincts are designed to protect us from an IMMEDIATE and LIFE THREATENING EVENT. One that’s happening RIGHT NOW and has to be dealt with RIGHT NOW. Imagine something big, hairy and with lots of teeth heading in your direction and you’ll get the idea! Even worse, it’s hungry and looking for its next meal…
However, for the vast majority of the time, we’re not facing an immediate and life threatening event. Instead, it’s all about what MIGHT HAPPEN, not what’s actually happening. In other words, it’s coming straight from our imagination NOT from reality. A fear, not a threat.
Added to this, fears aren’t a split second life or death thing but can go on for days, weeks, month or years. We know them well as the scourge of modern life, Stress, in all its many guises.
Little wonder that fear is often referred to as False Evidence Appearing Real. Or, as someone so beautifully put it; it’s like taking the Bogeyman out of the cupboard and putting him in new clothes and fresh make up.
While threats and fears may differ in intensity, our bodies react to them in exactly the same way. With adrenaline – “fight or flight” – and the release of huge amounts of energy to provide the necessary fuel. After all, if it’s all about life and death, it’s a small price to pay.
But what if it isn’t a split second life or death situation? What if our bodies remained on red alert for a danger that never quite materialises? For days or weeks; months or even years.
Just think of the energy burnt up in the process. The effects on our bodies and health. And, by another strange twist of fate, this hits our Immune Systems particularly hard, which is particularly relevant just now…
However, there’s another set of instincts which are triggered in the process – whether by a threat or fear – which we’d like to mention today. They’ve been much in evidence in recent weeks and can be seen in any wildlife documentary you’ve ever watched; particularly those on the savanna featuring a pack of hungry lions…
While we may not like to think of ourselves as animals, humans are pack animals. We are social animals – to varying degrees (!) – and live in groups. This means we instinctively pick up whatever’s going on around us, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not.
So, just like the zebra on the savanna when the hungry lions come passing by, it only takes a split second from one member of the herd becoming aware of the danger, to them all becoming aware of it. They may not know exactly what the threat is, but they all know there is one. Instantly their world contracts, with their focus being on locating and identifying the threat. Hyper vigilance rules the moment. At the same time, they move into a much tighter group, seemingly to move as one in perfect harmony. After all, it’s much safer being in a group than on your own, ready to make a dash for safety if the need arises.
While instincts help protect us from an immediate and life endangering THREAT, there is one huge downside of relying on them. They shut down a wider perspective and critical thinking. After all, what use are these when the threat is here and now? However, when we encounter any fear, a wider perspective is exactly what’s needed.
Because fear comes straight from our imagination, not from what’s actually happening. It’s when 1 + 1 add up to 3. Or, perhaps, 300! This is precisely the time when we need a wider perspective. To apply a little critical thinking of our own to weigh up whether there actually is a threat AND what it means to us individually.
And this is where our instincts start working against us. Instead of taking a deep breath to look our fears in the face, we all too easily succumb to them. We try to remain stay safe within our own little group – our herd – hypervigilant for the threat that never quite arrives. And ignoring anything that doesn’t relate to the fear in some way. Talk about tunnel vision…
Sadly, in recent months, we’ve been able to see this happening all around us. Once again, it’s been fuelled by mainstream media aided by a huge amount of peer – herd (!) – pressure. If everyone is behaving in a certain way, then it must be the “right” thing to do and so must I.
Instead of helping people gain an understanding of the broader picture, the issues involved AND the particular risk FOR THEM, coverage has focussed on the sensationalist “doom and gloom” aspect. While there’s been a huge amount of coverage, a well balanced perspective has been in very short supply. Far too much in the way of guesstimates and opinions dressed up as solid facts. Too many “Experts” simply expressing their own particular opinion in line with whatever the main news story is that day. An almost fanatical insistence on there only being one interpretation of what’s happening and one easy solution. Everything else dismissed out of hand or just plain ignored. If only life was that simple…
And, if you think this is rather a harsh thing to say, just take a look for yourself. That’s if you can summon up the courage to do so (!). Do a little research of you own. Weigh up the facts for yourself. If nothing else, simply notice how many well researched commentators and sites have been closed down, blocked or simply hounded down unmercifully in recent months; for daring to express an opinion contrary to that expressed in the mainstream media.
Once again, it’s time to remember that life is all about PERSPECTIVE, particularly in these unchartered waters. Rather than automatically accepting whatever’s in the mainstream media – or other people are saying / doing – as true, applying a little thought of your own to it. Not getting swept away by all the hysteria. Asking yourself whether it feels right – or rings true – to you. Doing a little research of your own rather than relying on others to do it for you, which really is all that mainstream media is doing...
While people seem all too quick to jump to conclusions, you don’t have to join in the game. You could just decide to sit on the fence – say you don’t know – and wait to see what happens.
And, while you do so, don’t forget the simple things at home each day to help yourself. Taking responsibility for your own health and the way you live your life. We’ll be doing our traditional pre winter reminder about this next week, although coming from a slightly different angle to usual.
Before we finish for today, here’s a lovely quote which really should be the strapline for the times we’re in. It comes from Marie Curie and says:
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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