Fear is universal, what we fear is not

By 13 March 2020 March 15th, 2020 No Comments

Fear is universal, what we fear is not

Covid-19 is a reminder that life can be unpredictable, that many things, which are a danger to our lives, are invisible to the naked eye. It is a virus that can bring misery long before it actually makes a person physically sick. These at least are my observations. I can also see that the virus shares one characteristic with fear: it’s infectious.

Any threat – real or perceived – reminds us of experiences from the past and has the potential to initiate old patterns of feelings, behaviour and thoughts. Somebody might sneeze in the queue behind us. What are your automatic thoughts? Do you say “bless you” or do you move three steps away and glare? Those of us who have made experiences of not having enough might go out and buy more than we need. What we buy reflects on what we value or fear, e.g. toilet paper, pain killers, dog food. How we try and protect ourselves might be a glimpse into how much we fear the loss of a loved one or how much we trust that others will be there to help us when we need them.

The trouble with fear is that it affects our ability to think clearly. Our thinking might mutate and result in catastrophising, all-or-nothing thinking, self or other blaming or other kinds of distorted thinking. We might get lost into automatic responses of fight, flight, freeze or even collapse. We might lose our ability to be empathetic with others and instead feel disconnected or even threatened by them.

Becoming aware of what it actually is that we do fear allows us to react more effectively, appropriately and measured. Above all, it will increase our capacity to work with others in times of uncertainty, which in the long run will increase our resilience in the face of adversity – long after this crisis has past.

Here is an invitation to take a moment, slow yourself down and reflect: Have a think about what it is that you actually fear about the Covid-19 outbreak. Take your time.


  1. What are the scenarios?
    Describe them, write them down.


  1. What are your emotions?
    Write them down.


  1. Identify your thoughts.
    Write them down.


  1. Examine any unhelpful thoughts.
    What is going on for you?


  1. Challenge any unhelpful thoughts.
    What could be an alternative? How could you make things easier for yourself? What is it you can do?


  1. What was that like? How are you feeling now?