Sometimes it is not only all right but appropriate to be afraid and anxious. In these days of a runaway virus some fear will help keep you safe and healthy. At the same time, you don’t want to be disabled by fear or have your general happiness and well-being ruined by it.
Fear can make you alert to danger and motivated to do something about it. If fear feels like a weakness, that’s all right, too, because we all need to accept a portion of weakness and vulnerability just to be human. Weakness and strength are like yin and yang, one supporting the other.
But a funny thing happens to fear along the way. If you are not willing to show any weakness, you might convert that fear into something else. Sometimes, as in the case of Covid-19, people express their fears indirectly as denial and avoidance. They may pretend that the threat doesn’t exist or isn’t as bad as experts say it is. Or they blame someone else, like the doctors. Blame is an easy way to disown your feelings. There is no logic at work there, but we’re talking about emotions, not ideas.
If you can own up to your fears, which may not be terribly conscious, than you have the basis for courage and intelligence, the two qualities needed to deal with a dangerous virus. By denying fear, you end up with puffy bravado and swagger—“I’m going to keep on doing what I want to do.” This display of strength is not the real thing, but a false substitute. Denying fear, you don’t grasp your situation clearly, but with genuine fear you can build courage and even find wisdom.
Covid-19 could have many benefits, in spite of its tragedies. It could help us grow up and mature as people, facing adversity in spite of our fears and learning what it is like to feel courageous and competent. For all the obvious successes in modern culture, you sense a moral sleepiness and self-doubt in the face of challenges. This is an opportunity to wake up, be strong, use our intelligence and be patient as we face the challenge head-on.
Books by Thomas Moore
The Planets Within: Ficino’s Astrological Psychology. Bucknell University Press. 1982. ISBN978-0-83875-022-3
Rituals of the imagination. 2nd edition. Dallas: Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. 1984. ISBN0-911005-03-X.