Typically when people are faced with fear inducing situation we commonly think of the fight/flight dichotomy. And we see that a lot now a days in the times of Covid. And the thing is that these two responses to fear are not typically bad, they’re just responses. It makes sense to run away from a oncoming train or fight off a spider crawling up your leg. Freezing on the other hand is typically where things go wrong. Part of the reason the whole “stranger danger” ethos of raising one’s kids has fallen out of fashion. Is that by making children overly fearful of the outside world, paradoxically it makes them easier to abuse. A terrified child will often just freeze up while being abducted instead of question their abductor or fight back, which usually results in the abduction being thwarted by onlookers.
When it comes to Covid we see a similar pattern. Some taking the head of public health officials have fled from the danger of crowds and have fought back using masks and hand sanitizer, including some who’ve gone the extra mile to work on producing PPE or coming out of retirement to return to work in the medical field. We have also seen some freezing. It’s notable that a considerable number of people who are now anti-mask / anti-lockdown protesters are also associated with fringe groups like Qanon, the proud boys, and Donald Trump’s death cult. How is it that these groups are connected to “freezing” you may ask? It’s quite simple these groups mostly are reacting to fear inducing events in a fanciful way. Many of the anti-maskers I know were some of the most fearful of the virus in the beginning of this crisis. They desperately looked out for answers to what was going on even though information at that time was slim and medical professionals were still trying to figure out what was going on. At a certain point they got themselves so worked up that I believe their adrenaline just ran out. A component of freezing is denying that the danger in front of you just doesn’t exist or you start to mistake a separate phenomena as the real source of your distress. And often this new target of your fear is something that seems more within your control. For nearly all anti-maskers it became the very means of combating the virus: face masks, social distancing, and now even hand sanitizer that became the enemy. Imagine a sick patient, away from their home put in a hospital. At a certain point they may forget that it was their very serious disease or a car accident that put them there. But none the less they instead see the doctors and nurses as their captors and their IV drips as poison. This is what has happened to the anti-maskers, at least the rank and file ones. In the hospital example I provided above such cases usually are resolved by reassurance and good bedside manner from the doctors and nurses. But in this pandemic, the frightened patients have been fed a host of misinformation from professional con-artists like Peggy Hall and a whole government apparatus terrified that any mention of covid would tank short term approval ratings. Seriously the incompetence of the Trump/Pence regime around covid likely tanked their reelection chances but we are not talking about long term thinkers here.
The only way out of this frozen mindset is ironically to take a step back. Write down what your feeling. If you value questioning what you are told then be consistent, apply that same reasoning to those giving you alternative facts. And realize that even if you’ve fallen, generally there is a path to redemption for us all.