Just getting back on track after the lockdown?
This article highlights the main psychological consequences of the lockdown during the Covid 19 catastrophe. It shows the central errors in thinking that many decision-makers succumbed to and the damage that was done as a result—even if it was due solely to ignorance. A rethink is urgently needed from a psychological perspective.
After social and economic life, the education and healthcare systems have been massively shut down in recent weeks, they are now to be ramped up again as rapidly as possible. People are supposed to get going again tout suite, to work and to consume, above all to catch up with the economic consequences of the crisis.
What is unfortunately forgotten in all the slogans about a “sense of unity” and “tackling the crisis” is the “human factor,” or the human psyche.
1st key misconception: “We’ll go from 0 to 100, really take off!”
In psychology, the “concept of self-efficacy” is of great importance for explaining health, resilience, and performance motivation. In simplified terms, this concept implies that people who feel they can make a difference themselves and through their own efforts are both more resilient and healthier, as well as more motivated to perform, than people who experience the opposite of this, namely powerlessness.
Self-efficacy includes, among other things, the feeling of subjective certainty that possible efforts made under one’s own power will lead to success. In relation to Covid-19, self-efficacy means believing there is no danger that the next arbitrarily decided lockdown will undo all efforts.
For the working population, self-efficacy includes above all the subjective certainty that the money earned and taxed with one’s own labor input will not soon be double-taxed again as a “wealth tax” or “solidarity contribution no. x” by an unconditional redistribution of these funds to the state, large corporations and the non-working portion of the population.
Now, if, as in the Covid-19 crisis, people are deprived of this sense of self-efficacy by being banned from self-employment, or by the threat of insolvency on the part of their employers, or by the threat of asset levies, the result is a sense of powerlessness. If the feeling of powerlessness prevails, people’s resilience and health as well as their motivation to get back to their own business or the business of their employers “at the push of a button” will decline.
The lethargic stand-by mode that has set in for many people during the long weeks of lockdown persists for now with insufficient sense of self-efficacy, and everyone waits to see what comes down the pipeline (or not). The hope that the reopening of stores and restaurants will lead to desired consumption will persist as a hope, because “going shopping” is an activity many people want to enjoy. Due to the obligation of wearing masks that inhibit breathing, few people will “go shopping” unchecked, but will instead buy the goods they need online or temporarily do without them. And, hovering over everything, uncertainty about the job or self-employment leads many people to feel caution and restraint when making purchasing decisions.
Therefore, from a psychological point of view, there will be no “take-off of the economy” in the near future, because living people with their emotions are still involved.
2nd key misconception: “We have a sense of responsibility”.
There is a simple formula: Those who have rights also have responsibilities. And those who are deprived of their rights no longer feel any obligation.
In recent weeks, the German population has had to give up a large part of its basic rights. Both the freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression as well as the right to resistance (demonstration against grievances) were massively restricted, along with other fundamental rights. The obligation to “socially distance oneself” meant that people living alone or in retirement or nursing homes in particular were severely socially isolated, sometimes in one room, sometimes for weeks at a time. Social isolation weakens people’s immune defenses and resistance. Social isolation has been an acknowledged method of torture in the past, a punishment that, after a certain time, caused not only depression but also the desire to commit suicide.
Regarding the sense of solidarity, many police stations reported during the lockdown that people were calling the police to denounce their neighbor for, for example, not keeping the minimum distance from visitors or receiving family members, even though this is prohibited by emergency law. All this is a misconstrued sense of responsibility and rather reminds people of measures taken by the Stasi during the GDR era. If one person can no longer trust the other and has to fear being denounced and reported, solidarity with fellow human beings is hardly possible.
A person’s sense of responsibility is thus reduced from a “we” to an “I”—everyone becomes their own closest ally.
This was shown, among other things, by the widely reported scenes at the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis, when people with existential fears took the goods from each other’s shopping carts in the supermarket.
From a psychological point of view, it can be summarized that restrictions on basic rights, restrictions on personal freedom of movement and restrictions on private life lead to disenfranchised people feeling less and less obliged to both the state and other people, and increasingly striving to fulfill only their own needs than to stick together with a real feeling of solidarity in the crisis.
3rd key misconception: “We are optimistic; we can do it”
Since about mid-March 2020, the news outlets and mainstream social media have been almost exclusively about the horror images and messages related to the coronavirus. The psychological effect of a continuous media bombardment on people’s subconscious with “Corona—Covid-19 crisis—danger –horrendous consequences” should not be underestimated here.
In North Korea, for example, where social media and the Internet are used less, the subconscious of the population is stimulated to accept the state opinion by perpetual propaganda broadcast by continuous sonic input from loudspeakers.
In Germany, the population learns the daily news about Covid-19 through commonly used social media, through television and through the now one-sided reporting of the few remaining publishing houses. This flood of information also seeps into people’s subconscious as a constant and unfiltered message and, if uncritically accepted, has the effect that a) independent thinking is prevented, b) the critical mind is paralyzed and c) dissenters in the immediate vicinity are laughed at or made into the image of an enemy as “conspiracy theorists”.
Optimism and motivation to perform cannot be expected under these conditions from a psychological point of view.
What is interesting here is the current development that even professionally sound statements by recognized medical scientists that contradict the RKI (the public health institute) or the WHO or the federal government are being censored more and more and deleted from popular social media. Indeed, as the renowned psychology professor Rainer Mausfeld stated in his book “Warum schweigen die Lämmer”: “Dissent is outlawed.” Anyone who doesn’t conform to the predetermined opinion of the mainstream or who expresses a critical view of it is now a “conspiracy theorist” and as such a potential danger to the population. Forming one’s own opinion is undesirable and expressing opinions is increasingly inadmissible.
Unwanted are for example critical references to the fact that in the case figures on “Covid-19 deaths” in Germany no distinction is made as to whether a person clearly died “from Covid-19” or “with Covid-19”.
That is, no distinction is made based on whether a person who would have very likely died soon anyway also had Covid-19, or whether a person who would have otherwise survived died only because of Covid-19. The independent advice of professionally recognized virologists who are really familiar with this matter is ignored or dismissed as “trivializing fake news.”
From a psychological point of view, one-sided reporting to the population is a highly effective way of maintaining both ignorance and uncertainty and panic, thereby nipping any optimism in the bud. In addition, the currently increasing censorship of opinions that do not correspond to the desired mainstream opinion tends to fuel the mistrust of the critically thinking population rather than leading to trust in the government and its advisors. And this trust is urgently needed to achieve a common togetherness in the sense of “we can do it” and to master this crisis successfully long-term.
From a psychological point of view, it would be wiser to allow technically provable opinions of other scientists and the questioning of supposed “facts” than to suppress them through censorship and warning.
Questioning does not mean criticizing the system. Questioning means to check the correctness of statements, because one thing is clear: “errare humanum est”. We quickly see counting errors or faulty derivations from spurious correlations, i.e. incorrectly interpreted correlations in certain events.
One may also ask oneself the question: What happens if hackers log into the servers of the RKI or the WHO and manipulate the figures? If independent verification and questioning is no longer allowed, and if the hacking is not noticed, this would have devastating effects on the population.
Since all measures are ultimately about the health and protection of the German population and the well-being of an entire nation, the professional dispute should be encouraged to be factual, well-founded, and conducted in public forums with viable arguments.
Some of my clients for whom I have provided psychological support in recent weeks have expressed other massive fears in addition to the growing mistrust due to increasing censorship, fears that also nip any optimism in the bud.
These fears, interestingly, do not include concerns about physical health in the context of Covid-19. Many people have now compared the official statistics on causes of death in Germany, understood and realized that the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease, domestic accidents or cancer, or the quite normal annual wave of influenza is many times higher than the mortality rate from Covid-19.
A large part of people’s fears relate to the loss of hard-earned wealth through increasing unemployment, company bankruptcies, and insolvency in the case of self-employment.
Another part of people’s fears relates to the loss of their own homes and private pensions due to the discussed “burden sharing” for the state to finance the population’s debt load, large corporations, and highly indebted EU countries such as Italy or Spain.
In addition, there is an increasing fear among clear-thinking people that a “compulsory vaccination” will soon be established. Current legislative changes are preparing the ground for this, and now, in the perception of many people, it’s only a matter of time until the “vaccine” will be found and made compulsory for 7 billion people.
Fears of unresearched side effects of the vaccine are the main topic here, above all fears of damage such as that caused at the time by the drug Thalidomide from the Bayer company—profound physical deformities and damage, the economic consequences of which the victims are still grappling with to some extent to this day. Many people who are afraid of prematurely approved vaccines have concrete reasons for this, since irreversible vaccine damage has already been observed many times in recent years in some countries such as India or Africa. In addition, there are fears of additives that have consequences for our genetic code, that are secretly added for sterilization, or that cause psychological problems.
Some of my clients also expressed the intention to commit suicide in the event of an unavoidable compulsory vaccination for fear of these unpredictable side effects and obscure components of the dreaded compulsory medication, which could massively impair their quality of life.
Here, people’s fears are absolutely understandable from a psychological point of view. If a vaccine is not only approved prematurely and without serious clarification of side effects and long-term consequences, but is prescribed as a compulsory vaccination or in exchange for basic rights, this substance represents a considerable health risk for the population.
A little fear keeps people alert and inspires them to find solutions. Too much fear, however, paralyzes. Those paralyzed by fear become incapable of action.
A feeling of “We are optimistic and can do it” can no longer be expected under these circumstances, even with the deployment of all available psychological expertise.
Many people are asking themselves: Is this just what certain powers-that-be want?
From my personal point of view, it is urgently necessary in the current phase of the Covid 19 crisis to listen not only to independent medical or legal expertise, but also to independent psychological expertise, so that the “human” factor, with all its fears, worries ,and needs can be taken into account—for a genuine sense of “we” and for the well-being of the people in our country.
About the author: Dr. Karin Joder heads the company “Clever People,” is a psychological psychotherapist and Master of Public Health (health scientist / MPH) in her own private practice for giftedness in Kiel.