Dealing with Fear

9 April 2020

Understanding the dynamic of fear.

Biological fear is fear in response to the need for survival. As a young infant, this arises from a fear of being left alone because we cannot care for our own needs. If a carer is not with us as an infant, the infant is unable to feed itself, keep warm and dry and protect itself from harm and the infant will literally die. As the infant grows, the infant learns to take care of its biological survival. If there is a danger, the grown person can respond and protect itself.

The grown person takes care of their own needs. One of those needs is the need for intimacy. An intimate relationship may fail and the person reports feelings that they feel like they are dying. The person is experiencing fear that they may die or maybe having an urge to cause their own death. This could be due to early episodes when the person was an infant and they awoke in their cot crying for care. The care never arrived because the carer was maybe drunk or talking on the phone, or some other emotional or physical unavailability…The unavailability of care is a repressed emotion in the now-grown person. Repressed emotions are a reminder to the person. The person recalls the helplessness.

Fear and Covid-19

As we face the Covid-19 situation in disbelief that our world has Lockdown, we may experience fear. This fear may be biological fear in the case of loss of food resources and shelter and security, a positive Covid-19 test result and Covid-19 symptoms. The loss of food resources and shelter and security could lead to death from starvation, weather elements or violence and the positive Covid-19 test results and symptoms could lead to death from the novel virus.

In the absence of these actual life threats, our fear during Covid-19 Lockdown may be due to an earlier episode as an infant or child. Repressed emotions as an infant or child may be stirred and result in behaviour for example panic buying of toilet rolls, alcohol or chocolate.

You are actually fine, but you are filled with fear. Your thoughts are filled with fear that you may have the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). Your beliefs about the virus overcoming you are linked to your ability to imagine. You imagine creative scenarios of family members phoning you to tell you of their positive results, family being hospitalised and dying. Your imagination creates a scene of your business failing or you be retrenched. We embody our beliefs.

Overcoming your fear

How do we overcome fear?

We need to dissolve the belief.

The belief is made up of thoughts:

I am going to test positive. I will land up on a ventilator and die. My family will die. I will run out of finance. I will be homeless and starve.

Now let us sort the thoughts:


I am healthy. I am eating healthy and exercising to boost my immune system. Many people recover from Covid-19. The number of people that recover from Covid-19 is more than the people that die. My country has health services. The people around me are healthy. I know someone Covid-19 positive and they never developed symptoms. The Lockdown is flattening the curve. I have income. I have a home and food in the home.

Virtual or someone else’s reality:

My family, friends and colleagues are sick and dying. I am alone. I have no resources to sustain my life. The world economy has fallen apart, airlines are bankrupt and I will never travel again. We should have grown vegetables and now the food resources have dried up.

Notice what you are thinking about.

Is the thought your own reality right now?

Separate the reality from the imagined virtual, or someone else’s, reality.

Where in time are you thinking?

If it is not the here and now, how long did it take you to race to that thought?

“Fear can spread from person to person faster than the Coronavirus – but there are ways to slow it down” – Eva Beronious.

Jacek Debiec describes the panic shopping in response to the novel Coronavirus as being due to our hardwired fright, freeze, flight or fight biological survival response. Using the analogy of a buck seeing a lion approaching. The buck first freezes indicating to the other buck the danger of the lion’s presence. The herd of buck, then flee from the lion. People respond similarly when watching another person panic. They respond as a “panicked herd”.

Tools to survive Covid-19

Avoid a “panicked herd”. Talk to people who are calm, positive and not given to over-exaggeration.

Gather actual facts. The more actual facts you gather, the safer you will feel.

Social media can assist us with gathering information on the Covid-19 situation, but Jeanne Segal warns us to use only trustworthy sources, limit how many times you check updates and be careful what you share.

Focus on what you can control. You cannot control how long the pandemic will last. You can wash your hands frequently, stay home as much as possible, keep two metres between you and another person and get plenty of sleep to boost your immune system.

Plan what you can. Write down your worries, make a list of solutions, focus on the concrete and draw up a plan of action.

Stay connected. Do not let the novel Coronavirus dominate your speech. Be mindful of how your social interactions are affecting you.

Take care of your body, mind and spirit. Be kind to yourself. Make a routine.

Help others. Donate food to those in need.

Special thanks to:

Gary van Warmerdam and Eva Beronius from the Pathway to Happiness.
Jacek Debiec Help Guide
Jeanne Segal Uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus