King’s College London did some research backed by NIHR (click here to read it) into levels of anger caused by and related to COVID19 (CoronaVirus). It was released today and led to Calm People being invited on to several radio stations to discuss the findings. You can hear one of the interviews with BBC WM here.
The reason for the name of this article was that they identified that more and more people were heading towards conflict because they disagreed with and felt angry about other’s behavior related to the corona virus situation. More and more of us are going “Beyond The Tut!”
They found the following
53% of the population have felt angry with other people because
of how they are behaving in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
23% have had arguments with friends and family and over their behaviour related to themandeic
8% are no longer talking to family or friends for the same reason.
There are lots more findings in the report but 3 other key figures that stick out were that…
69% of us get a great deal of information on coronavirus from Twitter
62% perceive coronavirus as a very high risk to themselves personally
and finally 61% felt certain or very likely to face financial difficulties.
What’s going on?
Other than an international pandemic?…we are scared. That’s no surprise really. This pandemic across the world has killed over a million people and made millions more seriously ill. It has paused economies and changed lives permanently. It has cost countless jobs and altered the living standards of many more families then simply those affected by job losses.
It’s Impact is far and wide ranging and it is unpredictable. It is understandable that we are scared.
There are some other issues going on here too.
In this country and in much of the western world our sense of self esteem, our self value, is often tied up in our career, our jobs and the possessions we have that show our status in society. So this virus, for many of us, has not just affected our health but has also threatened the status in society we have worked so hard for. If that sounds shallow, so be it but it is a factor of the consumerist culture that we have all enjoyed allowing to develop. A Lot of our self worth is wrapped up in the good times, and the goods, we can share the enjoyment of with others on various social media.
So we are scared and our self esteem is threatened. No surprise then that we may be a little more angry than we are normally.
It’s not always anger
When we dig down to the root cause of anger it is not always something that connects directly towards what we are expressing anger towards. In fact very often when we are angry there are other feelings going on but we are not able to express them in the healthiest way, and we resort to anger as the most effective way that we know.
Many of us have not been brought up in families and environments that talk about feelings of vulnerability and allow those to be there in our lives. Thus, many of us do not have healthy coping mechanisms in place for feeling vulnerable. Instead we may resort to drinking or eating, or maybe other drugs, to numb the feelings of vulnerability and our only way of expressing them is to get angry. In other words, often when I am angry, underneath that anger I am scared, hurt, shameful and sad. Unable to express those feelings I get angry. That is why american therapists often refer to anger as a secondary emotion and they claim that there is always another emotion underneath it. I disagree with that as an absolute because sometimes I am angry and that is all I am. However, it is often the case that there is deeper vulnerability going on.
This means when we are in this state it is easier to be angry even if the cause is other issues.
This is why when I used to be very stressed in a job a long time ago I found myself seeking out what I now think of as “righteous anger.” I would see people parked in disabled spaces who did not look disabled and had no badge and I’d righteously leap to the aid of every disabled person and challenge them. I’d do the same with the parent and child spaces.
In April when we locked down and we were only allowed out for 1 hour of exercise each day I used my hour to go for a run. During this time I was as concerned as anyone for what the pandemic meant for my work, the country on the whole and my family. For four consecutive runs I came back having had some form of grumpy, on one occasion angry, conflict with people on the footpaths near us about socially distancing. Obviously I was right and they were wrong and I had my point of view that supported that.
The reality, however, was that the common denominator in each situation was me…I had to take a hard look at myself, look at how I was coping with uncertainty and take some of my own advice, which I duly did.
Aside from all this there is another issue with going beyond the tut! Just as you may have a short fuse and want to have a go, there are plenty of people out there that feel the same. At least 53% according to this survey. It may also be that the person you observe without a mask on is doing it to be deliberately provocative and is having a bad day. That is a potentially angry and dangerous combination so to repeat a well worn proverb “discretion is the better part of valour.”
So what to do – some instant tips
When you see someone behaving in a way that you would not try this…
- Breathe. Take a few deep breaths counting your breath in for 7 and counting it out for 11. Repeat 3 times. It is possible this is all you need to do as you will have built in a small firebreak of time and the moment may have passed.
- Ask yourself “will this matter in 5 days time?” If it won’t then it probably is not worth the effort of the risk of confrontation now.
- Ask yourself “could this really be about me?” In other words am I super stressed, am I anxious? am I worried? Is this just a way for me to let off steam? If so there are better ways.
Finally, there are people out there that are inconsiderate. There are people out there that do not always understand the world the way you do. My experience of most people is that they do not get up each day determined to wind others up and cause confrontations. The chances are the person not distancing or not wearing a mask or parking in the diabled space is forgetful, not understanding it all fully, or has issues going on that we may never know about.
A little bit of empathy and compassion can go along away. If I do talk to people about their behavior, I try to do so from an empathetic and compassionate point of view and thus, we are more likely to understand each other and less likely to end up in angry conflict.
The statistic about how many people are getting their information from Twitter is interesting. If you have not already watched it I recommend watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It is a documentary that talks to ex execs from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms about how they were designed. Because they are designed to keep us engaged, if we show an interest in something they feed us more about that issue we have shown interest in. That means if you have clicked on a depressing post about coronavirus you get fed more depressing posts about coronavirus. Information is influential and it is not always accurate. Just like food we consume, the quality of the information we ingest is important because it has an impact on our mental health. Be careful about your source of information and how much you consume.