Behavior Wars, Pt. 1: What’s the Point of this Suffering?

Managing this pandemic is a lot like managing a flood in a controlled watershed. The engineers can only let a certain amount of water through control points at any time without unleashing total disaster.

In the case of the pandemic, though, we have the advantage of being able to slow the rate of snow melt in the mountains by slowing the rate of infections. That is the point of the behavioral restrictions, so we don’t have more COVID-19 cases than a hospital can handle. We don’t want to flood out and totally destroy the medical system. The behavioral practices are succeeding. The daily rate of new cases is slowing. Still, many medical systems have not returned to being able to also do the surgeries and other treatments we want them to do.

I don’t think all of our leaders are reinforcing the gains enough with certain parts of our society. Too many of us are losing site of the goal and the progress. They are only seeing the suffering that is being caused by the behavioral restrictions and want it to end. Too many are beginning to feel that continuing the restrictions is becoming pointless. Some of them are now taking to the streets and pressuring decision makers.

Part of what is happening psychologically is also that people are losing the big picture. That happens when the brain is under stress. It can’t take in as much information. Physically, we actually lose peripheral vision when under stress. The brain has to protect itself from being overwhelmed with information, so it blocks things out. The focus then becomes on what is most immediate. That is when we need each other’s help to keep perspective.