Existential Roundup

Ebola Virus TEM PHIL 1832 lores - Existential Roundup
Photo by Cynthia Goldsmith.

Welcome to the Existential Roundup, where we bring you links to some articles currently trending that may be of interest to those in the existential-humanistic psychology community.

In this news this week is that most existential of issues—fear. And while the word “fear” has cropped up in many headlines, from those about the Middle East to those about financial news, nowhere has it appeared more than in the stories about the Ebola epidemic. Fears about Ebola have been running rampant like another version of the Plague come to kill a third of the world population. Lock your windows and doors. Even rumors can spread it.

The Atlantic reports that “The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola.” Perhaps a better phrasing for that is “trying to control” because the CDC does not seem to be controlling the fear level all that well. According to the article, CDC officials are attempting to navigate that fine line between getting the public to understand how dangerous this disease is and increase their vigilance—mission accomplished—but also understand that they have it under control—still a long way to go as people continue to die.

“Mass hypochondria” is the way Yahoo News describes the Ebola fears. The article reports that after the first patient with Ebola appeared in Dallas, some parents kept their children home from school and while other people would not even enter the neighborhood where the patient first showed signs of the illness. The question is, where does fear of the disease step over into the “irrational” boundaries of hypochondria. The article suggests that the mistrust of health officials relates to this growing fear and unknowing about what is “justifiable” fear of Ebola.

In Africa, Reuters suggests that the fear and hysteria may be doing more damage than the disease.The article says that the image of Africa had been improving as a place ripe for investment and tourism, bringing money to many impoverished areas. Now, new fears of disease are suddenly withdrawing those promises of money and hope. According to the World Bank, the three most afflicted countries—Sierra Leone, Liberia, and New Guinea—may see their economic growth actually cut in half and afflicted by what the bank calls “aversion behavior,” a financial “knee jerk reaction” where tourism, investment, and other business meetings are postponed indefinitely or cancelled permanently.

An editorial this week in The Guardian urged for calm and honesty in this crisis, suggesting that looking for real solutions—such as medical workers on the ground treating patients and better screening options for travelers, rather than fundraising concerts or entry questionnaires offering opportunities for lies—can only happen when people are thinking calmly.

As existential practitioners, what do we do when confronting these fears of the unknown, this death anxiety? This is the moment for us to realize and re-member that death is a part of life. If Ebola is really going to be our end, or our clients’ end, would we really want to spend this time running around like crazy people or locking ourselves up inside afraid to go out? Or would we want to appreciate every second of the time we have? The CDC advises that we be vigilant—that we learn the warning signs and how the disease is transmitted. That means we EDUCATE ourselves. Education is ALWAYS the way through ignorance and can help alleviate some of the fear. But death is always looming. And the best way to spend the time we have, be it two weeks or 60 years, is making the most of every moment, even if Ebola or some other disease is out there on the horizon.

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