Nothing worse than a false sense of security. Please, take every measure of precaution. Then, read on.
March 28, 2020
This article can be read on its own. For more background, kindly follow this trail:
Unicausal thinking = having unduly exclusive attention for one cause to any issue. Within multiple possible causes, unicausal thinking searches for the cause that explains the consequence. In the animal world, it is frequently a matter of life or death. If you are potential prey and a predator turns up, then you better focus your attention on this one predator, even if there is food available or an attractive mating partner. Innumerous times, unicausal thinking has saved one of your ancestors. You wouldn’t be around without it. That explains its power in everyday circumstances. It doesn’t make unicausal thinking a rational option in an endeavor to be optimally logical.
Unicausal thinking is embedded in Western medical practice – more than in its theory – as well as in Western conceptual thinking generally. This is the case to such a degree that it is even regarded as dangerous to propose a multicausal medical model, especially when involving the psyche. In practice, we still live in a mind-body divide. Therefore, in the case of Covid, medical colleagues may see it as dangerous (fake news, etc.) to even mention the possibility of substantial psychological involvement.
Especially in times of stress – the predator, the human enemy, the virus – the thinking naturally becomes more unicausal. The rational thing to do is to surpass it radically. Reality is never unicausal. In the human case, the psyche – due to many complex ways of realization – is always in many ways involved.
We should give attention to who we really are as mind-body creatures. Now is a good time to jumpstart that. It is the message in the virus. This may seem like detracting attention from the fight against the virus. It may seem like now we need to give our full attention to the damned virus. And that is true. Only, ‘our full attention’ needs to come from who we really are. It should be ‘our attention,’ not part of it. This may immediately save lives – and the economy. If the ‘Mind over Covid’ hypothesis is correct, then it is perilous not to take it into account as soon as possible. Then it is not so much the ‘corona virus disease’ (Covid) as it is ‘our disease.’
In unicausal thinking, the search for the cure tends to be oriented to one cause. An efficient anti-specific-virus drug would cure Covid. Take the pill and get back to work (family, local bar, tourist destination). I see two main objections: 1) We don’t have that pill, and 2) It would again go past the reality of ourselves. It would prolong ‘our disease.’
While forming decisions about necessary social measures, scientific experts are consulted. In times of Covid, the sought-after expertise is mainly virus-oriented, at the fringe somewhat psyche-oriented. It should be both without distraction from one by the other. Even more, within a proper synthesis, they will both be more effective.
Of course, we should not lessen the search for the pill, nor the vaccine. Also, we should be prepared for an even worse ‘common-cold Ebola’ virus to appear sooner or later. Likewise, we should not lessen the search for our deeper self.
The section after this one is about what to do. The main thing in any of that is doing it with a kind of attention that you may feel coming from deep inside yourself.
Here, of course, lies a difficult distinction between superficial and deep attention. Western culture has become caught in a stream of superficial attention, with ‘no time to waste’ in production and consumption. Social media have become extremely speedy media. A marketeer should ‘grab the prospect’ from the first three-two-one seconds, or the prospect is gone. Sadly, handling the prospect this way also makes him this way, especially if many marketers perform the same trick over and over again. With the advent of A.I. in social media, the pace is only accelerating. Hmm. Is my opinion an exaggeration?
Now for the not-so-easy distinction, a primer:
- superficial attention: to the symptom, for instance, carrying at first not much more information content than its description in a medical textbook. On top of this can come information and emotionality that is not embedded within yourself. Superficial attention more readily tears you away from your inner strength.
- deep attention: being more open to many associations at the same time. In this way, one can see broader patterns that are not visible when looking at each of them separately. Deep attention is more ‘parallel’ in contrast to superficial attention being more serial. This brings an openness that lies not so much in what is seen but in the seer. Through the symptom, deep attention is more sensitive to what lies behind or beneath it. Deep attention leads you more readily to your inner strength. If you are a genuinely religious person, you may somewhat recognize this feeling.
Many people can use guidance on how to make the distinction. However, eventually, you can be your own best guide in giving it the best you can and put this into practice, again and again.
Wondering how a ‘global hysteria’ might become so powerful at present – more than, say, ten years ago – I think of several elements that can drag people into a whirlpool at the societal and individual level, heightening anxiety and vulnerability. Might this whirlpool be more causal, the virus more instigational? In my view, most of the effect plays at non-conscious level. Going a bit deeper into them, one can see that each is related to the phenomenon of human attention. One may conclude that there is something deeply wrong with the state of attention.
This list is incomplete, subjective and exaggerated. One can write a book full of critique and then critique upon this and so on. So, spare me. This is to let you (and me) feel the probability. Also, this doesn’t mean that we should avoid all this. We should think about what we are missing.
- Social media enlarging emotional messages x 100
- I. means being used to manipulate this even (much) more
- Anxiety from the possibility of being ‘liked’ or not
- Inundation with ‘the latest news’
- Diminishment of people’s attention span
- Relative lack of contact with nature
- Stories of dread and doom: global warming, viruses, A.I., …
- Possibility of complete self-annihilation of humankind
- Mounting stress in general
- Cultural complexity
- Spread of intake of antidepressants
- Advertising: targeting the ego
- Rationalization at work, treating people machine-like
- Computers controlling people almost to the second
- Political manipulation with more sophisticated means
- Choice stress in many domains
- General shortage of true leadership at all levels
- Diminishing trust in truthful news
- Addictions to drugs, food, news, online porn…
- Diminishing sense of deep meaningfulness
- Rampant consumerism, leaving no time for depth
- Artificially induced intolerance of discomfort
- Feeling of alienation from community, even family
- Sanctification of subjective feelings of individuals
- Living from paycheck to paycheck
- More flexible, but superficial relationships
- Feeling like a ‘thing’ in relationships
- Parental intake of antidepressants
- Children left with little example of profound attention
- Rampant burnout without support from inside out
- Wreaking havoc on the surrounding ecosystem, ‘our mother’
- Symptomatic medications: not reaching human depth
- People not dealing with one’s suffering inside
- Quickening pace of social changes, no time to adapt
- Older people seeing their world vanishing
- Workers’ alienation from product and purpose
- Physicians getting little time to listen to patients
- Mounting administration load for teachers, physicians, etc.