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COVID and collective PTSD COVID and collective PTSD
by Joseph Gatt
2022-01-02 09:13:04
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Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition where, when in times of war, people don't cooperate like they should; you're left on your own. Fighting all by yourself and facing a probable death over a long period of time leads to anxiety disorders in peacetime. You end up believing that life really is unpredictable, that individuals really don't cooperate, and that no one will help you deal with life's struggles.

So the COVID pandemic has created chaos. People are trying to survive all by themselves, cooperation is at an all time low, and you have to fight all by yourself to get what you need. You also face uncertainties in life and a possible death if you are infected with the virus.

conpts00001_400So a lot of individuals in society will tend to believe that life is unpredictable and that you have to fight all by yourself to overcome life's struggles. This way of life has consequences in the form of collective PTSD, and the following is the kind of society you end up with.

Supposing the COVID pandemic will come to an end, a society with collective PTSD is basically a society riddled with anxiety, where people tend to believe that you need to fight on your own, that you shouldn't seek help when needed, and that you should always face life's uncertainties as if a disaster were to occur.

This means a society where getting help is complicated and a society where people don't feel responsible for what they do, because survival is more important than meeting ones' responsibilities and getting work done properly.

So in times of peace, where there is no PTSD, people tend to help, people tend to cooperate, people tend to relax, people tend to believe that life's goal and mission is to lead a socially responsible life by helping others and providing for other people's needs.

In times of collective PTSD, people tend to withdraw, tend to believe that survival is life's main goal, and tend to believe that helping others is a waste of time. So people tend to be aggressive, withdrawn, and tend to want to be left alone.

Now this is one huge difficulty I've been facing in times of collective PTSD: I'm the kind of guy who believes in responsibilities, helping others, and inviting others to spend time and relax. But I've lived a big chunk of my life in societies with collective PTSD. My invitations to hang out get rejected, my invitations for help get met with ice cold receptions, my advice gets met with silence and withdrawal.

So you're going to have the kind of arguments in societies with collective PTSD where you will have those who will say that life is about collective interests and having fun, while those with PTSD will argue that life is ruthless and that you have to fight on your own because no one will fight for you.

Societies with collective PTSD tend to be cynical. Kindness tends to be viewed as a weakness, meeting your responsibilities tends to be viewed as a weakness. Saying “no” and refusing to help is viewed as a sign of strength. More importantly, in societies with collective PTSD, fulfillment and satisfaction with life tends to be viewed as impossibility, as a form of utopia that can not be reached. In societies with collective PTSD, life tends to be defined as difficult, with no attempt at making life easier.

So to overcome PTSD, society is going to have to learn how to trust again, as trust has almost completely disappeared during COVID times. Businesses were told to shut down without notice, curfews were established and constantly changed, what is legal today becomes illegal tomorrow, and millions lost their jobs without notice.

Having spent my adult life in France, Algeria and Korea, three countries with very strong displays of collective PTSD way before COVID even started, the symptoms tend to be lack of trust and social withdrawal. Cynicism is part of the game, and people tend to believe that you have to fight alone and that any attempt at fighting collectively or working collectively is futile.

Such societies need people in their surroundings that they can trust. They need to understand that PTSD is not in their DNA, but the result of a series of traumas (war, economic recessions) along with abusive behavior on society that gets tolerated those results in PTSD. Such societies need leaders who encourage them to work together, to work well together, and that to live a fulfilled life you need to cooperate rather than try to survive on your own.

More importantly, such societies need to understand that fun and security is normal. Life should be a mild form of heaven, not hell.

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