About age 10, I was playing SPUD in the front yard with some friends. The game started with someone throwing the ball up and calling out a name. I ran. But no one yelled SPUD.
I looked back to see what went wrong. The ball was on the ground amidst a cloud of insects. My friends were disappearing around the side of the house.
“Where are you going? It’s just knats!” I insisted waving my hands at the bugs as I walked back toward the ball. Getting stung shifted my perspective. The noticeably larger than knat-sized bees rose in a cartoon like swarm from a nest buried in the ground, but why did it take me so long to figure out what was happening?
This past year, I thought a lot about the bees. Every time someone shouted “hoax” about the pandemic, or repeated it was “just like the flu,” I remembered that day. “Come back! They’re just knats!”
Beliefs are formed when experiences are filtered through personality. If feeling powerless is a trigger, avoiding that feeling is paramount, but some situations are unavoidable.
Perhaps I didn’t “see” the bees that day because when the ball was thrown in the air, I moved away from the safety of the house. My brain refused to register the threat because, if the bees were real, I was screwed. The denial held until the pain of being stung broke it.
When the pandemic descended on America, experts, and those with authority, presented conflicting information. Scientists couldn’t even agree how the virus was transmitted. The only facts were there was no cure, it was spreading, and despite wearing masks and taking protective measures, people were getting sick.
Not surprisingly, some refused to acknowledge the threat. The fear was too overwhelming. Discounting precautions as unnecessary panic was easier than facing the uncertainty.
Thanks to the vaccine, we are starting to come out of the pandemic now. As survivors, the experience has been programmed into our belief system, and I expect to be better prepared should another pandemic occur in my lifetime, but what about the deniers? Do they live forever in an alternate reality?
Note: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I have written this piece based on my understanding of the world (personality + experience = beliefs). None of the supposition presented above is meant to be taken as facts or advice, merely hypothesis.