It may be difficult for some to understand the anger and blame many feel about the Coronavirus epidemic in this country. If you grew up in a family with competent, loving parents who made you feel safe, you might be feeling satisfied with how elected officials are managing the crisis. You might trust they could not have known this disease was coming and that it would kill so many people. However, for people who grew up in a dysfunctional family with parents who were not competent at protecting and taking care of them, the pandemic and mandate for social isolation trigger flashbacks of abuse and neglect and cause suppressed anger to surface. Some who may have had other difficult childhood experiences unrelated to dysfunctional parenting may also be feeling angry during this traumatic epidemic.
Many people are becoming aware of how angry they feel about the conditions we are living under due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. To better understand an analysis of the widespread anger so many Americans are feeling, it will help not focus on who you voted for in the last election and who you plan to vote for in 2020. Setting aside political preference will allow for a humanistic attitude towards understanding why so many people are not only fearful but also furious about the scope of this ravaging epidemic.
Just like children expect their parents to be competent to protect them and take care of their needs, Americans hope elected officials have the knowledge and competence to keep them safe from predictable, catastrophic events. Because of the current infection and death rate from the disease, many people are having a hard time trusting those in power. The existence of the coronavirus is not the fault of any world leader. However, what many people share with me in therapy, is they believe they were lied to about the severity of the disease and that it was definitely coming to the United States. In addition to feeling lied to, people report feeling shocked that our country does not have enough supplies in stock for all citizens to protect themselves from infection. Another source of anxiety and anger is the inadequate access to testing. It is common to become angry when we are scared.
An analogy would be if a parent had three children, and one of them got sick, would that parent go to the pharmacy and buy medicine for only the sick child? The correct judgment and action by a competent parent in that situation would be to buy enough supplies for every child and adult in the household. Additionally, if no one is sick in a family, a responsible parent would know that someone could become ill and contagious and they would stock the home with medicine for everyone. Projecting the worst-case scenario in a situation like protecting the health of a family is not negative thinking. Instead, it is a logical, protective, and compassionate approach to being in a position of responsible preparedness.
Parents who suffer from addiction, depression, personality/character issues, and other afflictions do not have the maturity or capacity to appropriately care for and protect their children. Parents with mental health or character issues are also often abusive. The effects of this early trauma stemming from a lack of protection and nurturing creates the child’s initial experience of anxiety, depression, lack of trust, and the need to feel in control. A pandemic the magnitude of COVID-19 is an intense experience of feeling out of control and needing to feel protected by the people who have the power. The level of infection and death from the virus is making it difficult for many to feel trust in the people with the power.
The anger many feel towards officials in power is based on a belief that maybe the threat to the public health was downplayed for political reasons, making the public vulnerable to harm. Such a belief fuels anger and anger needs to be expressed to avoid depression and other forms of emotional harm to the self. Anger and hurt are related feelings. When we hang on to anger, we feel like a victim.
To avoid becoming trapped in toxic anger, it is vital to release it, not judge it, and assert control where you have it. Practicing social distancing, wearing protective gear, staying in contact with people, being productive, setting goals and making plans for when this epidemic ends will help reduce anger and anxiety and increase hope and self-determination.