As the world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are fighting not only for a healthy body but a healthy mind as well. This goes beyond the many psychological problems caused by the pandemic but transcends into the battle of personal beliefs. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen discuss how today’s chaotic setting pushed everyone to uphold contrasting opinions about racism, police brutality, vaccination, isolation, and mental health, resulting in all forms of conflict and division. They underline why wearing your “oxygen mask” according to your own beliefs doesn’t necessarily lead to selfishness and righteousness. Ultimately, they reflect on one lingering question: can humans really unite for one collective reason?
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Are You Selfish Or Selfless? Beliefs, Decisions, And Oxygen Masks
More and more, I have been seeing articles and posts talking about the idea of the hidden pandemic or the pandemic that is not being talked about, the pandemic within the pandemic. There’s been a lot of phrases that I’ve seen talking about this concept. In the rabid digestion of as much, hopefully, relevant information as possible between the documentaries that we watch, articles we read, research that we do to bring different ideas, concepts and topics here on this show.
One, in particular, jumped out at me, Whitney, that you had sent me in the notes for our show planning. As a slight tangent before we get into the topic, the demonization of technology, in general, is a bit misguided because algorithms can provide some good stuff sometimes when you start researching articles. For instance, on the implications for brain health or mental health and you start getting more topics to come up, it serves a great purpose, especially for researching and providing topical matter for the show.
That being said, the second pandemic, the pandemic within a pandemic, a.k.a. the hidden pandemic, the consensus with all of these various terminology seems to be that the mental health side of the pandemic and what it is biologically doing to the brains of COVID survivors. These are two topics that I want to jump into. They’re two different buckets, but it’s related, Whitney, in the sense that most of the coverage and certainly most of the topical matter that we’ve covered here has been mostly about perhaps the sociological implications of COVID. We’ve talked about medical racism, the disparity of vaccine distribution, but we haven’t dug too deep necessarily into how COVID is affecting people’s actual physical brains, their neurobiology, but also how it’s affecting our psyches.
I want to dive into that because this article that came out was something that you sent me from CNN.com. The latest research said that up to 34% of COVID-19 survivors received a diagnosis for the neurological or psychological condition within six months of their infection. This came from a study that was published in the journal called Lancet Psychiatry. The most common diagnosis was anxiety found in 17% of those treated for COVID, followed by generalized mood disorders found in 14% of patients. The interesting thing is that there is an increasing push for people to classify COVID as a brain disease, which is interesting. For the most part, researchers have been categorizing COVID as a respiratory thing. It affects your lungs. It affects your breathing. This idea that it’s a brain disease is flipping it on its head. It’s fascinating.
In the largest study of its kind with 236,000 COVID-19 patients, mostly in the United States, researchers compared their records with those who experienced other respiratory infections during the same timeframe. These researchers found that those with COVID-19 had a 44% increased risk for neurological and psychiatric illness compared to people recovering from the flu. They were 16% more likely to experience those effects compared to people with other “more common” respiratory tract infections. This is the last thing because it’s a long article. We don’t like to read things ad nauseam. In February 2021, they studied some patients in Italy, which was another place on this planet that has been hit hard by COVID. They found that people who were recovering from COVID, 30% of these patients experienced PTSD after their recovery.
This is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about the pandemic within the pandemic, the hidden pandemic. We’re seeing fallout in terms of anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, neurological disorders that aren’t getting until a ton of coverage in the mainstream media. The question that I go to, Whitney, is what are we going to do on a collective level? We can’t make a blanket statement, which also comes from a place of privilege of like, “Go to therapy, hire a therapist. Find someone to work on this with.” Some people don’t have that option. They don’t have the economic background or the privilege to be able to do that.
Looking at how high these statistics are, 30% of people in Italy recovering have some form of PTSD. That’s a lot of human beings. I wonder on a global level, what are we going to do to address the psychological fallout in a post-COVID world? You and I have talked about our anxiety. I’ve talked about my depression and how it seems like my depression and suicidal ideation have been ramped up. I didn’t even get COVID. It’s a concerning thing since we talk about mental health. I wonder what the fallout is going to be, especially after I suppose the world returns to “normal” or whatever that means.
First of all, I don’t want to speculate because this is a complex thing. I don’t want to get into a dialogue about fear-mongering or what-if scenarios. It’s more important to do our best to be aware, first of all. One of the big issues with COVID, if not the biggest issue of COVID is a lot of people have different opinions on it. Some people don’t believe that it’s real. Some people don’t care. Some people don’t feel affected. There’s not too much that we can do to prevent that.People are suffering on so many different levels because they miss socializing so much, and thus putting many people at risk. Click To Tweet
A lot of people want to fight when it comes to COVID. As we’ve talked about in episodes around vaccine discussions, there are many different opinions on it and it’s complicated because we have our personal beliefs, personal comfort levels, personal experiences and then we have the world as a whole. Some of us lean more towards like, “Whatever the group needs, whatever the world needs, I will sacrifice my needs for that. I come second.” Some people have the belief system that they come first and the world comes second. This varies throughout each of our different experiences.
I tend to be someone that puts myself second. I tend to want to put others first but that comes to my disadvantage sometimes. It’s not always good for my mental health to put others before me because then I suffer. There’s this mentality, like, “That’s selfish.” It’s selfish to put yourself first. This is a complicated matter because as a result, a lot of people are confused about what to do. The personal suffering, to your point, there’s a psychological side to this. People are suffering on many different levels. They’re suffering because they miss socializing so much and so they’re willing to risk themselves. As a result, willing to put others at risk.
It’s short-term thinking. What you’re describing here feels like a long-term effect. Unfortunately, as human beings, we often have to pay for the consequences of our short-term decisions. I don’t know how much we can prevent that. It’s the unfortunate reality of human society. A lot of the issues that we deal with environmentally and mental health-wise have been an accumulation. Look at sexually transmitted diseases, we have so much knowledge and support around that, but yet they’re still a huge issue. Unexpected or unwanted pregnancies are a big issue.
The way our brain works overrides the desire of the present moment, “I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to enjoy myself now. I’m probably fine.” There are a lot of people that believe that when it comes to COVID. They act at that moment where they want to do what’s ever best or they can’t help themselves. I’m not sure that this is quite a matter of prevention, sadly. I don’t even know if bringing this up is going to help anything. We have so many statistics on all these consequences in life. A lot of people see statistics and they’re like, “Whatever. Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t.”
Something that I’ve been coming to terms with is recognizing that a lot of it does come down to every man for himself in a way. You might not be able to prevent getting COVID. I know people that did everything they possibly could and still got it. It’s like, “Here I am. Now I might have these long-term consequences.” The same can be true about cancer. I remember for so long there was and there still is to this day all this mentality around like if you’re vegan, you’re not going to get cancer or your chances are slim. I’ve known vegans that have gotten cancer. There are people that were even big advocates for a healthy vegan lifestyle that got it.
Were their chances less? Did they reduce their chances through their lifestyle? Perhaps. Maybe it’s a big genetic thing. That’s a huge part of this conversation too, Jason. We can look at all these news reports about what’s happening long term. I’m certainly not trying to be negative about it. One of the big realities I’ve woken up to in terms of COVID but also throughout my work in the health and wellness industry is many people see things differently. Prevention is not ever going to be 100% on anything.
Who knows? We can do all this work for the environment. I’m not saying to not do it. I’m not saying to give up. I’m saying we can’t assume that it’s going to work because we’re not all in this together. Probably one of the hardest things about being a human being is realizing that it’s virtually impossible for us to unite collectively. COVID, other issues, natural disasters, global issues, or things that are happening within our cities, states, or country, horrible things that happen unite us temporarily. Even then, we can be divided.
It’s heartbreaking to see the racism continue and then I have to realize, like, “We have a long way to go.” People are still being killed because of their race. We have mass shootings. There was one that I don’t think was barely covered through the media that I saw. We can barely prevent things like that because people are divided when it comes to gun control. Speaking of mental health, Jason, we have a massive mental health issue, COVID or not, is my big point. COVID might be causing more brain disease but many things are contributing to that. What do we do? We have to keep addressing it and chipping away at it. I don’t think it’s an issue of like, “You don’t want to get COVID because of all these long-term effects.” A lot of people aren’t even going to believe that.
It’s like cigarette smoking, too. One of the best examples is that so many people knew and know the dangers of smoking cigarettes. It’s written on the box, all these warning signs, but they do it anyway because it’s pleasurable. They’re addicted to it. Some of us have stronger willpower. Some of us are committed. Some of us might be able to prevent things as a result but some of us can try hard and still struggle.
Jason, you didn’t get COVID yet you’re still struggling a lot with these mental health issues. The bigger question is, what are you and I going to do? Ask the readers to ask themselves that, what are you going to do? What is your oxygen mask? Can you recognize that putting on your oxygen mask does not guarantee that the person sitting next to you will put on their oxygen mask or even keep it on? You can put it on first and then pass it on to the next person but they might decide, “I don’t want to wear it. It’s not comfortable. I’d rather risk death than wearing this oxygen mask.” You cannot control that behavior.
I have a lot of thoughts in reply to your sagacious and insightful comments, Whitney. Since you asked about what is my personal oxygen mask and how each person is going to have a different approach, their framework of reality around what is happening on the planet seems to be different depending on who you speak to, to your point. How people think things are going from the economy to the handling of the quarantine, whether or not COVID is real or not, the police brutality, the racism, the environmentalism.
First and foremost, the first thing that I’ve been doing is to regulate the amount and the type of information I’m taking in. I feel like I have been acknowledging how sensitive I am to everything that’s going on. The balance between being informed and being aware and also how easy it is for me to put myself in an almost catatonic state where I feel like I can’t even do anything. As two examples, how many people have been telling me to watch Seaspiracy. They’re like, “You need to watch Seaspiracy. You need to check it out. It’s going to inform you and maybe even reframe your relationship to environmental activism, veganism and plant-based living even more.” I know some of the elements in that documentary, though, are things that I can’t mentally handle. It’s like that line of being aware, being empowered and wanting to take action but at the same time, not wanting to stultify me with even more trauma in my brain.
The other thing, too, in addition to the mass shooting at the FedEx facility in Indiana that you referenced was the video that was released by the Chicago PD of the thirteen-year-old boy, Adam Toledo, being shot by police. You can watch that footage online. I remember I was looking at Twitter and observing the comments, also looking on Instagram and how some people were saying, “It’s important you watch it. We need to watch this. We need to catalyze community and defund the police,” that whole framework. Other people were saying, “I don’t think you should watch it.” People were saying in the comments, “If you’re in a place where you’re already overwhelmed, you already feel traumatized and you already feel like your capacity for this stuff is at its limit, we recommend you not watch this.”
First of all, my oxygen mask is checking in with my psyche and my body to what I can handle. It’s not that I want to be ignorant. I don’t want to be ignorant. I want to be informed. I also know that if I watch a thirteen-year-old boy being shot to death by police and I watch hundreds of dolphins being slaughtered in Japan or millions of animals of sea life being destroyed from the bottom of the ocean. There’s a time and a place where I feel like I can handle those mental impressions and there are times when I feel like I can’t. That’s the first thing in response to your question.
The second thing, too, is I have started to feel the effects of the isolation a lot more than I have. I don’t know if I can explain it. It’s not like there was a situation or a moment that hurtled me into this place. You and I have talked about my struggles with loneliness. I haven’t been feeling that lonely but for some reason, I’ve felt lonely, a deep sense of isolation. I don’t know if that’s part and parcel of not feeling like I have a community, per se, anymore here in Los Angeles because many people have moved out. The fact that because of the precautions of certain people, people don’t want to hang out in person. At a certain point Zoom calls, podcasts, FaceTime, don’t feel like they’re filling the cup.
I’ve been focusing on, “How do I deal with these feelings of isolation?” I don’t know that I have an answer yet. The Facetime, the Zooms, even the podcasts you and I do, doesn’t seem to fill my desire for human contact and human interaction. As a side note, certain acquaintances have been posting videos from Texas. They’re in a restaurant. They’re in a sports bar. No one’s wearing masks. People are partying. They’re dancing on the lawn. They’re having beers. They’re watching football.A lot of issues that we deal with environmentally and mental health-wise have been accumulating. Click To Tweet
We talked about the frame of reality, Whitney, that was almost a shock to see that. A little bit of FOMO. How do I even describe this feeling when people are posting footage like this? It’s almost like a completely different world. It’s a completely different reality. My emotional response was like, “I missed that. I miss concerts. I miss being together with friends at restaurants.” Maybe that’s part of the loneliness. My body is like, “You need human connection and interaction.” What is a way that feels responsible and appropriate? I realize I’m craving it. I don’t know how to reconcile these feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s tough.
I want to pass the baton back to you. We talked about the algorithm. Another article that popped up from the New York Times is called Gearing up for the “New Normal” which is by a doctor named Jennifer Ashton. She talks about isolation and PTSD. She has a new book called The New Normal: A Roadmap to Resilience in the Pandemic Era. She talks about how we’re all recovering. She uses this analogy, Whitney, of how she feels, collectively, humanity has undergone a psychic amputation. The goal of rehabilitation when someone has gone through an amputation is to get that person walking again or using a prosthetic device to try and re-landscape our bodies from focusing on the future, not the past and focusing on healing and recovery.
I thought that was a super interesting analogy she used of isolation, anxiety and mental health issues. We feel like we’ve lost part of ourselves. I love that analogy she uses because that’s real for me. The lack of human interaction feels like I’ve lost a part of my life to a degree. I love that analogy she used. I’m curious if that resonates with you at all. I know your experience has been a little bit different than mine. I’m going to pass the baton back because I’ve ranted. I feel lonely and isolated. I feel like I’m going to be dealing with that for a long time.
As humans, we look for a sense of safety and security. We tend to look to other people and hope that they can provide that for us. That’s what I mean when it says it feels like every man for himself because only we can figure out what’s going to work best for us. As human beings, we are designed to look to the group. First of all, it’s a natural thing to want to be in a group and it’s a natural thing to trust the group. I wanted to reference some of the amazing things I learned in the book, The Righteous Mind, which is such a phenomenal read for this subject matter. I haven’t finished it yet. I maybe got 75% through it so far. My big takeaway is recognizing that there are many different viewpoints. There is no right or wrong answer. There is no right or wrong belief system. We have these tendencies to view things differently and that brings me a lot of peace.
Speaking of peace, at the beginning of the book, the author says, “When I was a teenager, I wish for world peace. Now I yearn for a world in which competing ideologies are kept in balance, systems of accountability keep us all from getting away with too much, and fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means.” That resonates with me because it’s okay that we have competing ideologies, but what if we just view them as balanced and not one is better than another? Yes, it’s important to have systems of accountability from getting away with too much, especially in terms of racism. That’s a huge issue here. We need to have accountability.
A term that I’ve been enjoying is differentiating between cancel culture and accountability culture. A lot of times, cancel culture is confused with accountability culture. That’s completely redefining my viewpoints on this idea of canceling somebody because, for a while, I was frustrated with cancel culture, but then I recognized people want to hold each other accountable ultimately. We don’t need to cancel somebody. We can encourage them to get better and we can point out when they’re doing something that we perceive collectively as getting away with too much.
Before you jump into the next point, my curiosity with cancel culture is it seems that there is an endemic aspect of guilting someone or shaming them, “You did something wrong. We’re going to take away your career, your influence,” or whatever it is. My curiosity comes into how do we hold someone accountable and hold the light up to how they’re showing up without resorting to guilt or shame to do it? To what degree do we highlight someone’s behavior and activity without, “You’re wrong. You’re bad. Screw you.” I’m curious what’s an approach if we’re not going to default to the guilt and shame model then?
This is part of the whole point of this episode. We can only take accountability for ourselves, Jason. If I’ve learned anything over the past several years that I’ve been deep in this wellness culture, coaching and being anyone that’s been teaching. I noticed this even when I worked at Apple and I was teaching. People come to things with many different perspectives and backgrounds, so we can’t assume that we’re going to get to a place where people are ever fully kind to one another.
We put so much emphasis on how we treat one another as if there’s a right or wrong way to treat people because each person views it differently. One thing that’s been irritating me is the use of the word Karen, which is a term that’s developed rapidly, especially on platforms like TikTok. It started on TikTok and then it started to take roots. Now it’s a common term to call somebody a Karen. At first, it made sense to me, but then I recognized that’s a little messed up.
If my name was Karen, I would feel shame, Jason, because my name was being used to define a personality type, but then it’s also an ageism thing and a generational thing. A Karen, people even have the way their hair is cut or how old they are and all these factors in which we label somebody. It then starts to become another form of judgment and even prejudice. You’re judging someone based on all these factors that they can’t fully control because a few people that looked like them or were their same age or whatever behaved in a certain way.
That word, Karen, makes me uncomfortable because it’s judgy and it’s not helping. What is the point of that? We are in this place of righteousness. I was watching this TikTok video that I had mixed feelings on. I felt like, at the core, it made a lot of sense. The scenario was there’s this black woman in her twenties or so with her friend who is also a person of color, but I’m not sure race does matter, but two young women that weren’t white were staying at a hotel in Las Vegas. One of them was making videos for her TikTok account in her bikini.
She’s wearing a thong and she’s dancing at the pool and making a common-style video. This white Karen type, a woman probably in her 50s or maybe older, age doesn’t matter, but older than this other woman with blonde hair comes out and asked her not to do that at the pool. This young woman pushed back and she’s like, “What do you mean? Why can’t I do this video? Are people complaining?” She recorded this. You can hear the back and forth. The older woman who’s apparently the manager of this hotel is saying, “I don’t want you to do that anymore.”
This younger woman is pushing back and saying, “It doesn’t say anywhere that I’m not allowed. There isn’t any rule here.” There was this battle and it was this righteous battle. This older woman that felt uncomfortable watching this younger woman doing these dances at the pool didn’t feel like that was the culture that she wanted to have at the hotel that she manages. I could see both sides of it. Certainly, the older white woman, you could say, “She’s some prude. She wants to censor somebody.” You can see the pros and cons of that.
I can understand that maybe her security was being threatened because she felt like people are going to complain and she’s going to have to manage the complaints, so she’s trying to take responsibility. That made some sense to me. It also made sense to me that this younger woman was upset because she felt like she was being censored. She was also potentially being discriminated against, whether it was a race issue or not or an ageism thing. This younger woman takes to Twitter and then, later on, she starts doing all these other videos. They kicked her and her friend out of the hotel at 10:00 PM in Vegas.
A black young security man came to their door, knocked, and had to read off, and then people started attacking him. They’re like, “How dare he? He’s a black man. How is he doing this to this black woman?” It then became a big race issue and she’s fighting up. I can see both sides. He’s doing his job. He’s got financial security to worry about. He probably doesn’t want to be fired. Even though he might agree with this woman, he’s just trying to do his job. If he stood up for her, he could have been fired.
Does he feel comfortable doing that? That’s only for him to decide. This girl starts to be rude to him, slamming the door in his face, recording it, and making a huge deal. I’m sitting there thinking, “I feel bad for this guy, but I also feel bad for her.” I’m watching it in almost a neutral perspective but leaning towards her because it didn’t seem fair to me to be kicked out of the hotel. We also didn’t see the full story. Jason, people take it to Yelp in real-time. This is fascinating.Our brain works by overriding the desire of the present moment. Click To Tweet
People went to Yelp and started writing bad reviews of this hotel in defense of this girl on TikTok. Calling out the manager’s name and maybe even embellishing a bit. This whole thing I saw unfold. She and her friend made another video of them out in the parking lot after they’ve been kicked out and they’re upset and frantic. They’re worked up and they feel like their treatment was unfair and potentially illegal. They’re trying to scramble to find another place to stay. This whole drama unfolds.
My point of bringing it up is there was a lot of righteousness going on because I don’t think there was necessarily a right or wrong. If anything, you lean towards the customer is always right. Was she doing anything wrong by dancing in her bikini? Was it a race issue? Was she called out because she was black? Was she called out because she was young? Was she called out because of the way she was dancing? Maybe this woman felt uncomfortable with that dance. Is there anything wrong with being uncomfortable?
To your point, Jason, all these people convincing you to watch Seaspiracy, you’re uncomfortable watching it. That’s not to say that you disagree. You’re uncomfortable and you’ve got your reasons. My heart goes out to this manager, who was probably uncomfortable and maybe it wasn’t a race issue. It could have been anyone. Does race impact it a little? Perhaps. We don’t know. I don’t know anything about this manager except from what I saw through the lens of the person that felt like a victim.
My point is that sometimes we get so righteous that it gets in the way of resolution. Maybe to the woman on TikTok, she felt like it was more important to stand her ground and make a point than try to come to a resolution. Is that her ego? Is that her wanting to stand up as a black woman? There’s a lot of things at play here. All of the viewers started to take sides. My heart felt a little bad for all these Yelp reviews.
We’ve talked about this in other episodes, Jason. All these people writing horrible comments and giving one star, Yelp takes that seriously. It’s not like you can just delete those. Those could permanently affect this business. The reality is that manager may not represent the entire business. What about the person that owns the hotel? Is it their fault that this woman behaved that way? Maybe this woman is an amazing manager and she slipped up.
That’s what I mean coming back to accountability versus cancel culture. You’re canceling a hotel because you’re trying to hold a woman accountable for her behavior. Is that fair? Maybe so. That’s the other thing though, Jason. Some people feel oppressed. That’s their only option. They’re desperate for their voices to be heard, so they take these extreme measures. I don’t know what it’s like to be that repressed. Who am I to judge them for that behavior? People standing up for one another is also an amazing thing and that’s what I’m saying. I can see this from many different angles that there is no right or wrong, good or bad. That’s part of my point. Pun intended or not intended, it’s not a black and white issue, but maybe it is a black and white issue.
The other thing I wanted to say before I turn it back over to you to know your feelings on this, Jason, is that in that book, The Righteous Mind, the author points out that you can’t change people’s minds by refuting their arguments. That’s what a lot of us are trying to do. We don’t recognize that two people are different people. They’re of different ages and races. They’ve got different backgrounds, education, and experiences. They’re different.
They have arguments for themselves and they’re almost trying to change each other. That’s a huge part of this conversation, if not the big point that I want to make, Jason. I don’t even know if we can change people’s minds. Going back to that Seaspiracy documentary, Jason, I’ve seen many articles coming out arguing against the Seaspiracy. I can’t say that I fully disagree with them. There’s a lot of great points made in those arguments against Seaspiracy.
Even though, as a whole, Seaspiracy is an important documentary, but does it mean that it’s right? Also, oftentimes, a documentary is designed to change people’s minds, but they can be manipulative in the process. If they’re taking a side like, “Come over to our side.” It doesn’t matter if the other side sees holes in our arguments. Ignore the whole “Come on over to our side, change your mind.” That makes me a little bit uncomfortable, too. In our podcast, I’m not trying to change people’s minds. If anything, I’m trying to open people’s minds and find that balance as the article of The Righteous Mind is seeking as well.
Righteousness and the idea of virtuousness are close together. They’re close together in my mind because there’s the idea that how we as humans live, eat, pray, worship, and conduct our lives means that we are more or less virtuous or righteous person. There are many examples of this. You brought veganism. If you’re a new reader, Whitney and I are both vegans. We’ve been vegan for many years. We don’t lead with it on the podcast, although it is something we have talked about in many capacities.
One thing that I’ve sat with over the years, Whitney, to make myself uncomfortable and challenge myself to examine my belief systems is do I believe that being vegan and living as much of a cruelty-free lifestyle as possible? I say as much because it’s not possible in the paradigm of our world systems to be 100% cruelty-free. That’s a caveat here. From the animal fat that’s galvanized in your tires to the lithium ion batteries. There are a million examples. We can’t be 100%. The idea to live as gently and compassionately and with at least amount of cruelty as possible is something I endeavor to do.
Does that make me a more virtuous person? The fact that I am a vegan and I choose to live the way that I live, does that mean I’m more virtuous than a cattle rancher or a hunter or someone who’s paleo? Am I a better person because of that? I could believe that. I could choose that. I’m sure that there are a lot of vegan people that choose that or who are Christian that choose that as an example. I’m not calling anyone out specifically, or that are Muslim, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or that are people that are paleo or they’re on the carnivore diet. We can use a quadrillion examples here.
The idea is that I choose this thing or live this way and that makes me a better person or more virtuous person. I’m going to leverage that perspective, my worldview, to show other people that I’m better than them or why they should be more like me. This infects our entire human society if you think about it, to your point, Whitney. It’s easy to buy into this in terms of a capitalist structure, too, isn’t it? “If I buy organic clothing, eat organic food, buy a fully electric car, compost, do this, sign this bill, and oppose that oil drilling.”
I’m not saying let’s not take action based on our beliefs but the slippery slope is thinking, “I’m better than everyone else because I choose to do this thing.” I’m not saying don’t take action based on your worldview. The moment you start to think you’re better than another person because of it, that’s when we get into sticky territory. I want to say this because, in previous podcasts, I mentioned how I am opting out of a heated debate regarding vaccination and regarding a lot of the political frameworks of the pandemic and COVID.
We talked about it here on the podcast, but I’m not taking a side. For some reason, people keep wanting to draw me back into the talk. They keep wanting to talk about it. I’m not at liberty to name who this is, it was communicated to me that someone in my life feels like I am being selfish for not getting the vaccine. The frame of this was certainly not selfish being a positive comment. The context was, “I’m disappointed in Jason. He’s being selfish for not doing his part.”
At first, when I received that feedback, Whitney, there was a little part of my gut that was like, “That’s what you believe about me? Okay.” I can either empathically take that in and be like, “I must be selfish. I must be a ‘bad person’ for not doing this,” or I can pull back the lens and go, “That’s one human being’s opinion and perception of me. It doesn’t mean it’s true. It means it’s a possible perception.” I sat with it and I’m like, “Let’s see. Am I selfish for not getting the vaccine? It doesn’t mean I’ve refused it forever. It means that I’m not getting it right now.”The hardest thing about being a human is realizing that it's virtually impossible for us to unite collectively. Click To Tweet
When we talk about communication in some of our relationship episodes, Whitney, we’ve talked about the difference between yes, no, and not right now. That hesitancy is not refusal, to your point. That not right now doesn’t mean no, never. Being labeled as selfish was a moment of pause for me. I was like, “Let me see if this lands.” It was like, “That’s a possible perspective.” Do I feel like I am negatively impacting the collective of humanity by not getting the vaccine? That was the framework of the selfish comment.
I was like, “I don’t feel like I’m negatively impacting the course of humanity by being hesitant and saying not right now.” This is a moment based on your point of righteousness and virtue of this person and the subtext to me, I didn’t say this, but the subtext by someone saying I’m being selfish was, “You’re not being a team player. You’re not doing what’s in the good of humanity. You’re doing what’s in your personal good.”
I’m like, “I am doing what’s in my personal good. Yes, I am. What I believe and what my intuition tells me based on the research and the evidence I’ve collected, I am doing what I feel is right for myself. I’m not going to apologize for that.” If I do what I feel in my heart and my gut at the moment, which can change and I’m allowed to change my mind as a human being. At the moment, if I feel intuitively deep in my core I’m doing what is best for myself, I’ll never apologize for that.
It’s another reason to read this book, The Righteous Mind because the author breaks it down in a lot of different ways. One statement that reminds me a little of what you’re saying, Jason, is he has a whole section about disgust. He said, “Because something is disgusting, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.” That ties into this, too. Because something offends you, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. It’s another way of looking at it. There’s also an incredible frame based on research about different foundations and how it ties into a lot of our political belief systems, but it applies to belief systems in general. There are five different foundations. One is called the care/harm foundation, which makes us sensitive to signs of suffering and need and makes us despise cruelty and want to care for those who are suffering.
This tends to be something that a lot of liberal people feel. The second foundation is called the fairness/cheating foundation. This is in response to reaping the rewards of cooperation without getting exploited. It makes us sensitive to indications that another person is likely to be a good or a bad partner for collaboration and altruism. It makes us want to shun or punish cheaters. Our society is into fairness as a whole. There’s a whole chart in the book that shows when you fall into different categories and whether or not that makes you more liberal or conservative. It’s fascinating. I don’t remember all of the rankings. It doesn’t quite matter.
Part of what you’re saying, Jason, it feels a little bit like the fairness thing and the caring thing combined. Maybe this person’s judging you and their belief system is, “We need to reduce suffering and if everybody gets it, everyone gets the vaccine and it’s fair. If you’re not getting the vaccine, it’s unfair to others. Thus, I want to shun you.” There’s also the loyalty and betrayal foundation. That’s a third one that makes us sensitive to signs that another person is not a team player. That ties into this too. It makes us trust and reward people that are loyal and if they’re not, that makes us want to hurt them, ostracize them, or even kill people who betray the group.
A lot of those emotions come up in this conversation too. It’s like, “You’re not being loyal to the country, the world, or human society, so I want to ostracize you. I’m going to ostracize you by saying things about you that are hurtful. Maybe I want to hurt you and I’m going to say things and call you a selfish person because I view you as selfish, but I also know that calling you selfish is hurting you.” There are two more. Number four is the authority subversion foundation. That is about forging relationships that benefit us within social hierarchies and make us sensitive to signs of rank or status and signs of people that are not behaving properly. That is less of a liberal mentality so that might not apply quite to what we’re talking about.
The last one is the sanctity/degradation foundation, which is the behavioral immune system making us wary of a diverse array of symbolic objects and threats. It makes it possible for people to invest in objects with irrational extreme values. I don’t fully get this one. This one doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it’s more of a liberal thing. It’s more heavily used by the religious right but also on the spiritual left as the book says.
You can see the foundation’s original impurity avoidance function in new-age grocery stores where you’ll find a variety of products that promise to cleanse you of toxins. You’ll find the sanctity foundation underlying some of the moral passions of the environmental movement. Many environmentalists avoid capitalism and automobiles, not for the physical pollution they create, but also for symbolic pollution, degradation of nature and humanity’s original nature before it was corrupted.
Maybe I can relate to some of this and this is why it’s fascinating. This book creates these frameworks for better understanding and to your point, Jason, what would benefit us as human beings is to understand these things better. Usually, when somebody is judgmental towards me and wants to convince me that they are right, that’s a sign to me that they’re not fully educated on things like this. That’s part of my commitment to education. I don’t mean that from an ego perspective, “I’m more knowledgeable than you.”
Your viewing life through the lens of your beliefs and your righteousness without recognizing that I may have different belief systems. If we can see that as a balanced thing and respect one another, it creates more of that peace in my opinion, versus trying to change somebody’s mind and change somebody’s behavior constantly. I know that wasn’t your intention with bringing up the COVID survival with mental health. The reason that it triggered this whole conversation for me is recognizing that, ultimately, we do need to put the oxygen mask on first.
In terms of COVID, I’m like you, Jason. Still to this day, I am hesitant to get the vaccine, but I’m also not somebody that socializes. That’s part of it. Unlike you, Jason, I’m not that lonely. I feel completely fine staying at home. It suits me. The only thing that I leave my home for is to run basic errands. When I do run those errands, I wear a double mask. The other point is somebody would have to prove to me that if I don’t have the vaccine when I go grocery shopping, I’m harming somebody.
Logically, if I don’t have COVID and I go to the grocery store, how am I harming other people? Potentially, I could get COVID from somebody else at the grocery store that’s not vaccinated and I would be carrying it and passing it on next time I go to the grocery store. For someone like me, I would need somebody to paint it. They would need to break it down and nobody has done that yet. After this conversation, I feel my personal responsibility to go research it more, but I don’t think it’s fully fair to call you selfish, Jason. You’re not out partying. It’d be a different thing, from my belief system, if you were going to parties, not wearing a mask and you didn’t have the vaccine. To your point earlier, when you’re saying all these things about Texas, first of all, you have a different belief system than the people in Texas that are partying without masks, but you also don’t know if they have the vaccine or not. Maybe they do all have the vaccine and that’s why they’re out partying.
Even if they don’t have the vaccine and they all want to party and spread it to each other, that’s their human right. It might not seem fair to you, but maybe they don’t believe in COVID and that’s why they’re doing it. Maybe they don’t care. Who are we to judge that person’s belief system? That’s my feeling. I know it’s a sensitive subject because people die from COVID and people get long-term brain disease from COVID. It is selfish because they’re passing it on to somebody else and risking someone else and I could see that viewpoint. We need to be mindful when we use words like selfish. From my perspective, why do you need to get the vaccine right away? Why do you need to rush and get the vaccine if you’re not even in a position to contract it or spread it?
Also, what if there were more rules? That’s ultimately what it comes down to. The vaccine passports, the vaccine rules, or whatever, great. If someone says you can’t come into this grocery store until you get a vaccine, I would probably consider getting a vaccine. That seems fair. If they said, “You can order online and have them shipped to you and you don’t have to get the vaccine, then I might do that.” This is part of the issue, which we talked about a few episodes ago. We were talking about medical racism, and how the percentage of the black community is not to be judgmental about their decisions, because there are cultural reasons. They might be hesitant about things and they might simply need more information like me.
That’s one reason I’m hesitant about the vaccine, Jason. One, I don’t feel like I’m exposing myself or others because of how limited my social interactions are but that might be wrong. Statistically, if someone could educate me, I could shift my thinking. Two, people have not laid it out for me so how am I supposed to make an educated decision? I am personally not somebody who does something because somebody says, “I’m selfish.”It's not possible in the current paradigm of our world systems to be entirely cruelty-free. Click To Tweet
The whole point that you’re making, Jason, is that person’s trying to get you to change your mind by calling you selfish. That’s incredibly manipulative and that doesn’t work for you. There are some people who would be called selfish and that does work for them and they would say, “I don’t want to be selfish. I’ll get the vaccine. That’s enough information for me.” You’re not that person, Jason. In a way, that commentary doesn’t do anything. It’s a statement that doesn’t have any meaning for you except maybe getting you to second guess your relationship with that person.
The people that know my true nature would know that comment makes me dig my heels in it even more because of my rebelliousness. My choice in the framework of this discussion is not being rebellious for the sake of being rebellious. I want to be as informed as possible and have as much information gathered as possible to make a conscious, consensual decision about what I am doing with my body. In my mind, that feels measured, mindful, and cautious. Does a measured, mindful, and cautious approach feel good to me? It does. To your point, Whitney, we go back to the comment in the middle of the ahow about cancel culture versus accountability.
When I’m on the receiving end of shame or guilt, as I perceived this comment in context to be, you’re not going to make me act. Shaming me or guilting me into action is not going to work. I’m not wired that way as a human. It’s more important to me to honor what my heart, mind and gut are telling me to do than to be accepted by the virtue metrics of the collective. It’s not being a martyr. It’s not any of that. It’s I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal choice, which is a deep and important thing to me just to be accepted by others. I certainly wouldn’t have made a lot of the choices I’ve made in my life if I wanted to “fit in” or be accepted by the collective.
It comes down to an individual thing. To your point, Whitney, how someone is framing this entire situation politically and socioeconomically whether or not they’re getting the vaccine, whether they’re opting out. To put a bow on this, I don’t want to be in the judgment of people. I don’t want to assess their virtue and their worth as a human being based on these types of decisions because I don’t think it has anything to do with that. Whether or not someone gets vaccinated or doesn’t is a reflection of their virtue or worth as a person or their political view or how they worship or how they eat.
If we look at media and social media as a lens of all this, it is becoming a virtue framework. Who’d you vote for? Did you get Vax? How are you eating? Did you watch this documentary? Are you anti-racist? Are you this? Are you that? We could give a litany of examples. The framework, in general, of are you a good person because you believe, act, think and do these things? Now we’re getting into dangerous territory. I want to continue to remove my belief system of thinking because my choices make me a better or more virtuous or more righteous person because I don’t believe that they do.
I wanted to make one final summary of some of the things that I brought up about the vaccine in particular because it’s important for me to not be ignorant. I want to do a deeper dive. This conversation inspired me, Jason. I still have ignorance around the vaccine. First of all, in general, I’m not somebody that gets vaccines. I’m not anti-vaccine but I’m not somebody that gets the flu vaccine. I got all the vaccines when I was a kid because that was mostly my parents’ decision. Until I started to learn more about my health, I was somebody that would get vaccines. When I learned more, I realized that there are other ways that I can do to take good care of my body and not get the flu or cope with the flu.
It’s challenging for me knowing the vaccines are a complicated thing and it’s a complex matter. I did want to share a couple of things. First of all, there are all these websites that talk about facts and things and the CDC is probably one of the best sources you’re going to find. One thing they said is you can get COVID-19 right before or right after you get the vaccination and still get sick. It takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity. As this has been coming out in the news, people are saying that you might need to get a third shot six months after getting it. We’re still learning so much. That’s part of my hesitancy. Also, all the stuff going on with Johnson & Johnson.
There’s a lot of things that they’re figuring out. I’m personally not comfortable putting something in my body that is that new and unsure. There are too many risk factors and I want to see the studies. That makes me feel more comfortable. You can call that selfish as you’d like. I am absolutely happy to stay isolated if that means I get to protect myself. I looked up, “Am I right about going grocery shopping?” I’ve found a few websites to talk about it and studies that they found. Generally, when you’re in an indoor area with other people, they believe that can increase your risk because of the air circulating.
However, pretty much every piece of advice that I’ve heard about COVID and I’m reading here about grocery shopping, if you stay 6 to 8 feet away from people and wear a mask, that risk factor goes way down. They also recommend sanitizing before and after you leave the store, washing your hands when you get home. I have been doing all of that stuff. They say use disinfecting wipes, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Follow the exit signs going into stores. Most stores are mindful of how many people are in there. All of these things, I have been doing.
To your point, Jason, from my research and my belief systems and comfort level, I do not feel comfortable getting the vaccine. I feel comfortable knowing that I’ve been following all the guidelines to take good care of myself when I’ve been doing limited activities and errands. I’m not socializing with anybody. I’m not trying to defend myself. I’m saying that this is my reasoning. If there was a way for me to talk to an expert, share all this stuff, and they could come back with an answer for me, like, “Here’s how to determine if you should get the vaccine.” I would 100% go through it. If this expert said, “You should still get the vaccine, Whitney, for X, Y, Z reasons.” I’d be like, “You’ve convinced me.” That’s where I’m at on it.
That’s an important thing to convey because there’s this whole black or white. You’re either anti-vax or you’re getting the vaccination. Also, it makes me wonder that some people have a belief system. You’ve talked about this before, this righteousness and getting the vaccine. I got a text before we started recording from a friend who’s excited that she got the vaccine. I’m like, “Great. I don’t care. I’m not going to see you. It doesn’t affect me that you got the vaccine but great. I don’t know why you wanted to tell me, but it’s awesome.” I could care less that she got the vaccine. She cared and that’s why she told me. Good for her. I feel pretty neutral about it. I’m like, “Great.” Because she got the vaccine, I don’t feel pressured to get it. I don’t feel like I have any reason to judge her for her reasons of getting it.
Lastly, I would say it’s awesome. My parents, my sister and most of my friends got the vaccine. It’s great for them. Potentially great for the planet but that does not mean that I should feel pressured to get it because all of them did, given all of my reasoning and my belief systems. You can apply that to my overall view of the world. There’s no mandate for getting the vaccine and thus, based on my rights as a US citizen, I’m allowed to make that decision for myself. If I was breaking the law, it might be a little bit of a different story. I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable breaking the law. Any response to that, Jason before we wrap up?
I’m laughing because of your comment, “That’s great. I’m not going to see you anyway.” That was good. It was funny and nonchalant, your delivery of it.
Part of why I say that because this is a friend that lives across the country. To that point, there are some loose travel plans that I have and I would consider getting the vaccine before traveling. To me, that is a logical reason to get the vaccine. Whether I traveled by car or plane, if I’m going to be interacting with other people in person, it’s reasonable. I’m going to wait until before I travel because what if I get the vaccine and they’re like, “You have to get another shot because it’s been X amount of time.” That’s another reason too. It’s a time factor.
If the vaccines and effects wear out after six months, why would I get it now if I have no plans to do anything for months? If my friend’s wedding was happening and I wanted to go to my friend’s wedding, absolutely. If a friend wants to hang out, it’s not worth it for me now to A, get the vaccine or B, to see them without a vaccine. Truly there’s no need unless there was evidence that going to the grocery store unvaccinated was bad for me and other people. That would be a different story. Considering that’s the only place that I’m exposed to other people, I don’t see a reason to get it now.
As a final thought on this subject, before we wrap, the presidential administration went on record. They may change their mind because that is what humans do. Especially humans in governing situations seemed to do that a lot. That being said, they went on record and said they have no plans or intent to mandate passports in the contiguous United States. They went on record saying that they don’t intend for domestic travel to implement any tracking or a passport mandate system based on vaccinations. That was good to hear. I want to see my mom, my friends. I want to move out of state or whatever.
Internationally, though, to your point of this last comment, Whitney, that’s going to be interesting to see how different countries or the EU, the European Union, decides to implement any framework around international travel toward the end of 2021. To your point, there are places I want to see on the planet. I want to go to Japan. I want to go to Peru, I want to visit friends in the Czech Republic. I want to go to Iguazu Falls. There’s a lot of places I want to see on the planet. If it became a country-by-country thing, then perhaps if I want to go to Japan, Peru, or the Czech Republic at all, that would be a decision, later on, to piggyback on what you said.
If the intention is that domestic US travel in all 50 states is not going to be hindered by any evaluation or passport system, I don’t see a need to get it. International travel, that’s a different story. Waiting for more information, waiting on policy, and waiting to see how humans react to this over the long term. I’m waiting for all of these reasons and to your point, Whitney, I’m home 95% of the time. I leave the house two days a week to go to physical therapy and to get food. I’m home five days a week. I barely leave the house. Why get it now? It doesn’t mean I won’t in the future, but now doesn’t feel like the right time.
With that being said, we give you a lot of food for thought dear reader. Your comments, your perspectives, your personal beliefs, no matter what they are, are always welcome. We always love hearing from you. Whether that’s you emailing us directly, Whitney and I respond to emails at [email protected]. You can also go to our main hub www.Wellevatr.com. It’s an elevator for wellness. It’s where you want to go to the top floor. It’s we’re trying to get everyone to whatever that means. I’m kidding, there is no top floor. There’s no end to your wellness journey, so the elevator keeps going.
We’re also on all the social media networks if you are reading this podcast and you want to see my facial reactions, which tend to be exaggerated and overt sometimes or you want to see Whitney and I kick it, go to our YouTube channel. We want to hear your perspectives on vaccines, righteousness, and the political sides of this. If you had COVID and you experience any of these neurological conditions, we want to hear about that too. Whatever you have to say, comments, suggestions, smartass remarks, and rebuttals, we’ll take them all. With that, we appreciate your readership. We appreciate your reviews on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you’re listening to podcasts.
Thank you for the support. Thank you for sharing this on social media. We will see you again for another episode because we release them on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Fridays are our guest episodes, where we bring in special, intelligent, sagacious human beings to share their perspectives and belief systems on what is happening on the planet. Stay tuned for all that and more coming soon. We appreciate you. We love you and we’ll catch you again!
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- A Third of COVID-19 Survivors Suffer ‘Brain Disease’
- Gearing Up for The New Normal
- With Coronavirus Spreading in LA Supermarkets, Here Are Some Tips for Shopping Safely
- Lancet Psychiatry
- The New Normal: A Roadmap to Resilience in the Pandemic Era
- The Righteous Mind
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