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“The ‘war panic’ is growing among Italians, also because this emergency is grafted onto another, the pandemic, which has not yet ended and which was giving us hope of an end, and therefore affects the population in a situation of fragility. To counter this fear it may be useful to avoid addiction to news, share concerns with others, not neglect everyday life, train children even at school “.
These are the words of Roberto Ferri, president of the Italian society of emergency psychology, which summarize what we are seeing happening these days from the point of view of our psyche: the exponential growth of states of anxiety and panic, related to continuous exposure to the dramatic news on the critical situations that the world is experiencing, the pandemic before and the war now.
But going even a little further back, the perception of a near and real danger came for the first time with the terrorist attacks of Isis in Europe (2015-2017), and then exploded with the pandemic, until the Russian invasion of Ukraine. All with one explosion of media coverage of these issues, on all media from traditional to web to social media. It is clear that events of this magnitude make the role of information central, indeed of information that is as accurate and correct as possible. But on an individual level what has happened is that we are used to having updates in real time, minute by minute and constant exposure to tragedy, to death, does not add anything on an informative level but greatly damages the personal feeling, tightening more and more that tunnel in which we walked. And if the events themselves are tragic, the more and more frequent use of ‘click capture’ effect titles only feeds a growing fear, which does nothing but undermine the ability to maintain a psychic balance, albeit in the awareness of tragedy.
We see the result every day in our studies as psychologists and psychotherapists: the number of those people is constantly growing, who may have previously shown weakness or an anxious character, now they are really tried and in a state of profound discomfort. because of their perceived unpredictability, they live in a constant state of anguish as victims, despite themselves, of one total loss of hope in the future. Disorders linked to anxiety and depression, which have already grown strongly with the pandemic, are likely to register a further surge.
Even among the young and very young there are many who, in the therapy room, bring very disturbing thoughts and emotions, including the fear of being called to arms, images and experiences of death for them or their families and, more and more often, the belief that it is impossible aspire to a rewarding and happy life. The feeling is that it is really too much, as Roberto Ferri says, because the last years of interminable emergencies have required a lot of psychic energy and the war came just when we began to see a glimmer of light compared to the darkness in which Covid had plunged us. .
There is no doubt that this conflict affects us more than others and not only for the hyper-exposure to the news: it is a war that is being fought in Europe, a place that today we live as a common home and the ways in which it is taking place evoke ghosts of the our recent past. It is not good, however, to overload the mind by keeping it constantly exposed to such heavy content: it is not useful for a solution, it aggravates our mental state. On the contrary, what it takes to maintain a center, to stay in balance, is not to be constantly updated on every single military operation, but to understand what is in our control, what we can do from where we are. Help concretely, raise funds or goods to send, make oneself available to host those who are fleeing the war if possible, support the associations that do so.
It is also right to stay informed and share our emotions with our loved ones, but it is then necessary to clear the mind and devote oneself to one’s activities recovering a certain lightness: it is indeed it is essential to nourish one’s own balance interior to avoid falling into extreme forms of anguish or psychological disturbances, which can only worsen our situation and that of those around us. Sometimes, to “unplug the brain” it is necessary to do one conscious effortgo against what instinct would lead us to do, because the mind is dangerously attracted to everything that frightens itas if he were deluding himself that constantly thinking about something could reduce its negative aspects, resize it, as if he could, therefore, somehow “control” it.
Nothing more wrong: living in a constant state of alarm produces only obsessions and anguish and nothing changes based on the attention we dedicate to it. One of the most significant but lifesaving human endeavors is to understand that much of the events around us cannot be controlled in any way by our behaviors. We can though try to better manage our reactions to them, which instead is in our faculties. Let’s take care of our well-being then, perhaps really explaining its importance even to the youngest in schools, as Ferri suggests and, at the same time, only in this way can we help others, if and how we can. Perhaps discovering that we have much more to give than we thought. In this way we will not add suffering to suffering, we will be able to help even better, with more energy, ideas, courage and hope.
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