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Fear makes you ill

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Fear makes you ill |

– Life doesn’t!

In recent years I have ever more frequently noticed something I once only associated with big cities: People no longer smile; they look away, stare at the ground, cut themselves off from one another. They quite clearly shy away from emotional touch, especially now with people wearing masks. Previously, the ever greater social distance in everyday life could be attributed to the climate in society, which was determined by economic fear, the fear of migration, and the lack of perspectives. Today, I am happy to meet and listen to people from all over the world, people with whom I am in contact in completely different contexts, too. That was already the case when I was a child, and it makes me happy.

My impression is that fear is insidiously spreading like a virus world-wide. The mere idea that frightening things may happen is often more dangerous than any real danger. It weakens emotionally and physically at once. “Fear consumes the soul.” Alongside emotional symptoms, physical ones can also swiftly arise and the immune system collapses. For over 30 years I have been experiencing and hearing this day in, day out as a doctor: fear of infection and illness, fear of old age – because they are associated with fragility, isolation, a loss of dignity or prosperity, and a downward slide in society, fear of losing one’s savings. Rational and irrational fears are spreading, of break-ins, wars or terrorist attacks, young people “on the rampage”, “noisy” children, or people who live and think differently.

We immediately change our attitude given such negative feelings or even the related “guilty conscience”. We want to run away, hide or defend ourselves. We get a sore throat or back pain, feel depressed. We all know the feeling: “Fear is getting us in the neck.”

A chronic sense of fear can lead to tense muscles and then to slipped discs. Fear changes the blood flow, stress causes muscles to contract and increases, among other things, the sugar and cortisol concentrations in the blood. Immune responses are weakened, which at a time like this only the viruses and bacteria are happy about. Infections spread.

Fear is simply an emotional stance with physical effects. Allay fears, accept fears, dissolve fears. I know all this all too well from practicing as a doctor when treating infectious patients, for example with the flu, HIV, or hepatitis. As with any potential danger, I then consciously try to look the patient in the eye and act circumspectly. Like any doctor, any nurse, any policewoman, any fire-fighter, any tradesperson and many others, every day of our working lives.

Move forward consciously and courageously, and my motto is “to fill our years with life together!”

© Dietrich Grönemeyer 2021-09-06


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