The human mind is very complex and can make people react differently in many situations, especially because we are not the same and every human being has a mind of their own. If you think you are able to choose between cool Harley decals and ugly ones, from the perspective of somebody else, you might do a poor job.
The point is that not everybody reacts the same way and extreme situations are not felt the same way by everybody. However, if you try to do an analysis of what is happening to people around you, you might notice that there are similar reactions in some of your friends and while others react differently.
So, what is going on in their heads?
To understand this, it is essential to understand what an extreme situation is. A pandemic, for example, has a lot of implications for people and can affect each individual differently according to their daily activities and their unique state of mind. The first and most important thing you have to consider is that it is a disease causing fear.
This means that the number one stressor that people experience is the fear of getting sick or, even worse, dying. If the pandemic affects their job, they may experience the fear of remaining without their source of income and, eventually, not having enough money to pay their bills and to buy food.
For some people, like introverts, for example, staying home isolated during the pandemic could be seen as a vacation that they will most certainly enjoy, but for extroverts, it is a punishment to keep them away from their friends and family because they get their energy from other people.
So, you see, each individual can experience these things differently, but why are there groups of people who react similarly and what is behind their reactions?
Fear because of uncertainty
This is something that affects almost everybody. Not knowing what is going to happen in your life and not being able to plan ahead can be very stressful, especially because the human brain has evolved in such a way that it always plans ahead.
The difference between us and animals is that a part of our brains, the prefrontal cortex, is a lot larger and has the function of planning for the future, impulse control and detecting potential dangers. So, you can imagine that not being able to do that can cause anyone to be more stressed.
Not knowing when you will be able to return to work, not knowing if you are going to get infected with the disease or not knowing if your relatives and friends will be OK or not can put a lot of pressure on us.
The lack of control
There are a lot of people who need structure and a sense that they are in control of their lives. When a dangerous disease that can harm your health appears on the horizon, you will be faced with a situation that will make you feel like you have no control over it. And it is true, you don’t.
This can make a lot of people stressed and some of them might even start to believe in conspiracy theories. From a psychological point of view, people who in their daily lives feel like they are not in control, are predisposed to believe in conspiracy theories.
This is why during pandemics when everybody feels like they are not in control, some people might surprise you when they start to believe in ridiculous theories that do not have any basis in reality. This is a way of avoiding the anxiety that would come if they realized that there are things in life that are not and cannot be controlled.
Extreme situations are a challenge for everybody, but it is really important to be able to control your fears. Not everybody is an expert at that so we should be more understanding with the people around us. Try to support them the best way that you can, even if we don’t always understand what they are going through.