AntiFACTser: A Pandemic of the UnFACTsinated
Updated: Sep 21, 2022
First things first, I’m apolitical. I’m not a Republican, on the Right, a conservative, etc. Likewise, I’m not a Democrat, on the Left, a progressive, etc. This assertion is important to understand when reading the contents of this blog entry.
If you read my critique of COVID-19—more importantly, the response to the virus—and say to yourself, “Deric is on my team,” think again. I’m not a participant of partisanship. I’ll pass on the panem et circenses, though you are more than welcome to all the brioche you desire.
In 2020, when working for my previous employer, I was asked write a blog post for his website in regards to COVID-19. There wasn’t a lot of information at the time about the virus.
A number of clients who sought services through the clinical practice were searching for answers about how to deal with anxiety and fear they were experiencing. I wrote a post though, for whatever reason, it wasn’t posted on my employer’s website. It then became the first blog entry I’d post on my professional website.
After two years passed, I posted a follow-up entry. My aim was to synthesize what I’d observed, learned, and experienced during what I now refer to as the “dark days of COVID.”
After a while, I decided to go in another direction with my blog. Therefore, I deleted the aforementioned blog posts from my website.
Now, I see fit to resurrect the terminated posts. However, the internet archiving website, Wayback Machine, captured only the first post. For context to the current entry, I encourage you to read: Time, Distance, Shielding.
I have nothing to hide, so you can see when I posted the original content. As the two-year follow-up post wasn’t properly archived, I chose to repost it. If interested, I invite you to read: Repost: Revisiting Protective Measures.
Purpose of the Current Entry
Why address anything related to deleted posts?
Using blogposts, I demonstrate my approach to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), often by way of addressing various issues with fictional characters. For the current post, I will demonstrate how I used the technique on myself.
This requires historical context related to my stance on COVID-19. Anecdotally, I’ve observed how unpopular my views are within my field of practice—mental health—and have even experienced quite a bit of vitriol related to my perspective, though this had nothing to do with deletion of the two posts.
In particular, I will address the ad hominem fallacy, said to occur “whenever the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing an argument is criticized instead of seeking to disprove the argument provided.”
For instance, if I challenged the official narrative regarding COVID-19 masking rules and the President of the United States (U.S.), Joe Biden, said people such as me, in Texas, exercised “Neanderthal thinking,” this is an ad hominem fallacy.
Because my character was attacked, it would be reasonable to conclude that I was dealing with an ideologue, not a rational thinker. Rather than engaging in a meaningful discussion with a bad faith actor, I could simply dismiss President Biden’s retort by “screamin’, ‘Fuck you, I’m from Texas!”
Since I’m not a bad faith actor and this blog entry concerns disputing irrational beliefs, I’ll instead take the REBT route. REBT uses the ABC Model to highlight the Epictetian notion, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
People frequently maintain that an action (A) leads to a consequence (C). President Biden inferring that people from my state are so stupid that we’re on Neanderthal levels of intelligence (A) is said to lead to anger (C). However, REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection, we disturb ourselves with beliefs (B)—B-C connection.
In this case, President Biden refers to Texans as Neanderthals (A), I think, “This, coming from the man who only occasionally wears a helmet when bicycling, and who has been known to fall off his bike; he shouldn’t tell me what is or isn’t safe.” (B) As a result of this unhelpful belief I disturb myself into an angry disposition (C). This is an A-B-C connection that could use disputation (D), leading to an effective new belief (EB).
The ABC model formula is framed as follows:
(A)ction – What occurred
(B)elief – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)
(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)
(D)isputation – How you challenge what you told yourself (Belief) about the (A)ction
(E)ffective new (B)elief – What (E)ffective new (B)elief you can tell yourself about the unhelpful or unhealthy (B)elief , thus creating the (EB)
For more information about how I conduct disputation with clients, I encourage you to read my blog posts entitled Disturbing Democracy and KKK. Let’s see if I can try another presidential example related to COVID-19.
Vax of Nah?
What I aim to demonstrate herein is how I use self-talk to address the B-C connection. The ABC Model is fairly straightforward and once learned a person can engage in an internal monologue (disputation) to reduce suffering (affect consequences of irrational beliefs).
While I usually present relatively simple ABC examples, I’m going to challenge myself in this post. I will offer compounding (A)ctions and see if I can synthesize them into the “critical A”—the most meaningful part of an (A)ction with which the irrational (B)elief is associated.
Before I do so, I think it would be helpful to address a perceivable ad hominem fallacy related to the current post. I suspect some people will label me an “anti-vaxxer.”
While no one reading this entry is entitled to know about my medical history—especially since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 seemed to be applicable prior to the dark days of COVID, though now appears to be nothing more than an afterthought in some regards—I am choosing to self-disclose herein.
I chose not to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccinations. If you choose to attack my character, because I’m not on Team Jab, that’s your choice. If you choose to praise me, because I’m thought to represent Team Pure Blood, that’s your choice. I’m not on any of your silly teams.
When in the United States Marine Corps (USMC), I received many vaccinations. Though the entirety of all I was stuck with isn’t adequately represented here, I offer a retort to the anti-vaxxer label with evidence related to a portion of my military shot cards:
Know what you don’t see in my vaccination history? I never received any of the anthrax vaccines the government subjected many military members to, and for which Marines were being discharged when refusing to accept the shots.
Years later, one source highlighted, “The legal doctrine of informed consent stems primarily from the right to protect the sanctity of one's body from the intrusion of others,” as well as, “And while it is true that the armed forces are exempt from many rules that govern the conduct of private citizens, to require treatment known to have a relatively high incidence of side effects tests the limits of these arguments.”
There may be a rational argument related to whether or not U.S. military service constitutes indentured servitude. I volunteered, received little pay, did not maintain similar rights as civilians, and it remains debatable as to whether or not military property also applies to military members functioning as government property.
Nonetheless, I didn’t know what was in most of the shots I received in the USMC, yet I witnessed a fellow Jarhead break out in hives after receiving his first dose of the anthrax vaccine. He didn’t consent to inoculation and neither did I.
Unlike him, I danced between raindrops to dodge that vaccine. Therefore, when the COVID-19 vaccine became a popular topic, I reflected upon my time in the service.
One doesn’t need to evoke the Nuremberg Code to understand how important voluntary consent is. Likewise, ethical issues arise when informed consent is at hand. Per one source, “Failure to obtain an informed consent to, or an informed refusal of, medical treatment — which includes vaccination — is medical negligence (medical malpractice).”
For example, per the State of Texas, “Prior to providing services, a licensee must obtain from an individual a signed informed consent, signed written receipt of information […],” before engaging in clinical psychotherapy. I shall, by law, “[O]utline any risks and possible outcomes” of treatment.
Again, I chose not to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, which doesn’t make me an anti-vaxxer. Those whom I know in my personal and professional life that received their shots told me they didn’t received informed consent about potential risks.
I suppose the strawman argument to what I’m saying is, “Deric is saying he doesn’t care about people, because the Emergency Use Authorization [EUA] was about saving lives, so that’s why there wasn’t informed consent.” There is a kernel of truth to this logical fallacy.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “There is no Federal requirement for informed consent relating to immunization.” According to a separate source, “Congress did not include this same “informed consent” requirement as part of the EUA provision in 2003, perhaps out of concern that it would not be practicable in emergency situations.”
To be crystal clear, I am required to provide informed consent when talking to someone though those issuing vaccines were not mandated to provide people with informed consent about potential risks of something injected into their bodies. If my questioning of this matter makes me an “anti-vaxxer,” so be it.
REBT Demonstration on Myself
Let’s take a look at what (A)ction regarding COVID-19 vaccinations occurred for me.
(A) Reflecting upon the role of the federal government in response to COVID-19 vaccinations, a number of contextual elements comprise an overall (A)ction:
In December 2020, then-President Donald Trump announced Operation Warp Speed, stating, “My administration provided a total of $14 billion to accelerate vaccine development and to manufacture all of the top candidates in advance — long in advance. As a result of this unprecedented investment, we are exceedingly proud that both Pfizer and Moderna have announced that their vaccines are approximately 95 percent effective, which is a number that nobody expected to be able to get to, far exceeding anything that really we — that anybody thought.”
In July 2021, President Biden said, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” Fast forward, despite reportedly having at least two booster shots in addition to “multiple doses” of COVID-19 vaccine, President Biden has purportedly tested positive for COVID-19 on more than one occasion.
In August 2021, President Biden stated, “Vaccination is free. It’s easy, it’s safe, and it’s effective. And it’s convenient.” As free, easy, safe, effective, and convenient as potential head trauma associated with riding a bike without a helmet?
In September 2021, President Biden stated, “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”
In November 2021, President Biden issued “two policies to fight COVID-19 that will drive even more progress and result in millions of Americans getting vaccinated, protecting workers, preventing hospitalization, saving lives, and strengthening the economy.” In the USMC, I saw how federally authoritative mandates worked. I wasn’t a fan.
In December 2021, President Biden warned, “For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death — if you’re unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm.” That was divisive language from a supposed unifier of U.S. citizens.
In December 2021, former President Trump stated, “The vaccine works,” “If you take the vaccine, you’re protected,” and “People aren’t dying when they take the vaccine.” My answer to this? “Wrong!”
In a January 2022 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States “struck down a Biden administration mandate that large businesses require their employees to either be vaccinated or tested once a week for the coronavirus,” according to one source. In my view, governmental authoritarianism had a bad day in court.
In August 2022, the CDC released a statement, declaring, “CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection.”
In my professional life, I’ve sat in teletherapy client sessions with people who’ve derided unvaccinated people. In my personal life, I’ve experienced similar treatment, as well as people being terrified to come near me without knowing my vaccine status.
I could provide further context to my argument though I think my point is somewhat clear. The critical A is: The federal government likely overstepped its role in response to COVID-19, particularly regarding vaccinations, and results of its actions impacted unvaccinated people by being labeled by various pejorative terms (i.e., “conspiracy theorists,” “anti-vaxxer,” etc.).
(B) “The federal government has little business dictating matters of public health and I shouldn’t be maligned as an ‘anti-vaxxer’ for a vaccine that wasn’t properly tested before being deployed, and because I was, I deserve to be recognized as a critical thinker rather than a conspiracy theorist.
(C) As an REBT therapist, I quickly (D)ispute irrational (B)eliefs when they arise so that I can achieve an (E)ffective new (B)elief fairly quickly. This helps so that the (C)onseqences I experience aren’t as impactful as they may be for someone who doesn’t practice REBT.
However, for the sake of the current blog entry, it may be useful to see what (C)onsequences may exist if I didn’t use the ABC Model:
C – Emotion: Anger. Bodily sensation: I experience shallow breathing, my heartrate increases, my head feels hot, and my jaw becomes tense. Behavior: My legs begin shaking while seated, my thoughts begin racing, and I prepare to tell others how displeased I am.
Goal – It is crucial to set realistic goals for REBT practice. Otherwise, towards what are we working in session? Therefore, my goal is to move from an angry disposition to annoyance.
(D) Because I’ve linked to other blogposts wherein I address the finer points of (D)isputation, I won’t conduct a lengthy challenge here. Sometimes, short (D) does the job. Also, I won’t address Unconditional Acceptance in this entry, as I’m more focused on challenging irrational (B)ullshit.
When (D)isputing my irrational (B)ullshit, I prefer both the empirical challenge and the Socratic method. While not every may appreciate looking for factual evidence to support or refute a position, I try not to be an antiFACTser.
Otherwise, buying into my own (B)ullshit could quickly lead to a pandemic of the unFACTsinated. For instance, what evidence do I have regarding the role of the federal government during time of a viral crisis?
Historically, I’ve worked in, for, and with various federal government agencies. Isn’t it true that shenanigans are the norm, not the exception to the government’s function? On what basis would I expect anything to be different now?
Who says I shouldn’t be maligned? Don’t I support free speech? And as such, aren’t others allowed to call me an “anti-vaxxer” if they please?
Do I see any contradiction between my critique of an overbearing government and my desire to suppress the free expression of others? Am I behaving in a manner that aligns with my values?
Is this the first time I’ve been called a name for which I don’t care? Is it likely that being called an “anti-vaxxer” will be the last time someone insults me?
How did I deal with being called a derogatory name in the past? How might I apply the lessons learned from then to my current situation?
Considering the claim the “vaccine that wasn’t properly tested before being deployed,” was I required to receive it? In what way—other than merely being offended when others violated my should, must, or ought statements—am I impacted by not getting a vaccine others think I should’ve gotten?
Does what other people eat make you shit? If not, what difference does it make that others hold you in low regard for not getting a jab? Let them do their thing while you concern yourself with what’s on your plate. Besides, it all turns to shit in the end, does it not?
On what grounds do you base the claim that you “deserve to be recognized as a critical thinker rather than a conspiracy theorist”? To deserve something implies some sort of contractual agreement.
Did others sign such a legal form concerning how you must be labeled or treated? If not, how rational is it to demand that they adhere to the fine print of a nonexistent contract?
Is it true that you behave as a critical thinker? Where was the critical thought with the last cheat meal you ate? Remember that? Pepperidge Farm remembers!
If you don’t always function as a rational, critically-thinking, logical individual, what makes you think others ought to? Are you some monarchal or deified individual to whom others must submit? If you think so, think again!
Hasn’t it been said, “The difference between a conspiracy theory and the truth is about 6 months,” so even if you are labeled as a conspiracy theorist, doesn’t that make you out to be something like a prophet? Well done!
Now that you’re laughing to yourself, consider how funny it is that you’ve should all over others. Clean up your mess, Deric. Oh and, use two-ply toilet paper. After all, what type of monster doesn’t?
(E) “While I may prefer for the federal government to honor a limited role I envision the founders maintained, there’s no evidence this has happened during my lifetime. Expecting otherwise is to violate the is-ought problem. Likewise, people are free to call me ‘anti-vaxxer,’ ‘conspiracy theorist,’ and even a ‘covidiot.’ What they eat don’t make me shit.”
This EB is then introduced into the ABC Model.
(Critical A) The federal government likely overstepped its role in response to COVID-19, particularly regarding vaccinations, and results of its actions impacted unvaccinated people by being labeled by various pejorative terms (i.e., “conspiracy theorists,” “anti-vaxxer,” etc.).
(EB) “While I may prefer for the federal government to honor the limited role I envision the founders had, there’s no evidence this has happened during my lifetime. Expecting otherwise is to violate the is-ought problem. Likewise, people are free to call me ‘anti-vaxxer,’ ‘conspiracy theorist,’ and even a ‘covidiot.’ What they eat don’t make me shit.”
(C) Emotion: Mild annoyance. Bodily sensation: Regular breathing, a slower heartrate, a cooler head, and a relaxed jaw. Behavior: My legs settle, thoughts shift to some other topic, and the desire to inform others about any displease disappears.
What’s important to understand about use of REBT is that we aren’t moving to a Zen-like state in which no unpleasant consequences exist. Moving from anger to annoyance is in alignment with my goal.
Some clients may say they want to feel joy instead of anger when they disturb themselves with irrational beliefs. How practical is it to be happy when you tell yourself others have violated your rules of the universe?
Likewise, how practical is it to hold others to rigid and extreme beliefs they may not even know exist? Getting FACTsed to treat a pandemic of the unFACTsinated seems like a helpful and healthy measure to take.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how irrational beliefs impact your life in an unhelpful way, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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