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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Repost: Revisiting Protective Measures

**This is a repost of a blog entry originally posted to this blog site on March 20, 2022**

Mask on.

“Let us begin. What, where, why or when will all be explained, like instructions to a game.” – KRS-One, My Philosophy

I invite you, reader, to write down how you feel (i.e., joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, etc.) before reading this blog entry, as a matter of pre-assessment. After reading it all, I will encourage you to jot down how you feel for a post-assessment comparison. Of course, this is an optional invitation and bears no consequences for choosing to forego the exercise.

In March 2020, I was asked by my then-supervisor to write a blog entry to be posted on his professional website, in reference to Texas COVID-19 mandates which began to impact his clinical practice. The piece I submitted drew upon my former training with the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, as opposed to other pieces submitted by my colleagues, which largely echoed predictable psychotherapeutic talking points (e.g., self-care during periods of heightened stress).

For reasons unbeknownst to me, my written submission was never posted on my employer’s website. Therefore, on March 20, 2020—precisely two years ago, I posted it to my professional site for posterity. For the sake of clarity, in the original post where I referred to ‘media,’ I meant social (Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc.), corporate (legacy, mainstream, mass, etc.), and/or other forms of nontraditional media (blogposts, email campaigns, podcasts, etc.).

I likened media overexposure to that of a nuclear, biological, and/or chemical (NBC) attack, as I invited readers to practice a safety measure used by the likes of the United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency—time, distance, and shielding (TDS); not to be confused with so-called Trump Derangement Syndrome. This tactic served as a crucial component of my U.S. Marine Corps training in the late 90s.

The time for my silent observation has now expired. The focus of the current written submission will highlight one of the many topics that gained popularity during the last two years of the pandemic: mask usage. While other elements of COVID-19 may be worth addressing (i.e., origin, lockdowns, vaccination, etc.), I acknowledge that I’m not trying to write a book for a blogpost. There’s only so much time I’m willing to devote to this matter.

“This is a letter to my countrymen, not from a Democrat or a Republican, but one among you. That’s why you call me brother. Ain’t scared to tell you we’re in trouble.” – Brother Ali, Letter to My Countrymen

In my original blogpost, I questioned “Are people benefitting from inundating themselves with a near-constant barrage of media content?” At the time, I was unaware of any data to support my hypothesis relating to what now seems obvious in retrospect. Two years after my original post, people are beginning to report the adverseeffects of overexposure to media sources.

One critique I’ve received regarding my rebuke of media toxicity is that without information from media sources people will be rendered ignorant of worldly events, what some refer to as the fear of missing out (FOMO). This, while a person experiences impoverished sleep, increased irritability, social dysfunction, panic attacks, and heightened fear—all stemming from inundation of fear-evoking media coverage.

“And since I been living with it like a sickness; intimate, infinite rhymes, give me the baton. A ticking, ticking time bomb, takin’ the finish line.”J.I.D, 151 Rum

If one doesn’t have a steady COVID-19 case tracker from a preferred media network, how will one know how terrified one ought to be? I think the healthier question is; how is fear derived from media sources serving people? I’m not fully convinced that even so-called reputable media sources offer a suitable answer.

Though one resource touts the beneficial implications of media dissemination during COVID-19, another source has highlighted the impact of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation during the pandemic. I find it interesting that the latter academic resource references the World Health Organization (WHO)—as did I in my original blog entry, to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—when both entities have since outright conflicted one another during what is now termed as an infodemic.

“TV is mechanized politics’ remote control over the masses, cosponsored by environmentally safe gases. Watch for the PBS special. It’s the perpetuation of the two party system, where image takes precedence over wisdom, where sound bite politics are served to the fast food culture.” – The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Television, the Drug of a Nation

Some people may not know who to believe when interfacing with media sources, and who can blame anyone for not knowing? So-called fact checkers maintain bias, fact-checking in U.S. corporate media purportedly tends to skew in favor of one political party, and it’s quite popular for information to be sorted into a right-versus-wrong format, as false information related to COVID-19 is in no short supply.

Some people may recall during 2020, when U.S. citizens were advised by the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, “Right now, in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks.” I wonder how many people took this revelation as an advisement, not a mere suggestion. In my original TDS blog entry, I declared, “N95 respirators – not recommended by the CDC for general public use at this time,” because that was the guidance given by so-called experts.

“That shit dead, that shit dead; that shit dead ass wrong” – Dae Dae, Dead Ass Wrong

Three months later, the same NIAID medical advisor who dissuaded mask usage clarified, “[…] the reason for that is that we were concerned—the public health community and many people were saying this—were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply. And we wanted to make sure that the people namely, the health care workers—who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way—to take care of people who, you know, were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected.”

In other words, some people were prioritized over others. This did not shock me when first revealed, because standardized governmental training, similar to what I once received, prioritizes those who will and will not receive personal protective equipment during times of emergency. Some would have stars on their bellies while others would have none on thars. Still, something about the medical guidance offered in 2020 stood out to me at the time.

Whether paper, cloth, N95, or other types of recommended masks/respirators, my Marine training taught me that exposure to various NBC events could be transmitted through the eyes, with which at least one source concurs. This is the reason why I was wearing a full-face respirator in the photo for the current written submission, because scientific understanding in 1999 maintained that the eyes could be vectors for infection from exposure to biological events. Why would this scientific concept not apply equally to SARS-CoV-2? It very well may.

“As the world turns, I spread like germs. Bless the globe with the pestilence, the hard-headed never learn. It’s my testament to those burned. Play my position in the game of life, standing firm.” – Method Man, Triumph

This is where differentiation between science and the science is necessary. If one is to agree that science is broadly defined as knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws, especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method, a relevant question remains. What is the science I’ve heard so much about from metaphorically contaminated media sources?

While unable to find an exact definition for the science, I was able to discover something closely approximating its meaning. Per one source, “When science is credited as the one and only way we have to describe reality, or to state truth, such restrictive epistemology might graduate into scientism.” Scientism may also be referred to as pseudo-science, or as one 1999 source declared “bureaucratic science” (BS).

To further elucidate this point, one source opines, “Science, when it hasn’t ossified into some doctrine of scientism, proceeds entirely on the assumption that we do not know. Whereas The Science is settled.” The science is subject to hubris, as our betters of society boldly declare, “The science is settled — the best way to slow the spread is to double down on wearing masks, social distancing, and limiting indoor gatherings where people are most at risk to contract COVID-19,” though rules for thee and not for me are quite dissimilar.

The practice of science may be at odds with postmodernists who use Narrative Therapy, which posits, “Hierarchy and power in relationships as well as the role of the therapist is now challenged by the goals of postmodern thought: to deconstruct ‘facts’ by delineating the assumptions, value, and ideological frameworks supporting the ‘facts.” In this regard, factual data, such as that explored by the scientific method, is thusly viewed as a divisive product of “white [hu-white] culture.”

“Gotta’ keep the love and potential, ‘cause a lot of madness is that essential. Importance is key. Never let ‘em take away your mental, ‘cause that’s where you create creativity. And you can create positivity from creativity.” – Nonchalantly Zay, Imagination

Those who promote imagination over empirical data, such as different ways of knowingnarratives—offer a challenge to objectivity. Per one source, “Postmodernism argues that people’s knowledge of the world develops in a social context, and that much of what we perceive as objective facts or natural categories is in fact socially constructed. Postmodernism therefore disputes the existence of any scientific, philosophical, social, or religious ‘Truth’ that can apply similarly to everybody. Rather, different individuals and groups may possess their own truths.”

From this perspective, one may conclude that the science is an ideologically-driven heuristic. It doesn’t need pesky facts to determine whether or not masking is useful. Instead, one can simply derive an ought from an is. Take that, David Hume! By this rationale, our betters can “imagine” whatever truth they want, because muhlived experience” and “personal truth” allow it.

I do not practice, endorse, or encourage such methods. As a practitioner of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I listen closely for rigid and extreme statements which often manifest in the form of should, must, or ought (SMO) statements. These are the elements with which we often disturb ourselves, and which may serve as inconveniences for BS and postmodernists alike.

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.” Often, people maintain that an action (A) leads to a consequence (C). Someone cutting you off in traffic (A) is said to lead to anger (C). However, REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection, we disturb ourselves with beliefs (B).

“I’m in jail, ‘cause I forgot my fuckin’ ABC’s.” – SPM, I Must Be High

In this case, someone cuts you off in traffic (A), you think, “That shouldn’t [SMO not] happen, and because it did, I’ve been wronged [B],” and as a result of the unhelpful belief, you disturb yourself to an angry disposition (C). This is an A-B-C connection that could use disputation (D), leading to an effective (E) new belief (B).

Think about how earlier in the current blog post I asked “[H]ow will one know how terrified one ought to be?” This is a self-disturbing SMO narrative, because when left undisputed, a person may conclude that the word ‘ought’ functions as a prescription to life rather than a description of an observation. Disputing (D) the notion (B) that one ought to be terrified could lead to a healthier outcome (E).

“It’s fucked up when your mind is playing tricks on you.” – Scarface, Mind Playing Tricks on Me

Applying this understanding, I find it helpful to assess how beliefs regarding COVID-19 mask mandates—when left uncritically evaluated—may have led to unhelpful consequences, such as coronaphobia. While science may tend to explain or describe material, the science seems to serve as that which advises in the way of SMO narratives.

Those who questioned official media narratives over the past two years, like, “What does it mean to “trust the science?” may have wondered if people promulgating such media propaganda actually understood how science functions. Then again, when one can simply imagine a pseudo-reality, what difference does it make? Hello, postmodern thinkers.

Science informs a person that running through an open field with a long metal pole in a thunderstorm could result in a lighting strike. However, science does not mandate that one SMO not to do so. This is a basic middle school concept, as “[s]cientific knowledge can describe the consequences of actions but does not necessarily prescribe the decisions that society takes.”

As well, science may suggest that wearing cloth face coverings could help reduce the spread of infection regarding COVID-19, though science also suggests masks may not be as effective as some propose. This is how science works; scientists do not always agree with one another.

What then is to be determined when BS practitioners claim things, such as science being settled on an issue? Remarkably, sometimes purported scientists—even of the NIAID variety—become so ensnared by the effect of scientism, as a type of religiosity, that they suggest critiques of their position is akin to “attacks on science” itself.

“Okay, now what the fuck they talkin’ ‘bout? It’s like they never heard the words that came up out my mouth. It’s like they just wanna’ discredit what I’m all about.” – Logic, I Am the Greatest

Dissenters, or even those mildly skeptical of unscientifically-evaluated claims, beware! No attempts at increasing your level of physical fitness (NJ), no open-air gatherings (CA), and no questioning the placement of COVID-19 recovering patients in nursing homes (NY) are permitted. The science simply SMO to reign supreme, despite alleged hypocrisy of New Jersey, California, and New York governors during the pandemic.

When COVID-19 media-fueled beliefs (B) are left undisputed (D), the primary emotional consequence (C) of fear may be influenced by further compounding unhelpful thoughts. This may then produce secondary emotions, such as terror, nervousness, or horror. When left to continue spiraling unchecked, tertiary emotions or experiences may result, such as panic, dread, and helplessness.

Aside from an emotional response to media content, people may also experience the consequence (C) of uncomfortable bodily sensations. I liken the check engine light on a vehicle to the response received by the body—a type of warning sign that needs to be addressed. If ignored for too long, metaphorical engine damage may result (e.g., a heart attack or stroke).

“I can hear sweat trickling down your cheek. Your heartbeat sound like sasquatch feet, thundering, shaking the concrete.” – The Notorious B.I.G. - Who Shot Ya?

When overstimulated by media sources, some people may feel as though their body temperature increases, shoulders tighten, palms become sweaty, heart pounds, breathing becomes rapid or shallow, or they experience lightheadedness. This is the body’s alert signal, indicating that your system needs attention. Check engine!

As this experience is not likely due to an A-C connection, though B-C interplay, disputing the unhelpful belief may be necessary to resolve the unpleasant bodily feeling. Still, I wonder how many people over the past couple years have neglected to dispute unhealthy SMO narratives, choosing rather to perpetually disturb themselves.

Moreover, I am curious how many consumers of media content have outsourced their critical thinking skills to various outlets which use direct SMO statements. From time to time, I assign homework to clients regarding this very topic. Between sessions, I have them search for examples of SMO narratives.

Assertions such as, “Coronavirus: How scared should we be?” “To defeat Covid-19, we must acknowledge the fear it engenders,” and, “[…]Everybody Ought To Be Angry And Outraged[…],” are fairly commonplace in the media. Have you tuned in lately to hear about what you should, must, or ought to be emotional about? How is it that so many people simply follow popular narrative framing without analyzing what is being presented?

“Aye man, all you adults out there, all you supposed grown people, would you please stop lying to young people? Could we please have a moment of fuckin’ honesty? You know, honesty? The shit you ask young people to be with you when you ask are they havin’ sex or doin’ drugs?” – Killer Mike, That’s Life

For some, one answer may relate to cognitive bias—a pattern of deviation from rationality in judgment in favor of a preferred narrative (e.g., I may believe a t-shirt keeps me safe from bear attacks, as supposedly evidenced by the fact that I’ve not been attacked by a bear any time I’ve worn the article of clothing). As is the case with many instances in life, especially complex systems, there may be more than one contributing factor to this issue (i.e., there are no bears in my immediate area).

I suspect another element has also played a key role with pandemic response policy and the lengths to which some people will go when avoiding discomfort. Enter, cognitive dissonance—psychological conflict when one’s beliefs do not align with one’s behavior (e.g., I continue wearing my supposed bear-repellant t-shirt despite scientific studies calling to question the validity of safety related to the clothing protection claim).

Since posting my original blog entry, I have observed groups of people who share similar cognitively biased and dissonant perspectives, rigidly demanding that others adopt shared beliefs and actions. Of this, one source noted, the bandwagon effect may explain why one person performs some behavior, even if the action is contrary to one’s own principles. Who wants to ride on a fear-inducing wagon?

Over the past couple years, I have observed people responding to COVID-19 from personal (micro), professional (mezzo), and societal (macro) perspectives. More accurately, I have witnessed people responding to the reaction to the pandemic, not simply the virus itself. What I have seen has been unexpected, to say the least.

Having worked in the federal government as a law enforcement officer (LEO), I understand that the role of LEOs is not “to protect and to serve,” though to enforce laws—as the name says it all, law…enforcement, not ordnances, mandates, or otherwise. Still, during the pandemic, I observed allegations of LEOs across the world committing abuse of citizens.

“Is life worth living if you living in hell? When the mind is confined to a prisoner’s cell? And the lies they devise in the system that fails, but I expect the system to fail!” – Jedi Mind Tricks, Shadow Business

Psychological studies could offer some insight into human behavior during the pandemic. What the Stanford prison experiment may suggest, despite its flaws, is that people in positions of power and authority may tend towards the dehumanization of others if allowed to do so. Obedience to authority was highlighted in the Milgram experiment, under Milgram’s theoretical agentic state proposal.

Essentially, people (LEOs) may begin to behave as an agent for those perceived as having legitimate authority (so-called experts and politicians), up to and including the undertaking of human rights violations. One does not need to evoke Reductio ad Hitlerum or Godwin’s law to highlight how import it is to have a system of checks and balances of power.

One may also look at the Robbers Cave experiment to understand the arbitrary nature of in-group identification and how competition for resources may motivate conflict-driven action. Suppose non-LEO members of the public suddenly assumeauthority over others, in competition for the precious resource of social praise and even money for “snitches.” How could this scenario go wrong?

Perhaps it is worth understanding how the irrationality of emotion may lead to behavioral changes, when considering classical conditioning in the Little Albert experiment. Pairing the neutral stimulus of an unmasked face with the unconditioned stimulus of popular COVID-19 narratives could produce the conditioned response of fear (i.e., new stimulus response) concerning unmasked individuals. We can learn to fear other people.

“When I was 27, I grew accustomed to more fear. Accumulated 10 times over throughout the years. My newfound life made all of me magnified. How many accolades do I need to block denial?” – Kendrick Lamar, FEAR.

Rapidly evoking fear is something with which I am familiar. Having served on two tactical teams as a Marine Security Guard (photo sources for this blog entry), team members donned face coverings (respirators) to elicit fear from would-be hostile actors, not solely to protect against NBC threats. Whether steeped in so-called war mask lore, non-emotional reaction of facial expressions (or lack thereof) featured in the still face experiment, or otherwise, the teams on which I served opted to intimidate potential enemies by defeating them psychologically, in a Sun Tzu-esque manner, before a kinetic response was ever required.

I wonder how many members of U.S. society realize how fear conditioning has likely played a role in their lives from 2020 to 2022. As well, I think of how the science has been used to promulgate this fear. Furthermore, I remain curious about how people who question official narratives have been treated, and why this may be. If I hadn’t challenged personal SMO narratives, I would’ve disturbed myself by rigidly believing people shouldn’t embrace authoritarianism observed over the past couple years.

“Life is too short, would you agree? While I’m living my life, don’t mess with me.” – Too $hort, Life Is…Too Short

I’ve watched as masks were politicized, a White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator reported, “The intent is, right now […] if someone dies with COVID-19 we are counting that” as a COVID-19 fatality in 2020. Think about that for a moment. How logical would it be for my death to be ruled as death by hangnail, simply because I had a hangnail postmortem, though I was struck by a bus and sustained massive head trauma?

I observed states across the U.S. began to lockdown as so-called experts advised that protesting was less risky than the ideology of racism—though not an applicable standard for protesters of all races or ideologies. Having hatred in one’s mind for another race is not equivalent to a biological virus said to wreak havoc on one’s immune and other vital systems. This is scientism and fear at play, not science at work.

Equally surprising to me, I’ve paid close attention to practitioners within the field of mental, emotional, and behavioral health responding to new treatment protocols during COVID-19. One clinician compared masking to wearing a face condom, urging others to wear them for the sake of public health—a responsibility some say is up to the individual, though others clearly disagree.

“Ooh, baby, I like it raw. Yeah baby, I like it raw.” – Old Dirty Bastard, Shimmy Shimmy Ya

I suppose the metaphor of prophylaxis between two consenting partners makes sense. Still, it’s worth stating that some may consent to mask-wearing while others may not. One could make the argument for the “greater good” or a “social contract,” though others of a different mindset may not endorse these socially-framed positions.

Philosophically-driven minds may not agree about the nature of morality (e.g., what is good), so arguing for a greater good could be tricky. As well, it is said that a contract cannot be valid or legally binding unless consent is given, so a nonconsensual contract may be invalid. When it comes to masking, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration categorized this measure as voluntary. Who then SMO to wear a face condom, and by what means of power will this requirement be enforced.

“Kiss the days of the old days, past ways, gone; mind blown, conception, protection.” – Big Gipp, Cell Therapy

Aside from this matter, some clinicians have addressed higher rates of burnout due to COVID-19. Others have expressed difficulty with balancing personal and professional matters over the past couple years. Still, others—like me—have opted to solely provide telehealth services with no plan of returning to an office setting, at least not any time soon.

I’ve found that teletherapy affords my clients more flexible scheduling opportunities. I can now see clients across the entire state of Texas rather than simply in the Austin area. While I dare not speak for other psychotherapists, I can confidently state that my perspective on COVID-19 is not subject to narratives from BS so-called experts.

Argumentum ad verecundiam, or an argument from appeal to authority, is a logical fallacy whereby so-called experts and authority figures posit a claim that is perceived as being true, because of their credentials. This form of credentialism affords an NIAID BS “expert” the ability to be considered credible, even when others have challenged his now-understood questionable conclusions.

“You lied to the courts, courted the judges. You lied for corporations incorporating your grudges. You lied to the public that publicly show disdain, yet you profit off the puppets that prop you up for a gain.” – Locksmith, No Lies

Over the past couple years, people have all but worshiped at the altar of scientism, as dolls (idols) of the NIAID bureaucrat were marketed, songs were sung in his honor (hymns of praise), and even veladoras religiosas (religious candles) were fastened in his image. This is not science, as it relates more to cult-like phenomenon of the science.

NIAID BS aside, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—presumably influenced by media sources—has erroneously claimed, “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition, and many on ventilators,” which was found to have been an inaccurate claim. While I make errors on a frequent basis, I do not assure individual rights of the U.S. citizenry. One may imagine how proper it may be not to follow the science for those who are tasked with such a role.

The CDC may also remain susceptible to regulatory capture, as its director has cited questionable data concerning mask-wearing in schools, contradicted the advice of other so-called experts about masking, and even quickly reversed course of proposed policies to federally mandate vaccinations when questioned about improper implications. How has scientism served U.S. citizens over the past two years?

“Yeah, this might surprise you, you are being lied to.” – I-20, DTP for Life

Why is it that the WHO and CDC—both organizations reportedly concerned with public trust—cannot agree on the impact of lockdowns, mask mandates, or vaccine boosters? What information is one to believe? Even competing media interests seem to agree that COVID-19 BS data are being withheld from the public. If “[d]ata is the currency of public health,” why is it being withheld?

Not long before the March 1, 2022, U.S. State of the Union Address, the CDC revised masking requirements, despite the WHO encouraging people to wear masks. This, despite only a month prior when the CDC advised “Masking is a critical public health tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask.”

Who are citizens to believe? What are we to conclude? Are there any correct answers to such questions? I understand that with Bayesian reasoning, one is encouraged to consider relative probabilities and to rationally update one’s beliefs, hypotheses, or views with the arrival of new evidence. Nonetheless, I’m not convinced that BS actors are operating in a sensible manner.

Why has so much of the information over the past couple years equated to little more than propaganda? Phrases like, “We’re all in this together,” “Flatten the curve,” “Slow the spread,” the “new normal,” “frontline workers”—using military terminology for nonmilitary personnel, declaring a civilian population was on a “battlefield,” because of COVID-19, and remarking on a “full-scale wartime effort” by the President to address COVID-19. Who is served by such extreme and fear-inducing sociopolitical rhetoric?

“Through all the strivin’ and strugglin’, I try to stay hard, but look at Mr. President in the White House tryin’ to play God.” – Silkk the Shocker, Why My Homie

Personally, I don’t care if someone chooses to wear full mission oriented protective posture gear to the grocery store. If someone chooses to don a face condom while attending an in-person psychotherapeutic session, fantastic! If you want to get vaccinated with a booster shot per month, I support your decision to choose. Do you, too, support others’ decision-making when it conflicts with advisement from BS sources?

Generally, I steer clear of musterbation and shoulding all over the place, so I don’t concern myself with demanding the world adhere to SMO narratives. Surprisingly, what I learned during the pandemic is that many people were seemingly eager to should on others for the sake of pandemic response conformity. A shouldy situation, in deed. Too bad there was a run on toilet paper, because that should needs wiping.

“So when you finish plottin’ and schemin’, whatever you doin’. Wait fo’ me, I’ll be in da’ bathroom, boo boo’n.” – Devin the Dude, Boo Boo’n

When I wore a respirator for governmental work, it was solely to protect my own health from the environment, not to provide protection for members of my unit from me. Even with scientism’s promotion of N95 masks, pre-COVID-19 CDC guidance recommended that people “must have a medical evaluation to determine the worker’s ability to wear a respirator,” as the N95 was classified as a respirator and not a mask at that time.

How many people do you know, outside of a healthcare setting, were properly fitted for their N95 unit? Who among you knew that these respirators were said to be “effective for a full shift,” though you still wore the same unit repeatedly throughout the last couple years? I presume you didn’t die. What might that tell you?

I wonder how many people were aware that researchers in 2011 concluded, “None of the studies we reviewed established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection,” and in 2022 researchers asserted, “The overall association between FFP2 use and risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection was marginally not significant.” Did media so-experts advise you of this? Did social media platforms allow this information to be disseminated?

“Own up to your bullshit! Yeah, it’s about that time. Damn, don’t you look foolish? ‘Cause you know, I know, you know, you lyin’. Yeah, right, uh huh. Yeah, right, mhmm. Yeah, right, stop lyin’.” – Kevin Gates, Stop Lyin’

How often has basic reasoning not been practiced during the pandemic? A bear-repelling t-shirt may make the wearer “feel better;” however, it wouldn’t protect one’s lower body any more than a common cloth or N95 mask will protect from ocular (eye) transmission. No amount of fist-waving, purl-clutching, or ad hominem attacks will change this. It’s time to address fear-induced irrationality. There is help available.

Perhaps my view on this matter lacks perspective. It very well could be that some people enforcing their SMO narratives on the world during the pandemic derived pleasure in doing so, like a sadist. Maybe there are individuals who also experienced gratification from being dominated, like a masochist. Is there a chance that something akin to Stockholm syndrome has occurred, whereby some citizens have developed positive feelings for those enforcing tyrannical rule?

For those familiar with the cycle of violence, or cycle of abuse—though not to be confused with the Duluth Model, which may prejudice males as sole perpetrators of violence—behavior exhibited by academics, politicians, and members of the media over the past couple years has been arguably indistinguishable from that of an abusive relationship. The tension-building stage aligns closely with the dissemination of “propaganda” that kept people engulfed in fear.

“Propaganda, we see on the news. Propaganda, keeping us confused.” – Bre the 1st Lady, Propaganda

Double standards being established, while shifting blame and subjecting U.S. citizens to disparate treatment, reflects actions of the incident phase of abuse. The reconciliation phase relates to coercive tactics to persuade someone to do as the abuser desires, even though an individual has revoked consent for the sake of bodily autonomy. After all, no means no, right?

The final stage of violence is a period of calm, when no abuse is currently taking place and the abuse is all but forgotten. Use of intimidation, coercion, threats, emotional abuse, isolation, blame, targeting children, and economic abuse are all elemental markers of a cycle of violence—all which were likely present by those in positions of power and authority over the past two years. Have such tactics served as a healthy or helpful medium?

“None of us will forget just how this played out. You need to break the cycle and find a way out.” – Rapper Big Pooh, The Cycle

What message was sent in 2021, when our betters of society reportedly donned masks only for photo opportunities? Or when they allegedly attended a publicized birthday party, wherein service workers were said to be masked while politicians and celebrities apparently weren’t during a time of mask mandates for the area? Or when celebrities purportedly celebrated the 2021 Emmy awards without masks months later? Was that the science at work?

In my original TDS blogpost, I asked “Besides, which is worse, the acute effects of COVID-19 contact or the result of chronic stress on our systems?” Ask yourself, how have you been served by toxic media exposure during the pandemic? Did you employ TDS tactics to protect yourself? Or, were you deluded by toxic BS narratives that kept you in a cycle of unhelpful belief systems with which you disturbed yourself?

Have you been successful at imagining or “manifesting” an alternate reality, though somehow unable to impose your will on others according to your rigid plans for the world? During the pandemic, have you outsourced your higher order thinking to so-called experts, and in doing so experienced an unpleasant mood or harmful behavior? Is the BS media you’re consuming ackchyually serving you well?

“I’ve had it up to here, with all the bullshit.” – B-Real, Shoot ‘Em Up

It may be useful to provide a specific example of how my approach to REBT is conducted. While the process listed here is a somewhat oversimplified representation of how I conduct my sessions, it is my hope to leave the reader with some understanding as to what I mean when discussing self-disturbance. The following ABC Model is my main approach to psychotherapy.

A (Activating event) – You inundate yourself with media sources during the global pandemic. This may be done by checking social media first thing upon waking, watching your preferred news station before leaving home, listening to a sociopolitical podcast on the way to work, checking various news outlets and social media networks when at work, driving home while listening to pundits opine about numerous events of the day, and again engaging social and corporate media sources until bedtime. Perhaps more relatable, not having a job to which you attend, you spend the entire day engaging with the aforementioned media sources while at home.

I find it useful to determine the critical (A); that is the content of the Activating event clients consider most relevant to the unhelpful Consequences they report. As previously mentioned, there is no A-C connection here, so let us explore the A-B-C connection together.

For the sake of this example, let’s say that six hours of combined media exposure (A) leaves you feeling irritable (C). Is the (A) responsible for the (C)?

B (Beliefs) – You tell yourself something along the lines of, “Others should not infect me with COVID,” “I must not fall ill,” or, “I ought to be safe.” These SMO narratives may suffice for an administrative example. Still, I’m not convinced that too many of the people with whom I work speak in such a reserved manner. In fact, I know my mental dialogue doesn’t communicate in this fashion.

In order to evoke an impactful Consequence, let us be honest with how we talk to ourselves. This may involve use of rigid and extreme demands of ourselves, others, or the world in general. It isn’t uncommon for obscene langue to be used in our mental discourse, so let’s really color the Beliefs properly.

You may tell yourself something like, “I hear about so many shitty people who refuse to wear fucking masks, and I don’t think I can stand being in a room with these assholes! Who are they to put my life in danger? Do they care only about themselves? I bet they’re the kind of selfish pricks who actually want to kill grandma! They all should just die already. And if not that, they better not put my life in danger, because I’ll die if I catch COVID!” (B)

C (Consequences) – With sufficiently punctuated Beliefs, you may experience a host of feelings. When I speak of feelings, I mean one of two things. One, feelings as emotions (i.e., joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, etc.). Two, feelings as bodily sensations (e.g., I feel tightness in my chest.). Saying something like, “I feel like people don’t care about my health,” isn’t necessarily helpful. Generally, if you can replace feel/feeling with thought/think, you’re likely not describing an emotion or body sensation.

When saying something like, “[t]hey better not put my life in danger, because I’ll die if I catch COVID [B],” and having that narrative continually fed to you through media sources (A), I suspect you may feel scared, anxious, irritated, angry, or all of these emotions (C). You may also feel your heart pounding, legs going numb, head becoming hot, or shoulders tensing (C).

Also worth noting is that behavior, which some people refer to as actions, can serve as a Consequence, too. Let’s say fear was the most significant emotion of the collective you experienced, and your heartrate accelerating to the point where your chest begins to hurt, results in you throwing your cellphone (C). This actually happens, as some people want to create enough distance between the perceived source of their stress and themselves as possible.

It isn’t the six hours of combined media exposure (A) that led to you emotive, sensory, and behavioral experience (C). Remember your A-B-C’s. The continuous media exposure (A) leads to you telling yourself that your life is in danger (B), and because of this unhelpful Belief you experience what you think are symptoms relating to a heart attack—genuinely feeling this pain (C), as you disturb yourself into a frightful experience (C).

Goal – Once the A-B-C order of operations is established, I find if helpful to discuss what goals a client has regarding the presenting problem. Let’s say that instead of feeling scared, enduring a painful body sensation, and breaking your phone (C), you would rather prefer to be somewhat annoyed by COVID-19 subject matter.

It may be worth saying that it isn’t uncommon for some people to desire an unrealistic outcome, such as, “I want to feel euphoria when hearing about the rising pandemic death rate.” Perhaps the postmodern practitioners in the field could better assist when it comes to imaginative conclusions. As REBT is largely grounded in stoicism, and to keep this example as straightforward and pragmatic as possible, I invite you to consider that mild annoyance is preferable to being gripped by fear.

D (Disputation of beliefs) – Next, your Beliefs are challenged so that you may experience new Consequences, preferably those of a healthier or more helpful nature. While Disputing beliefs may occupy more time in my sessions than any other element of the ABC Model, I won’t go too far into detail about the finer points of Disputation herein. Still, I think it’s worth consideration of the following.

Typically, I use inference chains, empirical disputes, the Socratic Method, role reversal, and other techniques to assist clients with consideration of other perspectives and challenging (D) rigidly held Beliefs. Another significant element with which I assist clients relates to radical self-acceptance.

My clients are invited to consider accepting themselves rather than the Beliefs they hold, as we are not our thoughts. Again, for those who wish to practice forms of psychotherapy by which they imagine different outcomes and become that with which they delude themselves, I’m not here to should all over them. Have at it.

Additionally, REBT includes elements of existentialism. I discuss these matters with clients on a continual basis. Suppose you understood that one day you will die, even if you wore a government issued respirator. Maybe you even realize with the limited time you have available, fulfilling purpose and meaning as an anecdote to suffering is worthwhile. This knowledge could help frame your perspective (D), masked or not.

While Disputing, you further consider (D) what I spoke of in my original blog entry:

Suppose we treated the perpetual barrage of media content as a form of toxic exposure akin to an NBC event. What measures of TDS would be appropriate? Limiting the amount of time spent listening to the news and responding to social media posts (T), distancing from content that evokes an unhealthy physiological and psychological response (D), and instead engaging in other activities (i.e., self-care practice, pursuit of hobbies and interests, using available time to create rather than destroy, etc.) or deleting apps and turning off legacy media sources (S) may prove useful.

Suppose that after a back-and-forth dialectic (D), you arrive at a conclusion that better serves your goals. You determine that while it’s true some people refuse to wear masks, a society in which liberty and freedom exist is inherently dangerous, to a degree, and likely always has been for as long as you can recall. After all, it was el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz who concluded, “The price of freedom is death.” This doesn’t need to serve as a frightening reality.

Considering these things, you further conclude that you’ve taken proper precautions (i.e., social distancing, contact limiting, mask-wearing, vaccination, strengthening your immune system with prophylactics, exercising, using proper nutrition, etc.). You no longer endorse the unreasonable conclusion that you SMO not to die. Sure, it may be mildly annoying to contemplate how others don’t share your sentiment, and you can accept this all the same (D).

E (Effective new beliefs) – You tell yourself, “Immortality isn’t something I’m guaranteed, I’m taking proper precautions for my health, I can’t control the behavior of others, and I choose to lead a meaningful life despite the suffering I may experience [E].” Because of this Effective new Belief, you are only somewhat annoyed by COVID-19 subject matter, having met your goal. Additionally, you no longer experience unhelpful/unhealthy feelings concerning the pandemic, especially because you choose to employ a TDS approach to media. How empowering!

“We made it!” – Drake, We Made It

I suspect someone may critique my use of multiple media sources when highlighting how overexposure to such sources may not be helpful. I accept this analysis. As well, I assert that my actions were intentionally performed. I used resources from right- and left-leaning outlets, videos of actual statements, opinion pieces, and other data upon which many people in my personal and professional life rely.

I do not endorse, agree with, or recommend all of the links contained herein. Given this, why take the time to review and repost the material? Receipt of information in my personal, professional, and other avenues of life stem from many sources. People who tell me about FOMO often cite sources similar to those contained herein. Think of the implications of that term. Is FEAR of missing out something YOU want to guide your life?

“It was you that chose your due. You built a maze you can’t get through. I tried to help you all I can, now I can’t do nuttin’ for you, man.” – Flavor Flav, Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man

If you chose to make a pre-assessment note of how you felt prior to reading all of this, I now encourage you to write down how you feel after considering all I’ve outlined in this writing. Do you feel joyful, angry, fearful, sorrowful, disgusted, or otherwise? What is your body’s check engine alert telling you?

Did your mood improve after being exposed to so much media information? If so, why do you think that might that be? Did your mood regress after considering the various things I’ve discussed? If so, what may explain this effect?

Perhaps there is no impact on your mood whatsoever. If so, what is your conclusion as to why this may be? Have I disregarded a seemingly obvious other option—the absence of a positive, negative, or neutral reaction? What is your assessment of all I’ve outlined here? Moreover, do you have a direction in which you want to move from the past couple years?

For many people with whom I have contact, I am told that when contemplating matters addressed by overexposure to media sources, their moods tend not to improve. If this is the case with you, as well, what might you choose to do so that you no longer disturb yourself? Could a TDS approach help in improving your level of functioning and overall quality of life?

All things considered, the NIAID BS medical advisor driving much of the narrative behind COVID-19 recently stated, “I have said that I would stay in what I’m doing until we get out of the pandemic phase and I think we might be there already.” What, pandemic over?

“Mask on (Off), fuck it, mask off (Mask).” – Future, Mask Off

Mask off.


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