#8: Why there is no life without fear
We’re all afraid of something: spiders, heights, confined spaces, and especially unfamiliar things – like a vaccination with the novel Corona vaccines. There are even people who are afraid of buttons. But how do fears arise? How much fear is normal? And how can we learn to live with it, or even better, overcome it?? In the new episode "Know when you want" answer the psychologists Emily Bauske and Dr. Jeanne Rademacher these exact questions and explain why it is even good to be afraid and why fearful people have better relationships.
Emily Bauske is a research associate and lecturer at the Department of Social and Personality Psychology. She studied psychology at the University of Magdeburg with a focus on environmental psychology. Her research focuses on the behavioral relevance of opinion statements. At the start of the Corona pandemic, the junior researcher studied the conditions under which the public accepts policy measures and adapts its own behavior to them.
As a research associate, Dr researches and teaches. Jeanne Rademacher at the Chair of Clinical Developmental Psychology on the topics of identity, coping with critical life events, and clinical illnesses. Their research also focuses on promoting mathematical skills in preschool children.
The podcast to read
Introspection: Know when you want. The podcast on research at the University of Magdeburg.
Ina Gotze: Every one of us is afraid of something, be it spiders, heights, confined spaces, and there are even people who are afraid of buttons. The causes are as different as the fears and also as we humans ourselves, but they have one thing in common: We can overcome them. And today’s episode could almost be a small therapy session, because the guests are Emily Bauske and Jeanne Rademacher, both from the Institute of Psychology, more precisely from the Chair of Personality and Social Psychology and from the area of Clinical Developmental Psychology. And today I talk to them about why we are afraid of different things and what can help against it. In this sense: Welcome!
Emily Bauske: Thank you for the invitation.
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: I would also like to thank.
Ina Gotze: To start with, I have to ask you a very personal question right away. What are you afraid of and why?
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Just off the top of my head, um, I couldn’t really name anything that I’m afraid of. But if I were to listen inside myself, it would actually be a certain fear of dark stairwells, especially stairwells that lead down into darkness. That’s clearly a childhood memory, because back then we had an outside toilet and we had to go down half a flight of stairs, day or night, and the hallway light was very often broken, and then you had to go into the dark. Well, and if you’ve watched the wrong films too early, then of course you’re bound to be afraid of them. And actually now it occurs to me, if you first talk about it, in the recent past phasenweise quite respect, I would rather say, before a corona infection. That’s it.
Ina Gotze: Understandable. And can you determine for yourself why this is so, with the Corona infection now?
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Well, I say, fears exist anyway. So there’s no such thing as a life without fear anyway, because we as humans are death-conscious and therefore live with a primal fear. And this corona disease can, even if the probability is very low, but it can be severe. It can even be fatal, so that means it’s the fear of dying, or maybe the fear, not even of your own dying, but of the dying of important ones, that is, people you love, or maybe the fear of not being able to take care of your child anymore. So there are then quite a lot of different fears, anxieties – maybe that will be differentiated in the course – involved.
Ina Gotze: And you Mrs. Bauske?
Emily Bauske: My fears also go a bit in a similar direction, so I am personally not so afraid of the Corona disease, because I perceive the risk as rather low and also follow many recommendations for action, of which I am hopeful that they will protect me, but with me there is also a bit of fear of disease. I am a little bit of a hypochondriac. So whenever someone tells me that he or she has a certain disease or has been diagnosed, I always think, oh dear, could that affect me too?? What are the symptoms? And then I check on myself again if I can recognize them somehow maybe. On the one hand, it’s exhausting, so when someone tells me that he or she has a disease, I’m always a bit frightened myself at first. On the other hand, of course, it’s also good because it makes me pay attention to these signs or go to the doctor for preventive checkups. That is then again the benefit of this fear, to get me to take care of my body or myself as well.
Ina Gotze: You just must not google.
Emily Bauske: Exactly, I don’t do that either. That’s what I did the first few times. My friend and I do it this way, if he has something or thinks he has something, I google it and then just tell him, no, that’s not it. And if I think I have something, then he googles it and then also says, no that’s not it, because the following symptoms – or he says nothing at all about symptoms. This just doesn’t apply to you and then it’s good. Then I don’t have to … then I don’t know what symptoms I should have had and maybe end up imagining them, but I just know, nope, that’s definitely not it. This is a very good system.
Ina Gotze: Already trick 17 here to the entrance (laughs). That does help.
Emily Bauske: Yes (laughs). Exactly, and the second fear I have, which I thought about a bit before the interview, is fear of heights. I did not have this fear as a child. I climbed trees a lot. So there is also not this one situation or childhood memory where I think: Ok, this is it now, but simply so in the course of growing up, I have a certain fear, a certain respect for heights developed also. Exactly, so it’s also the case that when I climb a lighthouse on vacation, for example, I first stand at the edge, at the door, and think to myself: OK, I’m going to climb a lighthouse. A few minutes to acclimatize and then when that’s … When I’m comfortable with it and I’m ready, then I’ll go to the railing and look down too. So I try to train against it a little bit by exposing myself to these situations sometimes. At Christmas, I sit on the Ferris wheel at the Christmas market. The first round is awful, but the rounds that come after are nice and you can let your eyes wander like this. That is then also worthwhile.
Ina Gotze: … and enjoy. So first check the situation and feel your way around.
Emily Bauske: Exactly.
Ina Gotze: I already told you in the introduction that there are people who are afraid of buttons. That sounds completely paradoxical and irrational to outsiders, because the button doesn’t really hurt you as a rule. How can then such fears arise?
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: That’s right, at first glance it doesn’t seem plausible, and I think you have to elaborate a little bit here. This fear of buttons – there’s actually a name for it: so-called coumpounophobia. This is one of many so-called phobias, and the meaning of the word is fear. There are many authors in psychology who distinguish between anxiety and fear. I once read a very nice sentence about this, which was very insightful for me. You could put it something like this: One is afraid of something, but one is frightened. Say: Fear means, there is something given to be afraid of or to be afraid of and fear is rather something undirected. One sometimes also hears the term ‘freiflotting’. And fear, that’s how the psychoanalysts describe it now, who I think provide very profitable theoretical reflections on the emergence and also on the understanding of clinically relevant anxiety phenomena. They say that such phobias or such fear can well be interpreted as a defense against a deeper lying fear. That is, fear is reified, so to speak – one could say it is a concretization, a concretization form of fear, thus a creative solution. And with the number of phobias – over 600 – you can see how creative people are in this.
Ina Gotze: They project this, so to speak, onto an object ..
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Exactly!
Ina Gotze: … because the fear is actually so re-concretized that they don’t even know what they’re afraid of?
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Well, they are not aware of it. So there are certainly – with the analysts it is always the case that they say, of course there is a reason for it and there are now different ways of explaining it. First of all, the fact is that the choice of what I choose now is very strongly biographically influenced. That’s why it’s always important to take a biographical anamnesis in order to look at the patient’s condition. And this primal fear, with which we are all, I say, equipped, which is also vital, otherwise we would not move carefully through life, out of which, out of this primal feeling, basically all kinds of fears arise, so there is no life without fear. People differ, so you could say, in their way of expressing their fear, but not whether they are afraid or not. So it is a question of who can allow and endure feelings and who represses them or who fends them off. And whether I develop a basic trust or basic mistrust of the world out of this basic fear is very, very strongly related to our very first interpersonal experiences. And if we have a primary caregiver who guarantees that we develop a basic trust through binding care and security, then we can also balance this feeling of fear, or whatever we want to call it now, very well. But if that doesn’t work, then, well, then it can, how shall I say it, not be so nice. But there are also explanatory approaches, such as behavioral therapy, or – it comes from the classical learning theories, such as behaviorism, – direction in psychology – which say, for example, something like this is learned. So you could imagine that when I was a little child, I was given a bath and afterwards my grandmother put on a scratchy little woolen coat, which she buttoned up to the top, and it was so tight that maybe a little .. (loud inhalation) and that was an unpleasant feeling and then one says, one couples unpleasant experiences with, for example, the button or the wool or … This is sometimes the explanation for dog phobias or so, that one simply had a bad experience and therefore this is coupled a little bit. So, you see, there are very different approaches to explain.
Ina Gotze: It is certainly difficult to find this out. Now you yourself have already said, Mrs. Bauske, with you, the fear or the fear of height, can be treated well, also of spiders, by going a little further again and again, making contact, meeting the fear and establishing: It does not hurt me. Nothing happens. The fear is somehow unfounded. But how would that be the case for you now with illnesses, that is, the fear of illnesses?? That’s a bit more difficult. You can’t infect Ms. Bauske and say, look, nothing’s happening.
Emily Bauske: No harm done.
Ina Gotze: (laughs) How do you deal with such fears??
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: So basically, with any kind of anxious reaction or behavior patterns, you can also work with people in a very different way. So it always depends on how you explain it to yourself and how you work with people. What you have just mentioned comes from behavior therapy, as I said, and is called systematic desensitization. But there is, as already mentioned, also this depth-psychological or psychoanalytical direction, which is more interested in pursuing an understanding of a possibly primordial conflict or in attaining that, in order to be able to dissolve fears or to integrate them well into the personality, or also systematic therapy, which always looks very much at the interpersonal component of fearful phenomena and sees fearful behavior as a form of expression of needs, as a coping strategy, and it is precisely from these different approaches that completely different working methods follow. Such now mentioned fear of illness is yes an absolutely legitimate ..
Ina Gotze: … understandable.
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Yes, absolutely understandable. One is afraid of dying. This is also the reason … since we humans are death-conscious, I already said that there is no life without fear. Yes, it’s just a question of how you deal with it. So you would actually, I see it that way with phobias as well here: I would rather not work with confrontation, but I would try very much that one takes this worry about oneself seriously and tries to integrate it well into one’s own life and there are also, as we have already heard a bit in advance, very nice ideas how people deal with it. By the way, I think you can see here very nicely this interpersonal component of fear, which has to do with, actually also with the primal fear of being abandoned, that you cooperate with each other in order to cope with fear. So, that’s a very, very clever strategy.
Ina Gotze: Everything done right, Mrs. Bauske. (laughs)
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: So this relationship … that’s also a good effect of such fears, that you always reassure yourself again and again in a kind of relationship reassurance, yes, you always muffle yourself again and again like this. And that is then again … That’s why you should see every kind of fear as functional. So, it’s not something dysfunctional that has to go away, but you should listen to it and you should give attention to this need – you don’t necessarily always get to the bottom of it yourself, which one it is now, so maybe sometimes you need professional cooperation. But there are many who say: Yes, that’s the way it is, but I’ll come back with that actually quite well clear and then they describe so their attempts to solve, and I say congratulations, super.
Ina Gotze: Yes, job done. [laughs]
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Job done. (laughs)
Ina Gotze: You’ve already indicated that there are people who are perhaps more anxious by nature, but that a lot of experiences also play a role – I can see that, for example: My mom is also a relatively anxious person. And I have adopted a lot of this, for example I never flew until about four years ago, because I simply adopted this fear from her. I never sat in an airplane, or rather as a child I once sat in a very small airplane. All this was nice, but I never got into a big plane, because she had this fear and I just took it over with her. What plays more of a role, my genetics or my upbringing and my social environment??
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Naturally more fearful would mean genetically inherited. And there we are with a really very, very old debate of our subject: genetics vs. Environment. And I always like to quote the sentence, I think from a textbook on clinical developmental psychology: "Development is 100 percent genetics and 100 percent environment.
Ina Gotze: (laughs) Answers exactly my question.
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: A percentage weighting just doesn’t do justice to the inseparability of the two. And the very exciting field of so-called epigenetics brings us a lot of new insights into the transgenerational transmission of, I say casually, experience, that is, the inheritance of experience. Now, my colleagues would say: "Oh, come on! Times. But I have now announced that this is put so casually. People do come into the world with very different needs. But I would say that environment or constellation is instrumental in how they are able to address those particular needs. So, if we were now back to the first interpersonal experiences, if, for example, my primary caregivers or parents manage to recognize my physical and my psychological needs and to react appropriately to them, then I have a very, very great chance of being able to endure fear very well, because I have been given the so-called basic trust and this basic trust is basically also very important. This certainty that someone is there when I’m not feeling well is the basic prerequisite for exploring the world, i.e., for going out into the world, which is very important for cognitive development. You can also see the close connection between emotional state and also mental and cognitive development. And so, for example, one could also explain what you just said: My mom had, in principle, completely justified – highly dangerous, to sit down in such an airplane as a human being ..
Ina Gotze: laughs
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: … and rising from the ground into the air … we are birds? (laughs)
Ina Gotze: laughs
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: … so absolutely legitimate and understandable ..
Ina Gotze: If we could fly, then we would do it.
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Then we would do it, exactly. So from that point of view, this is an absolutely … Yes, congratulations, I can only say again and again. That’s good that you have this fear, because, it’s not normal to get on a plane for us humans. And if your mother has distinguished herself by being particularly cautious, well, of course you may have observed this and noticed – you have a close bond with your mother, you trust your mother – that when mom looks funny, that is called mentalizing, being able to read the facial expressions of others, if you can read this well, then of course you also have the ability to say, ah, okay, the slide better not slide, mom looks funny, somehow furrows her eyebrows, or she talks about flying and airplanes. That can’t be good. So you are saving yourself from having to experience this yourself. That’s basically cognitively quite smart to do that then, but for certain things it can of course then again not be so smart, if it’s now something – so flying is now not vital for me – but, if it were now about being afraid of nature and no longer going into nature, then it is of course that I would say: let’s talk about it again, ..
Ina Gotze: (laughs)
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: … which could perhaps be the advantages of going outside, into the countryside. Even if there could be insects that could sting you or I don’t know who.
Ina Gotze: You have just brought a quote. Now I would like to bring also a quotation, namely of the journalist Peter Hohl. He once said that people are more afraid of the unknown than of the dangerous, and he compared that with the fact that there are enough people who are afraid of unknown cultures, foreign cultures, but when they have drunk alcohol, they also get behind the wheel, although that is actually more dangerous. How much is there to it? How much truth is there in that??
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Yes, much. Just now, when you brought the quote, I remembered the sentence: ‘Between the sorrow and the nothingness I choose the sorrow.’ So that is also a bit similar. There is a lot to this and it is a bit challenging to be brief here: Fear of strangers of course has a lot to do with one’s own self-image and also sense of identity – but led too far now. One could perhaps argue here like this: Any change in behavioral routines is always accompanied by anxiety, even if we don’t want it to be. Well, we have a region in the brain, the so-called amygdala, that fires with fear when there is a change, without us being able to do anything about it. So, it also means to accept that this is the case and then to accompany it well. And you have to keep that in mind when it comes to the unknown. The unknown is worse than the familiar. By the way, this also explains why people adapt so well to bad or dangerous things. What people know, they can withstand, and there are many things that should frighten us enormously, but don’t, because we have simply become accustomed to them. Cars ..
Ina Gotze: Cars are actually more dangerous than airplanes .. (laughs)
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: (laughs) Now I don’t want to come off here as an anti-airplane, anti-car ..(laughs)
Ina Gotze: lau.
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: … to be remembered. But also in a car, when I think about the speed – I remember a client who said she gets scared or has a slight panic attack in the car when her husband is speeding down the highway at 220 km/h…
Ina Gotze: Say what! Of course!
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: … and I just looked at her and was speechless at first and I thought: Well, thank goodness someone in this car is scared. (laughs)
Emily Bauske: (laughs) It is not, but at least it is.
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: Yes exactly, that they stop him, because that is also highly dangerous, but if you say now, to come back to your example: Driving with alcohol, one must now also not underestimate that substance consumption plays a decisive role, because alcohol quenches fear well. That’s why massive substance use is often understood as an anxiety management strategy as well.
Ina Gotze: So one causes the other. But would the quote perhaps also explain to some extent why there are people who are afraid … well, we are now with the Corona vaccination, that was also quite fitting to start with, afraid of this novel, unknown vaccine, although there are studies that actually say that the vaccination itself is not what is dangerous, that is the Corona disease.
Emily Bauske: Exactly, so that’s a bit in the same vein, that people tend to take the status quo, that is, they’d rather face a known danger, or a known annoyance, a known grief, than try something new or risk something new, in fact. With the Corona vaccination and the Corona disease, you could say for example, the Corona disease, we have a little bit more experience with that now, so also just subjective. The population has been kind of facing it for a year and in the beginning, at least in my eyes … or for me, it was also very scary at the beginning this corona disease, but you get so used to it. So the personal fear of the Corona disease I find then goes back and then comes the next newer thing, namely this Corona vaccination. And there is not so much experience now. So also my grandma for example, over 80, could have been vaccinated immediately, but was like: ‘Oh you know, Emily. I prefer to wait until a few others … and until I know that it works for them.‘ And sure, there are these clinical studies beforehand. So that’s all … it’s put through its paces before it’s even approved as a vaccine, but still this feeling: ‘I don’t know what I’m in for and how it’s actually going to be assessed, and I’ll first see how it goes, also with the others, and then maybe I’ll let it happen to me.‘ That is simply also such a decision, which is also justified then perhaps in the fact that humans can deal also with probabilities with difficulty. So for us in the scientific field this is not common, but in many disciplines we work a lot with scientific statistics and this probability calculation. And we’re just practiced at it, but for a lot of people who don’t have to deal with these numbers on a daily basis, it’s totally hard to assess: ‘Okay, what does 97 percent effectiveness or 5 percent probability mean that you have a severe course and how can that be weighed against each other at all??‘ Then one also falls back on heuristics, for example that one just rather takes the status quo, thus rather the health, as one has it now with the risk that one perhaps nevertheless becomes ill, maintains, instead of that one exposes oneself willingly to this vaccination, which is dangerous perhaps, thus only to a smaller certain risk, but naturally nevertheless somehow dangerous could be, depending upon, exposes, then one remains evenly rather with the status quo, than that one tries out there somehow something new.
Ina Gotze: It certainly has something to do with it, with certain protective measures I can limit the probability, which brings us to probability, of falling ill with corona. I have that so a little bit more in the hand. How I react to the vaccination, however, is ultimately decided by my body. But it certainly has a lot to do with the fact that there is a lot of misinformation and many people actually classify this misinformation as facts. Why … so if in principle they actually decide very, very fact-based and there are also scientifically correct facts, why are they then no longer receptive to them??
Emily Bauske: That’s a good question, there are also psychological studies on that and also psychological effects, so the ‘confirmation bias’ for example or ‘need for closure, these are two aspects that then play a role. One thing is that you like to form an opinion and then keep it, so that’s where the people also differ among themselves. So there are people who say, ok, I’ll look at it a little bit longer and if there’s some new information, I’ll take a look at it I also change my opinion again. But there are also those who somehow first read in the news: ‘Severe course with a Corona vaccination’, or they hear from the friend of a neighbor the sister ..
Ina Gotze: … the Schwipp brother-in-law ..
Emily Bauske: … exactly, the brother-in-law, the work colleague, who got this vaccination and had terrible side effects and was then in the hospital, very terrible, and are so impressed by it that they are no longer receptive to these scientific facts. So they form this opinion and then stick to it. And then comes the ‘confirmation bias also a little bit into the game. This then means that once people have formed an opinion they also tend to then simply ignore contrary information. So if one has already formed the opinion, ok, the vaccination is harmful and dangerous and one must be careful, then also new studies, which say: ‘No, that’s not so’, will be published, or just a thousand other experience reports that say: ‘I have’ tolerate the vaccines well’, are then either dismissed or not really taken up and don’t really seep into the consciousness. People stick to this opinion and will not take this attitude of contrary information well, but attitude-conforming information does. So, if you then hear again from another work colleague who also has this, who also has severe side effects, then this is confirmed again and so it builds up more and more. Like such a wall against new information. So it’s quite difficult then to get to it.
Ina Gotze: Probably also simply, if that was so imposing, the information has shaped one so, then … that one then somehow perceives it as big. So basically I can understand the fear, the fears. So that has believe’ I every: ‘How will I probably tolerate this? I’ll somehow lie flat for three days and won’t be able to do anything anymore?‘ I have decided for a vaccination, because I have weighed rationally simply, I would like to lie if necessary for three days on the couch, to be able to watch only Netflix and not to be able to move, or would I like to land in the worst case really in the hospital, be ventilated and have afterwards consequential damages, which are not to be foreseen? That was simply a risk-benefit consideration for me. Why … or rather how – I think we have clarified the why quite well -; but how can you now get people to be able to make this rational consideration when they are actually in such a tunnel??
Emily Bauske: Yes, that is difficult, because these anecdotes are much closer to the people than the statistics. So maybe, if you take good experience reports and bring that a bit more into the media, whereby trust plays a role there as well. So many people today have, I don’t know, but probably always had a certain distrust of certain institutions. That can be the science. But that can also be politics or the pharmaceutical industry, as an abstract opponent. And these conspiracy myths are also part of that. Yes, a certain credibility of institutions is also necessary, which is why I find it a bit difficult when the RKI, for example, recommends things one week and then recommends them again the next week in a different way, or the EU makes a recommendation and the RKI for Germany says, ‘No, but we don’t do that.‘ That’s just a bit ..
Ina Gotze: What is there to believe?? Complete confusion ..
Emily Bauske: Exactly, so it’s partly based on the same studies as well, but then other conclusions are drawn and clearly, some interpret that a bit more freely and say, ‘Well, we’d recommend it.‘ And the RKI is perhaps a bit more cautious and says: ‘No, you’d better not do that.‘ Exactly, that is also a bit of a question of science communication. That’s why it’s so difficult. So these studies that are being done and these preliminary surveys for the vaccines are of course very complex, they have to be, in order to be able to control all these influencing factors and all possible ‘what-if’ cases to be able to lock up safely. But communicating that to society is of course very difficult. And if you simplify it, of course you always run the risk of simplifying something in the wrong direction or simplifying it in such a way that an attack surface is created and then someone says, ‘Yes, but what about this and that?? And can you apply this to children?‘ Or if among one million people there are now 6 with severe side effects and this was not seen in the studies, can one still believe the studies?? Although, of course, the studies also say that these results should only be taken into account if … or under the conditions that … or restrictions that are then present. But of course you can’t communicate that well and that falls behind, it has to. So that it can be simplified. Just that then a little bit ..
Ina Gotze: The mixed situation ..
Emily Bauske: Exactly! So, it’s a balance that you have to find. Exactly, but how can you convince people to get vaccinated after all?? You can emphasize once this positive experience so a bit more, and that it is now also many people … so actually all know someone who has been vaccinated at least once and for most it is now also, like for my grandma, who also says: ‘Ah yes, my neighbor has tolerated it well …’
Ina Gotze: If Erna tolerated it well, ..
Emily Bauske: Exactly, then I’ll give it to myself now and by the way, it also worked well for her, so everything is in butter. Exactly, so that this positive experience so a little bit prevails and of course you can also incentivize; give or create incentives. And now we have that a little bit, almost unconsciously, because we all want to participate in social life. And that is only possible if everyone adheres to these guidelines, i.e. these three G-rules: Vaccinated, tested or recovered. And for the people who do not want to be vaccinated, they have to get tested. And there are definitely people who say, ‘Oh, I have to go to the movies here every time I want to go to the movies – after all, the movie theater is open again – but every time I want to go to the movies, I have to get tested beforehand and look, she’s vaccinated and can just go in there, show her vaccination card and that’s it. You know what? I just let myself be vaccinated now.‘
Ina Gotze: … she has also survived it.
Emily Bauske: Exactly, she survived it and now she doesn’t have to get tested. I think I’m going to get vaccinated after all. Something like that … so in the States they are now doing it in such a way that they are holding a lottery among all those who have been vaccinated, i.e. those who have already been vaccinated before, but also those who are now being newly vaccinated. So I think there are cars to be won ..
Ina Gotze: Cars always pull, ne?
Emily Bauske: Yes, I think there are cars to win. But that the people who say: ‘Oh, but only because of the vaccination or my own health and I do not go to the cinema, I do not care. But I would love to win a car. Why not actually?‘
Ina Gotze: An E-car. Please dear politicians! I’m thinking about buying an electric car, that would be nice.
Emily Bauske: That would be good, yes. Or I think in England there are stories that people can get vaccinated in a brewery.
Ina Gotze: That’s right, they got free beer or something.
Emily Bauske: You don’t have to go to the vaccination center, you don’t have to go to the doctor. You can drink beer and then get this vaccination. And that works well, so they have good vaccination rates then.
Ina Gotze: I’m just thinking about what it would be in Germany, what would pull. Cars certainly also, I think so. Beer, too, for sure. Or vacation ..
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: A permanent ticket for the FCM in Magdeburg.
Ina Gotze: Or, as I said, a nice vacation trip, that would also be a reward.
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: But I also think, two things have occurred to me now. Because it is about convincing. Ultimately, of course, it’s what you want, but I think benefits of vaccination inspire, so if you say, ‘Gee, I can do this now, I can do that now and I don’t have to have this stupid test.‘ So that you can get people like that and what came to my mind just now is: There we are again so with trust, also in your own body. I think that if you approach it in such a way that you say, ‘My body, of course it will manage this super. I’m assuming that I’m not somehow having particularly big side effects because …’ These thoughts are very important. This reminds me of patients from outpatient rehab, to whom I have also said this again and again. That good, I say it now somewhat casually, that good thoughts also promote processes in the body, which rather inhibit inflammatory processes. So all the substances are released that are needed to make you feel well and if you always think like this: ‘Ah, this is going to be really bad again and then I’m in pain again.‘ That is sometimes also completely automated, that these thought loops begin. The brain then knows immediately what to switch on and inflammation is fired up. So the attitude, I say, also towards oneself before such a vaccination is, I think, very important and can, in my opinion – is my personal assessment -, but also has a decisive influence on how I tolerate such a thing. It’s not just the body that is disconnected from me, it’s a system and how I approach it has an impact. And someone who has the worst fears might really have three days where he can’t do anything, because it’s a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I just wanted to add to that.
Ina Gotze: Just think positive. We were just talking about studies and you, Ms. Bauske, had conducted a study yourself and it was more about the fear … or how frightening people find the Corona pandemic in general and how they also, so to speak, accept the political measures. Two questions about that, which you’re not really supposed to do, you’re usually supposed to journalistically ask the questions one at a time, but they build well on each other. What came out of it? Quite exciting to know. And: Could these results perhaps also be used to convince people, or to show: ‘Everything is fine, get vaccinated!‘?
Emily Bauske: Yes, I did the study in February, March, April of last year, right at the beginning of the Corona pandemic, that’s why the results from this wave, we have now done a second one, just now, so to say.
Ina Gotze: So very fresh ..
Emily Bauske: Exactly. Last month for two weeks the survey. But that’s why it’s still from the beginning of the pandemic, and it was actually the case that people felt less threatened. So I think so on average people said that on a scale of 1 to 100, 40 percent perceive the Corona pandemic as threatening, so less than half actually, of the possible expression. They found it rather restrictive, so probably also these measures that were introduced in the course of time, that it was perceived as a burden, because these restrictions were there. But on the other hand, the sample also said that they felt that these measures, i.e. both these restrictions in public and personal life, but also the recommendations for action that came from the government, or from the WHO or from the RKI, made perfect sense and that they also followed them. The sample was also relatively young, it was a typical student sample. There were, I think, 1.200 people and most of them students, also here from the university. Of course, there were a few older people from Magdeburg and a few from outside the region, but they were relatively young, female, well-educated, so I don’t find it surprising that they accepted these measures. There were only a few measures, something like ‘we should be monitored about our cell phone data’. That was done in China at the beginning, that the people who had Corona were also isolated at home, and when they went out, then the computer immediately said that ..
Ina Gotze: Alert!
Emily Bauske: Alarm, go back inside, someone’s coming over. That was of course … so these coercive measures, also to forcibly recruit medical staff, we also asked that, that was also rejected, but many measures, like closing daycare centers and schools or putting people who show symptoms into quarantine, that people found completely understandable and also acceptable and also these own protective recommendations, like washing your hands, not greeting people somehow close, not being out with many people, wearing protective masks, they all found that good and actually also almost all of them implemented it. Exactly, that was quite exciting. And we then investigated on a psychological level how this is related to personal characteristics. And it was exciting that both the health attitude, that is, the concern for one’s own health, or the appreciation of one’s own health plays a role there. It is also somehow, it is a pandemic, a threat to one’s health, and the more someone values their own health, does a lot for their health in general, i.e. goes jogging, eats well, sleeps a lot, the more inclined the person was to implement these recommendations and accept the government’s measures for containment. That’s interesting on the one hand, but on the other hand, we also surveyed how strongly someone reacts to social norms or social pressure, i.e., the propensity to conform; that’s the construct that we recorded there and basically says how much one adheres to social norms and social rules, and the social rules in this case would be: ‘Hey, please behave like this for society and don’t meet people, don’t go on vacation and please accept these measures. We know on a personal level this is totally restrictive for you, but for society this is important, so please go along with it, accept it and follow these recommendations for action.’ And that just also has a certain influence on how we expected it, also whether people just accept these measures and follow the recommended course of action. And the two things also play a role independently of each other. So both are individual characteristics. They are not related to each other. So someone who conforms a lot to social rules is not necessarily someone who actually values their health very much either. But both have an impact on how well the measures are accepted. And therefore there are certain possibilities for intervention, which we have not yet exhausted, I think. But exactly … that is to frame the Corona pandemic and the measures that go hand in hand with it in such a way that you say: ‘It’s important for your own individual health, but it’s also important for society, and society needs your cooperation here, so please stick to these rules.‘
And in the follow-up study, we are now examining again how the acceptance, how this can be well represented. And my colleague has her fingers in the pie, and she also looks at whether in regions where certain rules are already anchored in law, in contrast to regions where certain rules are only recommendations and are not punished, whether it is easier to follow these rules when they are anchored in law. And it is easier, in fact, to follow if they are anchored in law. Also people who say ‘I don’t think it makes sense now somehow that I shouldn’t be in groups of more than two people’, if you make that clear and say that this will be punished and that this is socially absolutely undesirable, then these people will not meet with more than two people. Because it’s an even more blatant, stronger social norm, in that it’s almost written down … or forbidden, as if you just say: ‘Yes, that’s a recommendation. That would be nice by the way.‘ Exactly, and she is now examining this again scientifically with the data from this new survey.
Ina Gotze: Very exciting! But it is probably possible to deduce a little bit about the approaches to persuade people to vaccinate, isn’t it?. Just their own personal health and also the benefit to society. To say: ‘Come on, the injection won’t hurt you. She won’t kill you either. But this pandemic has simply come to an end and you can play your part in it.‘
Emily Bauske: Exactly, there are also people who really can’t get vaccinated because they have a previous illness, they really can’t tolerate it, or the children who are sitting in school and are not allowed to get vaccinated, either, as of now. And for them, of course, it is totally important to build up this protection against infection in society, a bit like with the measles vaccinations. It is also ok, if single people don’t have that, because they can’t have it, but if there is an overall protection there in the society, then it works anyway.
Ina Gotze: The wonderful herd immunity ..
Emily Bauske: Exactly, that’s why Corona is somehow also a social task.
Ina Gotze: Finally, I have one more question … a service question, so to speak. We already had trick 17 at the beginning, now to speak on trick 18. How can I protect myself from developing fears??
Dr. Jeanne Rademacher: In the best case, one’s own parents have taken care of this, because they give this basic trust through loving and binding care, which is an optimal prerequisite for dealing with the phenomenon of fear, and otherwise, from my point of view, by lovingly meeting one’s own fearful side, acknowledging it, accepting it and giving it a good place within oneself or even outside of oneself. So some like … A lot of clients I’ve worked with preferred to find a symbol outside of their body first, so that has to go a little bit slowly. But we know that the more we want something not to be, the more it becomes. And it is the same with our anxiety. The more I want it gone, the more space it takes and so I think it’s a lot about knowing how important it is to feel your own fear, because it’s part of life. It is immensely useful. Without being able to feel fear and also being able to communicate, there is no deeper human contact. Relating to a relationship ability to itself and others. Well, and social resources. So binding, close, social relationships, because fear and loneliness are also very closely coupled. What I said before: This primal fear of being abandoned. Therefore, this investment in binding social relationships is also a physical commitment, by the way. So we are also physical people and that is also important that there is physicality. I think that is a good precaution.
Ina Gotze: So think positively, learn to love fear, a little bit more. But there is one fear I can take away from our listeners, namely the next podcast episode will come in September, when our junior professor Siegert will be our guest and talk about Alexa, Siri and Co. talk, so also quite interesting. In any case, I thank you for the really great discussion. I have learned a lot, I hope you out there too and we’ll hear from you next time.
Intro voice: Know when you want. The podcast on research at the University of Magdeburg.