Slow down: a possible anti-fear vaccine

Is there a relationship between always running and fear of foreigners? Is there something in the lifestyles of complex societies that, from the point of view of emotional and relational well-being, rather than making us evolve, risks pushing us into a dimension of closure and isolation?

Some reflections on the topic show us that perhaps there is a red thread to follow.

In 2011, some Yale University scholars conducted a study in which they measured the attitude towards immigrants, in a sample of liberals and conservatives, after reminding them of the danger of the flu virus and asking if they had carried out the vaccine or not. .

Those who had not carried out the vaccine, after being exposed to a sense of threat and risk, showed more hostile attitudes towards immigrants, unlike those who, having carried out the vaccine, felt more "immune" and less hostile towards foreigners (notoriously the flu vaccine is a powerful defense against the threat of foreign invasion!).

If it is natural to dismiss a potential hazard, it is also true that the more threatened you feel, the more likely you are to arm yourself to defend yourself.

This study makes us reflect on how much some beliefs and causal attribution processes can rest on completely irrational bases.

Not only. Time is money.

Is it possible that there is a connection between the perception of danger and the increasingly frenetic and compressed rhythms of life?

In hypermodern capitalist societies we are dominated byideology of efficiency. To earn our portion of well-being, the goal is to get the maximum profit by winning the competition with other competitors. This does not only apply to the contexts of economic production but affects all areas of life: work, politics, school, friendships, love. L'ideal of success coincides with the availability of material wealth, the degree of popularity and independence from bonds.

In the face of these ambitious earnings, what are the costs? What is increasingly sacrificed is the time.

Time to take care of yourself, reflect, cultivate desires and passions, but also time to devote to others, to your partner, to your children, to your neighbor. We work on urgency and in a constant state of alert. The illusion of profit in terms of success and performance makes us lose sight of the cost in terms of sense of insecurity.

We are constantly exposed to alarming and distressing news. It becomes a daily necessity for "normal" people to quickly remove what does not concern us closely, dissociate from the sense of vulnerability, build one defensive shield. But "removed" and "return of removed" are two moments of the same movement.

Is there a connection between all this and the increase, especially in the most opulent and wealthy societies, of social sadness, depression, anxiety disorders?

As in the Yale experiment, the feeling of being vulnerable and exposed to risk (true or presumed) increases the sense of fear, aggression, isolation (attack-flight reaction).
It is conceivable that faith in the omnipotence of material and technological development is functional to neutralizing the deep sense of powerlessness, the feeling of being alone and defenseless in the face of a hostile world and economic, political and social forces, which instead of being governed , more and more seem to rule our life?

Safety first.

Social security is a "hot" topic of current times. Political leaders are well aware of this and are concerned about it worldwide as to make it a key point of many communication campaigns and government efforts.

But are we sure that the danger really comes from outside? Are barriers the solution to the sense of threat and insecurity? As a result, what kind of security are we talking about?

Human relationships need space and time to exist in an authentic way: when people manage to stay close and recognize each other in humanity, to make time to think and dedicate yourself to the care of bonds, feelings of solidarity and alliance tend to prevail and the sense of uncertainty decreases. People are less concerned about defending themselves from the outside and more busy taking care of the inside. It feels better and safe.

Who knows, this is not the most effective vaccine to improve the living conditions of people and the planet.

Ilaria Saponaro


  • Article by John Bargh - professor of social psychology at Yale University - published in the Washington Post on 22.11.17
  • Speech by Pepe Mujica at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - Rio de Janeiro 2012
  • Benasayag and Schmit - "The era of sad passions" - Feltrinelli, 2013

* Notes on the author:
Ilaria Saponaro is a psychodynamic and systemic-relational psychologist and psychotherapist. He has been working for years for the design and implementation of psychoeducational interventions for children and adolescents and interventions to support parenting. He collaborates with the CIES onlus for the "MaTeMù" Youth Center and Art School and coordinates the educational activities in schools for the association. It carries out facilitation and training on the occasion of training courses, seminars and workshops. He collaborates with the clinical center of the Institute of Integrated Relational Therapy (ITRI) specialized in the treatment of eating disorders. He works as a psychotherapist in private offering consultancy and therapeutic courses for the individual, the couple or the family. Since 2016 he is an ordinary member of Psy + Onlus with whom he collaborates in the area of ​​school psychology services and as a psychotherapist of the Clinical Consulting Center.

migrants, immigration, fear, time

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