For most of us, learning of a positive test result of a friend or neighbor is a stressful experience; we may feel fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, before reaching acceptance.

Commonly, we may also seek to find someone or something to blame, or, if we are the one carrying the diagnosis, we may internalize this blame and feel guilt and shame. But where does this response to blame come from? It turns out, blame is very much a part of our imperfect human nature.

Blame is a defense mechanism, and when we blame others it can temporarily relieve our own negative emotions by displacing them on someone else and can protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable.

When we internalize blame, and develop shame, it can allow us to feel a sense of control, but ultimately leads to more negative emotions and low self-worth. In situations such as a pandemic, there is rarely one person who truly holds the blame, and blaming others may lead to tension or even the disintegration of our relationships within our community.

So how can we move from blame and shame into something better? First, whether it is our own diagnosis or that of someone else, we must accept what has happened, as it cannot be changed.

Blame will not undo a positive COVID19 test, and will likely only add to our own distress.

Take some deep breaths, and see if you can shift the blame to empathy, imagining what it would be like emotionally to be in the diagnosed person’s shoes.

If you are the one who is navigating this diagnosis, be kind to yourself, and engage in positive self-care activities and reach out for help in order to decrease your own negative emotions.

We know that in times of crisis, one of the best things we can do to cope is to help others, so if you know someone who has tested positive, it may be beneficial to your own wellbeing to reach out with offers to help, such as offering to go on a grocery run for them or offering emotional support.

As organizational psychologist Adam Grant says “one of the best anti-anxiety medications available is generosity,” so rather than responding with anger and blame, try responding with compassion and altruism; your body and mind will thank you for it.

This is a challenging time for all of us, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support. I can be reached by calling the Telluride Medical Center at 970-728-3848, or if you are a patient of Telluride Medical Center, by messaging me through the Telluride Medical Center portal.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please call The Center for Mental Health’s crisis line at 970.252.6220.

Be well,

Lindsay Wright

Lindsay Wright | Behavioral Health
Telluride Medical Center