Our personal experiences often color our views and life, and we see this play out now with the pandemic, social restrictions, and vaccines.
In my case, I got post-viral syndrome after a viral infection in my teens (CFS following mononucleosis), I have lived with it since, I have two close friends who got covid at the very beginning of the pandemic (February andf March 2020) and still struggle with long-covid. I studied epidemiology at the university and have always had an interest in it and read academic books and popular books and articles. My survival is not dependent on in-person work. My parents are in a high-risk group if they get infected. And so on.
So it makes sense that I take a generally cautious approach to the pandemic, and generally support the guidelines from epidemiologists. I personally avoid taking much risk, and I support most of the social restrictions and I see it as important that a majority of people get vaccinated.
I have apparently impersonal reasons for why I support this. If I have a heart problem, I go to a heart specialist. If I need my car repaired, I go to a mechanic. And in a pandemic, I listen to epidemiologists. After all, they have studied the history of pandemics, they know what works and doesn’t work, and they know what measures will reduce the impact of the pandemic and help us get through it as fast as possible. I personally know researchers and people in healthcare, so I generally trust them. The vaccines have been tested for ten years, and just programmed for this particular virus. It’s not as untested as many want to make it look. Based on the data, the actual infection is far more risky than the vaccine. Mass-vaccination is the quickest way through the pandemic and into a life with fewer or no social restrictions. And the more people who don’t want to get the vaccine, the longer the pandemic will last, the longer the social restrictions will last, the more it will cost society, and the higher the risk for dangerous mutations that may impact all of us.
And I obviously have personal reasons for these views, mentioned above. These are likely equally important to me, even if I don’t always bring them up.
Other people have different personal experiences, so they may see it differently. They may not know anyone who have post-viral infections so they don’t know how debilitating it can be. They may not be in a risk group or have people close to them in a risk group. They may have had difficult experiences with authority figures early in life, and be suspicious of authorities. They may not have had much personal experience with academica or research. They may not be very familiar with epidemiology and the history of pandemics and infections diseases. They may not know many researchers or people in the healthcare industry. They may live in a place where the pandemic hasn’t been so serious, and don’t know people from other areas of the world more impacted. They may have work that depends on in-person interactions. And so on.
If this is the case, they may well see the pandemic – and the social restrictions and the vaccine – differently. They arrive at different conclusions.
We all know that our personal experiences color our social views. And at the same time, many of us keep this quiet in our conversations and instead use more impersonal arguments. This keeps the discussion about impersonal abstractions while it’s, at least partially, fueled by something far more personal.
And that tends to keep the discussion spinning without anyone feeling heard or understood (since where it comes from is hidden), without really listening, and without much possibility to learn from each other and modify our views.
That’s why it’s good medicine to be more transparent about this. My views are partially founded on my own personal experiences. As are yours, more than likely. It doesn’t mean “it’s all relative”, it just reminds us that there are reasons why we have the views we do.
And this helps us hold all of the views a little more lightly. We can more easily differentiate needs and strategies to meet those needs. (A key part of Non-Violent Communication/NVC.) And we have a better chance to expore and find solutions that meet the needs of each of us.
My need here is for safety. Yours may be for independence. So what strategies can we find that meet both of these, and the needs of others as well?
Living in Norway, I have to say I feel that the government in general has been good at including these different needs. (Even if I don’t agree with their politics in other areas.)
This is very obvious, and sometimes a good reminder.
How personal experiences color or views
Pandemic, vaccine etc
Post viral syndrome
Two close friends w long covid
Know directly or indirectly doctors
All explain my views
If bad experiences w authority figures
Less academic experience
Less familiar w epidemiology
May have different views, arrive at different conclusions
In a way, it’s obvious how our personal experiences color our views. Many of us are trained to keep these mostly to ourselves and use more impersonal arguments in public. And it’s good to be more transparent about this, and also remind ourselves of this. Each of us have personal experiences that color our views on the pandemic and other social issues.