Eliminating “Psychological Viruses”


Like everyone else I have been thinking a lot about viruses. A virus gets into the body and then gets the body itself to produce more of the virus. This compromises the health of the one who has the virus. And, of course it can be passed on to others.

As a psychologist, I started thinking about what I call “psychological viruses.” Imagine a workplace where one person starts to spread gossip about another. One person tells another, and they tell two more, and on it goes.

Everyone who listens to the gossip gets the “virus” and they pass it on to everyone they tell. Let’s imagine the gossip is about the boss or manager.
Think of the workplace as an organism. The more “virus spread” in the organization, the sicker it gets.

Of course, there may be legitimate concerns and there are protocols for dealing with those. Often, however it is more a matter of not liking the person. The employees become like a classroom where everyone hates the teacher.

The problem is that the employees are not children, and this behavior starts looking like junior high girls ostracizing another. We hear a lot about bosses bullying, but not so much about employees acting like bullies.

The same thing can happen in a neighborhood. What good can possibly come from standing around trashing a neighbor?

Sadly, I saw this when I worked in the school system. If a teacher did not like a student, and made it quite obvious in remarks made to that student in front of the class, then the rest of the class felt being mean to that person was legitimized by the teacher.

This kind of polarized, good guy/bad guy thinking is ubiquitous in our society. It has toxic effects on the one being vilified, but also on the ones who are doing it.

Negative thinking has been shown to weaken the immune system. The body produces stress chemicals, like cortisol, and science has shown that after a negative episode, the immune system is suppressed for six to eight hours. Repeating the “story” causes another six to eight hours of immune system suppression.

Covid 19 has shown us how to prevent virus spread. The masks help reduce or eliminate passing on of the damaging virus. Imagine that we all wore “masks” that prevented us from passing on negative talk, and did not allow others negative comments to enter our system.

If you knew you had the corona virus, you would take great care not to pass it on to anyone. If one has the “gossip virus,” and refuses to pass any of it on, soon it is eliminated.
The “vaccine,” which we can administer to ourselves, is as old as the proverbial hills. The golden rule advises us to treat others the way we would like others to treat us.
My favorite though, is what I call the Bambi rule. Thumper’s mom told him, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

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