MANY have become highly anxious as a result of Covid policies during the past 22 months. I believe that one of the most destructive aspects has been the introduction and continued use of face masks, especially for children and young people.
The requirement to wear masks is seen by many as one of the less arduous regulations we have faced. Compared with the psychological effects of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, it doesn’t look a huge imposition.
However, therein lies the problem. I am convinced that face masks, not least because they seem so innocuous, are much more psychologically harmful than we might think.
We know human communication involves much more than speaking, hearing and listening. Psychologists have spent decades studying the importance of what they refer to as non-verbal communication.
Evidence confirms that our gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and even the way we move and walk, convey huge amounts of information. Sometimes this communication is carried out consciously, but more frequently it takes place without our knowing.
Our bodies, and most importantly our faces, can’t help but express our hates, desires and loves. We are literally an open book to others. Given this scientific fact, it seems incredible how little debate and discussion there has been about mask mandates.
The silence suggests strongly that the psychologists at the government scientific advisory body Sage already know, as I do, that communication is about so much more than mere words.
It also means, given that they and I share similar qualifications and expertise, that they are fully aware of the psychological damage that masks can cause in many people. This applies equally to the wearers, and the experience of seeing other people masked up.
Any attempt to interfere with our natural way of communicating serves to dehumanise us. In a very disturbing and dystopian way, the constant wearing of masks de-individualises us.
Psychologists have long known that facial expressions tell the unique story of each one of us. How we look is not just related to our genetics and the environment that has affected us, but is also most crucially a reflection of our interior world.
In everyday speech, people often describe others as having a cruel mouth, a strong chin or smiling eyes. Wearing a mask that covers most of the face just beneath the eye line is akin to deforming our personalities.
When masked, our real self is partly hidden, which is the reason throughout history for masked balls and similar events. One of the attractions of wearing a mask in those situations was to create anonymity so that indiscretions and worse could be carried out guilt-free!
The diktat towards compulsory mask-wearing was driven amongst others by the communist member of Sage, Susan Michie. She stated on television that we must be ready to wear masks for ever.
This type of language is deeply worrying, and conveys a controlling and anti-democratic mindset. It backs up the suggestion we are being primed for the introduction of a totalitarian new world order, like the one mentioned so often at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The psychology of totalitarian regimes, as Erich Fromm wrote about in 1942 in his book Fear of Freedom, is always centred on undermining the individuality and uniqueness of human persons.
Masks have also been used to generate fear, and this fear has led to many suffering chronic anxiety. This reaction is quite easy to understand. We associate masks with threat and danger, the sort of thing surgeons and nurses wear in the operating theatre. Masks tell us in no uncertain terms that there is something very wrong and worrying out there.
I am convinced the resultant anxiety, which cannot be alleviated easily, has been generated deliberately to prepare us for the myriad other restrictions and mandates we have been subjected to.
This type of anxiety is best dealt with and overcome by being able to confront the perceived threat, and literally to take our masks off and embrace life again. But as the existential psychologist Rollo May pointed out, this act takes courage, and this quality is only evident in free, independent, sovereign peoples.
This crisis has revealed that many lack the courage to think critically and act in accordance with reason. They would rather quieten the thoughts of doubt they might have about the value and efficacy of mark-wearing, and opt to blend in with the crowd.
It is no exaggeration to say that mask-wearing has turned some people into slaves. And as May has said, if we do not act in our thinking and actions to confront the source of our anxiety, we will eventually become ill.
The result will be what he calls neurotic anxiety, a condition where the individual adopts a disproportionate reaction to a perceived threat, and is now so stripped of personal autonomy and freedom, their only relief is in being told what to think and do.
I believe that a sizeable segment of our population is at, or near this psychological condition. The damage and consequences that flow from this in terms of mental health, social interaction and community cohesion should worry us all.