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The Conflict Over Wearing a Mask During Covid-19

  August 01, 2020

By Ted Chapin, Ph.D., Chapin & Russell Associates

Every day when we leave our homes and venture out to work, shop, or recreate, we are inevitably confronted with the reality of the seemingly nonsensical conflict over wearing a mask. For some, it is not simply a public health recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It has become a personal and political statement about freedom of choice, government overreach, tribal politics, and an affront to our, “God given right to the pursuit of happiness.” So what is truly behind this phenomenon and what can we do about it?

Recent research has indicted there are some personality differences underlying the choice to wear or not wear a mask, but these personality differences are overshadowed by other, more significant, and wide-reaching factors. The data suggests that persons who choose not to wear a mask are more inclined toward narcissistic, psychopathic, and Machiavellian personality traits. That is, they are more self-focused, more likely to step outside of usual convention and rules, and more likely to display power seeking cynical attitudes toward others. These qualities lead to more impulsive, short-sighted, competitive, and risk-taking behavior. They contribute to bad health, shorter life spans, more crime, dangerous leadership, and less compassion toward others. With respect to Covid, they lead to increased hoarding behavior and decreased engagement in preventive measures of any type. Of course this is not the entire story.

More influential in the decision to wear or not wear a mask is one’s understanding of the pandemic outside of one’s self and one’s higher nature and drive. These have been found to be related to educational background, general medical knowledge, risk tolerance, social values, attitude toward government, fundamental personal motives and moral foundation. The current U.S. mask wearing compliance rate, at the writing of this article, is at about 80 percent. This is remarkable for a Country that has been so evenly and politically divided. Yet, the rate of infection from Covid increases, the death rate has returned to 1000 persons a day, and the prospects for the fall, with children and adults moving indoors in closer quarters, and the onset of the flu season, seems to suggest a foreboding winter ahead.

So what can we do? First, it’s important to recognize our blind spots and acknowledge our fears. Without that, we are left to act unconsciously, reactively, and without regard for the other’s experience. Fear is then more likely to turn to anger and steadfastness to harden to inflexibility. Second, it is helpful to assume less. Do not stereotype all mask wearers. There may be important reasons for their behavior such as protecting a vulnerable loved one or keeping their business open for their clients and their employees. Do not stereotype all non-mask wearers. Perhaps they suffer from asthma, panic disorder, claustrophobia, autism, or a sensory processing disorder. There may be other ways to secure social distance. Third, exercise patience and compassion. These are very trying times. After all, as my wife likes to remind me every day, “We are in the middle of a pandemic!” The impact on all of us is far reaching, life changing, and still largely unknown. For some, it has already been exhausting, traumatic, and burdened with loss. For help in dealing with the impact of the Covid pandemic on your life, do not hesitate to call our office at 309.681.5850 for either in-office, “face to face (mask to mask),” or over-the-phone, telehealth counseling services. At Chapin & Russell Associates we strive to, “Heal Hearts and Change Lives.”

Ted Chapin, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with Chapin & Russell Associates, 3020 W. Willow Knolls Drive. He can be reached by calling 309-681-5850. Ask about how you can utilize Telehealth Counseling from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Back to Top

August 01, 2020


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