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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What stops mass hysteria?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (33025points) March 27th, 2011

We’ve had 3 massive earthquakes around the Pacific Rim in the last year. The latest one produced a tsunami that laid waist to hundreds of kilometers of Japanese coastal towns and cities.

What is it in humans that keeps us from losing our minds when faced with senseless trauma?

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16 Answers

mazzkat's avatar

Situations like this help us reexamine our own lives. What we still have. What we’ve always had and never noticed. We cling onto whatever it is that makes us sane and keeps us in balance. Appreciating your life to the fullest. Never letting the bad things in life win your mind.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
everephebe's avatar

I dunno maybe kittens.
The Pacific was poorly named huh?

What stops mass hysteria? Kittens, kittens and… Oh yeah, more kittens!

I’m sure there’s a deeper, “Because of the determination and endurance of the human spirit and the will to survive,” but it’s really not warm and fuzzy enough of an answer.

augustlan's avatar

For those actually affected by the turmoil, maybe shock. As to the rest of us, I hate to say it, but I fear it’s a form of apathy. Of course we’re devastated when we first hear about a major tragedy, and seeing images/video of it is heart-breaking. But, after a few days, we’re back to normal, living our own lives.

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rooeytoo's avatar

I think most people, either consciously or unconsciously, just accept the things they cannot change. Probably because they have no choice. It is like having a health scare, it is terrifying but at some point you just have to accept because there is nothing you can do about it. As I age I think about death, it scares me but I haven’t figured out a way to avoid it yet, so no use worrying, just get on and make the most of life while I have it.

ucme's avatar

I think in the end it’s survival instinct. When actually living through such experiences, i’d imagine the will to live overrides all other thoughts & deeds.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I think that it is because people have evolved to forget. With the tsunami, after a few days, people start forgetting about it. We still remember about it when the subject is brought up, but it is not constantly on our minds. We temporarily forget about it, so we can move on with our lives. Obviously, the people who were affected won’t start forgetting it for a while, but the rest of the world has already started to forget. If people remembered everything constantly, they would find the world so filled with despair as to find life unlivable. But since we don’t, we can move on with life.

Seelix's avatar

I don’t get too freaked out about stuff like this because I know there’s nothing I can do about it. I mean, yeah, I could donate money to the Red Cross or another organization to help the unfortunate people affected by such acts of nature, but I can’t do anything to prevent something like that happening again.

It’s out of my control, so why worry about it? The idea of not freaking out about what you can’t change has helped me a ton in dealing with my clinical anxiety. I guess I just apply it on a macroscopic scale as well.

filmfann's avatar

Charlie Sheen.

No, seriously.

We are confronted with terrible images of loss and destruction, like the Tsunami or the Twin Towers destruction, and we become overwhelmed with grief. Then, Paris Hilton shows her snatch while getting out of a limo, or Winona Ryder or Lindsay Lohan try to get a five-fingered discount from a shop, or Britany Spears shaves her head, or Gary Busey acts like Gary Busey. Suddenly, we are comforted by this alternate news of celebrity foolishness, and the weight is lifted.
Ya, we are that shallow.

asmonet's avatar

I doubt mass hysteria would happen from relatively localized disasters. For all of us to become hysterical we’d really need to feel as if we were in imminent danger ourselves. The rest of the world just isn’t in a tremendous amount of danger because of the earthquake/tsunami. So, we don’t react.

Besides, we can’t change anything. We can text a donation, send some money but very few of us can hop on a plane and join the fight. So we move on to happier things, like @filmfann said.

I mean, Gary Busey.

TexasDude's avatar

Human beings are tough as nails.

We didn’t claw our way to the top of the food chain by being pussy bitches that break down at the slightest or even greatest adversity. We got there by being the toughest, bravest, craziest, baddest motherfuckers on the planet. We went from a band of crazy monkey-people that killed all their opponents with rocks and sticks to the emperors of the world, the sea, and the stars. Badassery is in our genes. We don’t let earthquakes and hurricanes and whatever else stop us. We keep on truckin’.

anartist's avatar

Didn’t I answer this before?
Tear gas, rubber truncheons? Déjà vu city, aaarrrggggh.
previous answer— where is it?
“a firehose. tear gas. men in uniform with rubber truncheons.”

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@anartist : Yes, you did, and someone modded it for “writing standards” of all things.

everephebe's avatar

@anartist Punctuation and failing to capitalize maybe? I dunno. I’m pleasantly surprised that people understood what I meant by kittens. Shock is a real excellent answer @augustlan. I think there must be a few built-in mechanisms, like shock, that save us from hysterics.

Hysteria (ὑστέρα = uterus in greek) is an interesting word here’s how doctors used to tend to it. That’s right, 2nd ¶, they used vibrators. So… would it be really bad taste to say earthquakes…. Um, nevermind. Sorry, sorry… Sorry.

I think that we humans are at our best or worst during senseless trauma, sometimes both. Watching videos of the ocean coming into towns in Japan, my jaw just drops. My heart goes out to the people in Japan, I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose so much, so suddenly. I think empathy stops hysteria, and strangely so does apathy. With news we see far away places, and can’t help feeling that it’s happening to us. We relate by imagining what it would be like for us, to be in their shoes. Usually we can’t stand that, so we distract ourselves. With kittens, comfort food, and celebrities making fools of themselves. We distract ourselves in whatever way we can. I know, sooner or later that’s my response more often than not. Others try to help, in whatever way they can. The act of helping others that are far away, makes us more human in a way. I feel helpless not truly being able to help.

So people either freak out or accept what’s happened and try to make the best out of it. The better “option” is to accept it, and move on, repair the damage, survive, live to thrive another day. Hysteria doesn’t help the situation. Maybe shock and other survival “instincts” help us to avoid or suppress hysteria when things like this are happening to us.

Or more and more people are becoming much more like islands themselves and the poem was wrong. I feel diminished, but I don’t feel like the bell is tolling for me.

What would we do if the planet was going to explode or something? We all are going to die. I guess we’d make the most of it right? We do, don’t we? Maybe that includes some hysteria, I guess. Isn’t mass hysteria pretty rare though?
It’s well beyond my comprehension & musings certainly. GQ

The Pacific was poorly named.

mattbrowne's avatar

The veto issued by our neocortex.

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