Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Baghdad, Nice. The Donald is a Nazi! Hillary is a criminal! Police shootings, mass shootings, NRA, RNC, GMOs, Brexit, ISIS—ahhhhh!
Stop the world, I wanna get off.
I was finally finding center after my mother’s death when terrorists hit Paris in November, ratcheting up the fear and dread I’d thought I’d worked through, the residual emotions I had been dealing with. I was first diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York City, where I lived less than a mile from the World Trade Center. But when terror came to my happy place—Paris—I realized I still had work to do, so I revisited therapy.
Just when I thought I was in a good place—blam! Orlando. Blam! Dallas. Blam! Nice. Blam, blam, blam! These senseless acts of terror, chaos, and hate, seem to happen more and more, giving us little time to gather our wits, to lick our wounds. We gape and bleed, and stay wide-eyed with fear. “The new normal” they call it.
Well, I call bullsh*t on that. And here’s why you should, too.
This is not the new normal. Horrible things have been happening for generations. The Spanish Inquisition? The last two world wars? The Holocaust? Rwanda? Kosovo? This doesn’t make it ok, but it illustrates the point that this idea of a safer, better time never existed. There has never been a past where we lived in idyllic peace and harmony. That’s a myth politicians use to gain our confidence: We’re in trouble! Crime is high! The economy is in the toilet! Immigrants will kill you!
As I said, bullsh*t.
The Cult of Fear
The only new normal is that you are being played by the media, and by politicians, on a regular basis. You are being fed a steady diet of fear and loathing all day, every day.
Are you full yet? Because I am. I’m sick from it.
Fear is a choice they are making for you, but you can say no. If you’re ready to feel peace now (I know I am), here are some simple ways to deal with the cult of fear:
1. Shut Down Social Media (for a While)
Your newsfeed is the biggest culprit of your anguish. The media wants you to click and share, and they will lead you down a dark path to make that happen. The collective anger and angst of your friends, and your friends’ friends, is pouring into your life on an endless stream. Bad news hits us in real time, without a filter, and makes us feel as if the world is imploding. Guess what, it’s not. There have been wars and plagues, and still the world turns. Take a break from that infernal feed and stop the flow of fear. Practice this for one day if you dare, and see if your mood doesn’t brighten.
2. Start Your Day with Zero Outside Contact
Do you pick up your phone first thing when you wake up and view messages or emails? Unless there is a state of emergency in your life, don’t. And don’t turn on the TV, either. I used to have the news in the background every morning, until I realized I was starting my day with negativity (murders, wars, gossip) and was becoming depressed over time. Give you and your family 30 minutes of media-free time in the morning. How you start your day sets up your state of mind. Take care.
3. Ask Yourself One Question: Is There Anything Wrong Right Now?
This is classic Eckhart Tolle, that weird little man with the choked voice, but who is a genius. The Power of Now is a book you must read if you are living with fear. Think about it: fear is future-based thinking, the “what if?” of life. But the future is an illusion. If you are truly in the “now,” and asking yourself in each moment if there is anything wrong at that moment, you will usually find the answer is, “No. All is good right now.” Try it for one hour. Very peaceful-making.
4. Don’t Go Global
The internet brings us bad news from all over the world, but is this a useful thing? Or is all this information overwhelming, paralyzing? Ask yourself what the knowledge of those suffering in another part of the world brings you. Does it mobilize you to make change? Or, does it make you feel sad and hopeless? If the latter, it’s time to turn away from the global view and go local. Focus your energy on your family and your community. What can you do locally to make your world a better place? Maybe you can even get involved in local politics instead of watching world politics helplessly from the sidelines. You will be amazed how empowered you feel when you put your time and energy into those around you. If we can’t save the world at large, we can save the world one community at a time. What can you do with all that empathy in your own backyard?
5. Practice Gratitude
Life can take the stuffing out of you. Bad things happen all the time. And God knows between Brexit and the U.S. presidential election in November, we’re headed for a storm. How can you gain a sense of control? How do you stay hopeful and happy? The answer: gratitude. Take a moment—minute by minute if you must—and assess all the things you are thankful for. It sounds trite, but I can tell you that it’s monumentally life altering when you practice it every day. That cup of coffee in the morning, the sun on your face, your child’s smiling eyes, your good health, the roof over your head…do I have to go on? There are so many reasons to be grateful. And gratitude is the pathway to peace. Look, no matter how bad it seems, this too shall pass. You are blessed beyond. Count the ways.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (But That’s Okay)
The world is, and has always been, uncertain. What do you want, a roadmap? An ironclad guarantee that it’s going to be safe and okay? That’s not life. And honestly, that would be dull, wouldn’t it? I’m not an expert, nor a psychologist; I’m just someone who is stumbling her way through this life, like you. But I’m also someone who, after so much personal pain and suffering, has decided that I do not want to feel, or own, the negativity that is surrounding us now. And my happiness and peace is not dependent on world events; it’s inviolate, an entity within me that exists separate from the world around me. That’s called unconditional happiness, and it’s not something you are gifted with; it’s something you fight for. Something you guard with vigilant, clear-minded thinking. Take charge of your life and your peace. You can, even in today’s world.
DEAR FRIENDS: Please limit your comments to the topic of fear. This is not a forum for your political views.
Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life in my memoir.
ON SALE NOW