Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Danger Lurks by Dr. Noelle C. Nelson

You watch the evening news, thinking, "How could things have gotten this bad?" The world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. Another drive-by shooting, right on the heels of a bank robbery, and a woman ***ed in a mall parking lot in broad daylight. You shudder and flip to your favorite talk show—only to watch as the host asks, "How safe are you really?" and, "If you're the victim of a crime, do you know what to do while it's happening?"

That's it. You shut everything off, check and recheck all the doors and windows, make sure the kids are okay, crawl into bed, wrap yourself tightly in the covers—and lie staring at the ceiling for the next two hours, worrying about whether you should have gotten that security system they were advertising for $29.95 a month. Of course, how could such a security system stop anybody? Those burglars and murderers can practically walk through walls. Did you check the back door...? And on it goes until you finally fall asleep, somewhere around 4 a.m., only to wake up yawning and groaning at 6:30 a.m. to a newspaper that heralds in your tranquil morning with stories of violence, crime, and disasters that have managed to crop up in the past several hours.

So you check and recheck all your doors and windows as you leave for the day, admonish your children not to speak to strangers or go off somewhere without an adult, and to pay attention if any kid looks suspicious at school. The list of warnings is so long, you're dropping the kids off before you're done reciting it, but that's okay because they know it by heart anyway.

On your way to work, you make sure the windows are rolled up, that your doors are locked, and that you don't make eye contact with anybody (in case they take offense and pull a gun on you). You let that jack*** cut in front of you without showing any sign of being upset (same reason). You circle the parking lot at work five times until you find a spot close enough to the entrance and under a lamp post so you won't be in the dark when you get into your car at the end of day You smile at the guard, flashing your pass as you walk by By the time you go through the security entrance, let security inspect your briefcase, use your passkey to let you onto your floor, and fire up your computer (inputting your encrypted code word so you can begin work), you wonder why you are exhausted, anxiety-ridden, and cranky when absolutely nothing is going on to make you so.

Oh, but it is! You are feeling the effects of the chronic "danger lurks" mentality that infests our media and is ever-present in our society. In our attempts to keep ourselves safe from the very real violence that can and does occasionally erupt in our lives, we have put in place an ever increasing number of protective devices, systems, and warnings. The problem is not those devices or systems, the problem is the attention you are giving them. Living with the constant awareness of danger puts your body and mind in a state of constant readiness, which is not how you were meant to live, ^four emotional, mental, and physical emergency response systems were designed to turn on during brief, intense moments and to turn off during long periods of non-emergency living. Staying on "emergency mode" 24/7/365 leads to irritability, paranoia, fearfulness, anxiety, insomnia, ulcers, exhaustion, anger, and a host of other highly unpleasant symptoms.

What to do? You can't very well single-handedly eradicate all the violence in the world, and just turning off the TV won't do it either. But you can take three very valuable steps to help you greatly reduce your anxiety.

1) Switch your focus from one of "looking for the danger" to one of "appreciating the safety measures"; from "There's so much to be afraid of" to "I'm so glad I have doors and locks to protect me. I so appreciate this security guard looking after my safety."

2) With your children, switch from "Don't talk to strangers" (once you're sure they've understood that) and "Watch out for the creepy kids" to "Talk only to people you know" and "Stick with kids who play nice and are happy"

3) Recognize that security precautions exist to protect us from the extremely small percentage of violent and dangerous people. TV and the media incorrectly make this small percentage appear representative of the majority of the population. Reassure yourself that the likelihood of you personally ever being involved in such insanity is infinitesimal and that the protective measures are actually very well designed. Violence exists, but you don't have to let the fear of it ruin your life. You deserve better!

Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds. —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Taken from The Power of Appreciation in Everyday Life - Dr. Noelle C. Nelson

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