…Which may seem like one helluva pithy platitude on the tragic heels of the latest cold-blooded, senseless massacre. However, this psychological tenet just may save your sanity.
Whether I learned this in graduate school or from my clinical mentor — that is not important.
What is important is the connection between our world view and our mental health.
So what happens when our minds are overwhelmed and our hearts are full of grief following the tragic news of the massacre Las Vegas, Paris, London, Orlando, Sandy Hook, and all other abominable acts that occur world-wide?
Humans Without Humanity
Terrorism is not just a problem, but a metastasized cancer on steroids that threatens to overtake us in a vitriolic ball of hatred, inhumanity and annihilation. Worse of all, nobody knows how to isolate it, cure it or kill it. The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris, France on November 13th, 2015. According to early news reports in Los Angeles, CA, ISIS claimed (indirect) credit for the October 2, 2017 Mandalay Bay massacre, too.
Witnessing bad things happening to innocent people often causes us to think the world is unsafe, life is unpredictable, and hence, we don’t have control over our survival. However, this catastrophic thinking (even in relation to catastrophe) leads to extreme emotions and unrealistic fears.
Case in point: In response to the 2015 Paris tragedy, one reader sent me an article and asked how I now responded to the ‘world as an inherently safe place’ idea: “How exactly, is one supposed to recover faith in humanity…?”
According to The Atlantic, here are the ‘normal activities’ world-wide, which can get you killed:
- Vacationing in Egypt
- Shopping in Nairobi
- Going to work in New York
- Flying in an airplane in the U.S.
- Riding a train in Madrid
- Riding a bus in London
- Attending a wedding in Amman
- Guarding a Canadian memorial
- Praying in an unapproved mosque
- Being Jewish
- Visiting a nightclub in Bali
- Going to school in Russia
- Going to school in Peshawar
- Drawing cartoons
- Being a Wall Street Journal reporter in Pakistan
- Practicing free speech in Bangladesh
- Being a French engineer in Pakistan
- Working in a bank in Istanbul
- Riding a ferry in the Philippines
- Drinking coffee in Mumbai
- Making a movie critical of the treatment of women in Islam
- Publishing bibles in Turkey
- Sleeping in a hotel in Islamabad
- Standing outside a military recruitment station in Little Rock
- Praying in a church in Egypt
- Shopping for Christmas presents in Sweden
- Buying fish in Nigeria
- Making a pilgrimage in Iraq
- Watching the Boston Marathon
- Being a Christian girl in Nigeria
- Sunbathing in Tunisia
- Practicing journalism
- *updated: Being wp themes a concert-goer in Las Vegas
Faith in People
I don’t have the answers for how to respond in the wake of inexplicable tragedy. I am not the arbiter of anyone’s mental health, only my own. No ‘forgive but don’t forget’ platitudes or patriotic social media images exist to soothe the psyche or make sense of brutal murders. Some acts are truly unforgivable. But resentment is not the way out, either. Resentment, fear and catastrophic reactions are poisonous, continuously feeding upon themselves, creating more darkness, hopelessness and despair — the extreme emotions psychopaths and religious zealots want to instill.
Life never boils down to 15-second “therapy” session (from Instagram 2015) and human behavior is nothing, if not complex. Be that as it may…whether it’s November 2015, October 2017 or any day of 2044, the truth remains the same:
The vast majority of people on the planet possess good-will.
In closing, this most eloquent classic:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” —Mister Rogers
Additional Resources for you and yours:
Thank you for being here,