Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: November 2004.
I don’t have to tell you how difficult it is for HSPs all around the world to have terrorism in the news all the time. So here’s a refresher course on the subject. (I’m sure you could write your own for me, too.)
Don’t Be Upset That You Are Upset
First, remember, it upsets us more than others. We can not get rid of the images of those that have happened, even if we avoid TV–our imagination is simply too vivid. Equally troubling is our ability to imagine the multitude of other ways that terrorists could use to hurt, kill, or torture innocent people. People we love. Thus we may feel compelled at first to attend to the follow-up stories about what else might happen, in order to protect ourselves and loved ones. But so often the dangers are presented with too much hysteria and graphic details, and we can do little to prepare for them anyway. So I like having a non-HSP who loves all of this stuff to call me if there is anything I ought to do or any news about a real threat to my area.
Second, because we react so strongly, we find ourselves dealing with fear differently. Often it helps to reduce the grief, fear, and anger that follows an incident by talking to others. But then we find some people are so upset themselves, and fascinated by the details, that they only increase our agitation. Further, too soon (for us) most people adamantly do not want to talk about their fear or grief, or brush their emotions off lightly. Those who do still talk about it are often people with a history of past traumas so that they tend to be overly pessimistic. You end up trying to cheer them up.
Facing The Big Questions
Still, all along we do find a few people saying things that seem intelligent, comforting, or wise. These persons can become our role models as we realize that it may be up to us to deal better with these emotions, not only for ourselves but for others.
Often our coping involves meditation, prayer, and reading whatever puts the situation into a broader or more historical perspective. In particular, with this help, you may find new ways of thinking about the question some HSPs find most troubling: How can there be a God if he or she allows these things to happen? Work on this, and you will find people turning to you for advice on how to view the evil in the world, and to say things that truly seem to help others.
An HSP not only has a natural inclination to foresee dangers, but also an age-old traditional role of finding comfort in spirituality, philosophy, history, the arts, or practices of bodily regulation of emotions. Fear is nothing new to us. We have always had to deal with our greater awareness of what can go wrong. That is part of our strategy and our role in every social group. And we handle it with what we have always done–calling on the very trait that gives us the fear to also help us overcome it. We have had no choice–denial does not work for us.
Every HSP’s way of facing fears will be unique and is probably already well developed, but here are a few reminders.
- Get to know your various methods of coping with fear and anxiety, and which ones you want to encourage, which ones discourage.
- Take care of your body, which is instinctually feeling the fear and having to cope with it, by meditating regularly to reduce cortisol and other byproducts of stress, finding ways to get enough sleep (an HSP’s sleep is easily interrupted by fear), and eating carefully.
- Be prepared–an important way to ease fears. Do everything that is reasonable to prepare yourself for an avoidable threat and to mend the conditions that create an atmosphere of evil. Check periodically about whether you feel you have done enough, and otherwise stop thinking about prevention or cure.
- Consider the actual odds of the feared thing happening. HSPs are designed to understand risk intuitively.
- Take the largest perspective, again an HSP specialty–for example, view the threat in terms of terms of history, which you are largely powerless to change and can only witness; in the light of the fears other humans have faced, passed and present; or as an opportunity to test and strengthen your beliefs and inner peace.
- Summon your courageous self–for example, can you decide that are willing to join those in the past who have died in the struggle for human freedom (during revolutions, World War II, etc.)? We HSPs, as “priestly advisors,” must and can role model how to deal with fear. And you will actually feel less afraid when you are in that role.
- Do not confuse arousal with fear–they feel similar, but arousal simply means you are being highly stimulated by a situation.
- Remember that as an HSP you are great in crises. You have already considered everything that might happen and would need to be done. You have already imagined and grieved the worst. You are ready for action.