I have struggled lately with feeling anxious and scared about the state of affairs in our country. So I wrote a little book about how we can feel safe when the world feels scary.
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If you would like to read more ideas about this issue, some folks at FindingSteadyGround have put together an incredibly helpful list of tools we can use to empower ourselves in these difficult times.
Published by shellypruittjohnson
My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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13 thoughts on “How to Feel Safe When the World Feels Scary”
🙂 Thanks, Dad.
This is lovely.
I am feeling very afraid too. Sadly, it grows as the news gets worse. Right now there are huge protests going on in Germany at US led NATO troop movement to even further build up around Russia. Washington’s arrogance, and aggression threaten nuclear war. And we are lied to and told that Russia is the aggressor. Really: how would we feel if Russia surrounded America with troops, and nuclear Arsenals? Who’s the aggressor here? Insanity is everywhere. Trump’s insane views on Korea threaten nuclear war. In 2016 alone Obama dropped over 26000 bombs on the people of other countries. We had so much hope for him, but he just continued the agenda. Militarization and military spending skyrocketed. The American people lost even more important freedoms under him,. What happened ? Talk about jumping the gun awarding him a ‘Peace Prize’. What a sad joke on us. American people are lied to, and almost no one in America realizes that it is Washington that is the world terrorist, and America is the ‘Evil Nation’. America is an Oligarchy where all laws and government actions are in the interests of the rich, and the corporations. America is the only developed nation in the world without universal healthcare for the people., but continues to spend vast , huge, monolithic sums on maintaining over 800 military bases worldwide. It is Imperialistic ambitions on a scale the world has never seen before. America is most certainly not the ‘land of the free’.
I want to find peace, but struggle with all of this. I walk around wondering how anyone can not want to stand up, protest, change things.
Most of all; why do so many people seem to not care about what is happening, and all this bombing of people in all these countries, endlessly. Did the people who were victims of Nazi Germany find that place to feel safe inside of themselves? Do the victims of American warmongering find that place to feel safe? I don’t know. Would I be able to find that place inside if I were one of those living through the horror of American bombing. Thinking this is happening because ” we’re the good guys spreading democracy” is a joke. After the last decade, fool would still believe those lies.
What do,we do?
Your drawings and words are lovely. I know that place is in me. But I feel guilty finding refuge anywhere when we are the perpetrators of suffering and evil in all of this. No indeed; we are not the good guys.
Is trying to feel safe when we are the perpetrators of injustice ok?
Here is something to think about:
According to the Heritage Foundation:
“The rogue regime in North Korea poses one of the most dangerous threats to U.S. national security interests. Pyongyang presents a multifaceted military threat to peace and stability in Asia as well as a global proliferation risk.”
Pyongyang responds by saying that the US (including 29,000 troops stationed in South Korea) constitutes a threat to the DPRK’s national security, and they must defend themselves.
America, a threat to their national security?
They have no right to self defense.
The North Koreans are absolutely nuts.
Or are they?
General Curtis LeMay who coordinated the bombing raids against North Korea during the Korean War (1950-53) acknowledged that:
We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too.… Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure? Strategic Air Warfare: An Interview with Generals (1988)
But it was all for a good cause, “killing to preserve democracy.”
The territories North of the thirty-eighth parallel were subjected to extensive carpet bombing and fire-bombing using napalm, which resulted in the destruction of seventy-eight cities and thousands of villages. As a result, almost every substantial building in North Korea was destroyed.
According to U.S. Major General William F. Dean:
“most of the North Korean cities and villages he saw were either rubble or snow-covered wastelands”.
According to award winning author and Vietnam war veteran Brian Willson:
“It is now believed that the population north of the imposed thirty-eighth Parallel lost nearly a third its population of eight to nine million people during the thirty-seven-month-long “hot” war, 1950-53, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to the belligerence of another.”
Forget about crazy rogue leaders.
Put yourself in the shoes of North Koreans, they’re fellow human beings.
Every single family in North Korea has lost a loved one during the Korean war. Ask them: who is the threat to “Their National Security”. And its not over. The DPRK has been threatened with a US nuclear attack for more than sixty years.
Imagine what would happen if a foreign power had attacked America, all major cities had been destroyed and 20 percent of the US population killed. How would you feel?
That’s what happened to North Korea.
So yup: here we go again: same old same old: “Spread American democracy. Kill the Communists.”
Who’s the real threat to Global Security, North Korea or the United States?
Trump is just as crazy as Kim Jong-un.
Moreover he doesn’t have an understanding of 20th Century history, nor is he able to comprehend the unspoken consequences of a first strike US led nuclear attack.
The World is at a dangerous crossroads. The architects of US foreign policy are insane.
In the words of Stephen Lendman, Trump wants to ignite Korean War 2.0, which inevitably would lead to military escalation beyond the Korean peninsula.
Yes. I am afraid.
29000 troops stationed in South Korea. Did you read that carefully? And that’s only South Korea. What are we doing in the world. Did citizens of Nazi Germany worry about their own feelings of not being safe when the victims of the halocaust were hauled away to the concentration camps?
What do we do?
I am afraid that we will be distracted from this destruction of any justice in the world and the spread and strengthening of this evil, by the ‘politics’ that will affect American daily life. What are we going to focus on? Is this division on purpose? It feels like it is.
Sorry. I will shut up now.
Dear Mia: Thank you so much for your heartfelt and authentically raw comments. I deeply sympathize with your fear and pain and anger. Since the election, I have frequently spiraled down into anxiety attacks over things going on in this administration and also over the growing realizing, as you pointed out well, Mia, that many of these policies were begun in President Obama’s administration. That anxiety (and anger) can be overwhelming. Sometimes I do not know what to do with it, and I do not know how to channel it into anything productive. During a time of especially acute anxiety recently, I ran across this quote by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Someone asked me, ‘Aren’t you worried about the state of the world?’ I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, ‘What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world to fill your heart. If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.’
Yes, there is tremendous suffering all over the world, but knowing this need not paralyze us. If we practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, and working in mindfulness, we can try our best to help.”
This quote was especially helpful to me. I often feel like worrying is the responsible thing to do because, I sometimes tell myself, if I do not worry, it means that I do not care. But Hanh suggests to us here that it is by practicing peace in and compassion for ourselves—and creating a place of inner safety— that we can figure out how to care effectively and help the world. This insight has definitely been helpful in my life. When I stew in anxiety, I usually end up locking myself in the room and bingeing on Netflix to work myself out of paralyzing anxiety. Either that or I spend hours googling news articles about terrifying world events. I escalate my anxiety, I cannot sleep, and I feel like punching everyone in our current administration. Lashing out at people might temporarily make me feel better, but I do not think it will bring any lasting positive change.
Lately, however, I have been working consistently to cultivate this feeling of safety inside of me. When I do this, I do not forget the suffering in the world. Rather, I invest time in thinking how I can love myself and others in order to figure out creative and revolutionary solutions to address the horrible things we keep doing to each other and other folks around the world. I want to cultivate revolutionary inner safety and love. I think this is the kind of inner safety cultivated by radical figures like Socrates and Jesus (who gave their lives for the sake of truth and resistance); Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who resisted the Nazis). It was also the kind of inner safety cultivated by folks like Paulo Freire (who resisted the authoritarian Brazilian government) and Myles Horton (who founded the Highlander Folk School, trained many civil rights leaders, and resisted authoritarianism and dehumanization in the U.S. government all of his life). These folks stood relentlessly against corruption, dehumanization, hate, and falsehood. Yet they always did so from a place of great love for the world and for truth. Their love changed the world. I want my love to change the world, too.
You asked a very good question about whether or not Jews in concentration camps cultivated a place of inner safety. I feel so inadequate to speak to this situation which was one of the most horrific tragedies the human race has ever experienced. All I can say is that I know that at least some Jews or other people imprisoned in concentration camps found a place of inner safety that gave them great courage in their horrible ordeal. Psychologist and holocaust survivor, Victor Frankel, talks about this in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Corrie Ten Boom, also a holocaust survivor (sentenced to camp for smuggling Jews out of her country), chronicles her experience in The Hiding Place. I feel like they could address your question about Jews so much better than I ever could.
I cannot say that my approach to dealing with our current political turmoil is the only approach or the best approach. What I can say is that it has brought about good things in my life. I have begun to write more and do more art in order to work through anxiety. This has given me greater clarity about what I think about certain issues, and it has led me to call my representatives on a regular basis. It has also helped me connect with people in my community and around the United States, and I have joined several groups that work on specific political actions we can take to create a better commonwealth and country.
There is this Spanish saying I like: poco a poco, se va lejos—little by little, we go far. This is true for me. When I create a space of inner safety inside of me, this allows me to take small steps of love, resistance, and revolution every day. Over time, those little steps add up. I am glad there are people in the world like you, Mia, who care so much. I wish you peace, freedom from suffering, and the confidence that you can change the world with your love. I believe you can.