There have been an appalling number of mass shootings in the United States and abroad. The most recent appears to have been driven by hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community, which is in itself sickening as well. With shootings, social unrest, and war, it’s very easy to feel frightened and unsure about your safety. You may wonder how to deal with the fear of the mass shootings, and how you can cope with the terror of it.
It isn’t enough that the world is still struggling to get through the COVID-19 pandemic – along come a host of other problems as well. Even if mass shootings and general unrest did not affect you personally, you can experience feel traumatized by seeing it on the news so frequently.
It’s well-known that living in constant fear contributes to depression and anxiety disorders. It can also worsen existing anxiety disorders. How do you make yourself feel safe in the face of so much violence on the news?
Perspective Over Time Can Help You Deal with Mass Shootings
One thing to realize is that at no point in time was the world perfectly safe. We humans have adapted as the years have gone on to respond to many stressors. The things our early predecessors dealt with were perhaps less complex. They had to contend with food shortage, predators chasing them, and surviving disease and harsh weather conditions without shelter or medical care. However, humans adapted to those conditions. Most species that survive adapt to different conditions that arise.
Thus, humans will continue to adapt to whatever is going on now. We have these nifty, complex big brains to help us with that. Unfortunately, our big, fancy brains can also project into the future and convince us that we’re doomed in situations where we might actually be safe as well. For a great explanation of how stress affects us both mentally and physically, read Robert Sapolsky’s classic, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.
You’re Stronger Than You Think
Think of all the difficulties you have survived, both big and small. How did you survive? Did you come through the situation stronger or more skilled in some areas? I suggest you write down what you did to survive and even thrive in those circumstances, and keep that handy when you feel scared or unsure of your ability to adapt to circumstances as they are. That is one way you can deal with fear of mass shootings.
What is in Your Control?
If the source of fear is something that you can do something about, try to come up with ideas of how protect yourself. With shootings and domestic terrorism that’s hard because you can feel unsafe to go about your daily life. Shooters can strike people when they’re going to work, public transportation, or any number of daily activities. It is, to some extent, beyond our control. Therefore, having a realistic assessment of danger is an important part of dealing with fear of mass shootings.
Perhaps the way to try to effect change is to contact your governmental leaders to change domestic and foreign policy to make us safer. You can also pledge to make your personal life safer and less violent, even with something as simple as the way you speak and relate to others. Be careful of your language and strive to resolve things peacefully in your life. At the community level, you can think how you can stay safe and prepare yourself for natural and man-made disasters.
It's hard not to personalize violence, especially hate crimes
Beyond that, you cannot personalize every auto accident, terrorist attack, disease scare, etc. that you see on the news. Otherwise, you live in constant fear, which is not healthy physically or emotionally. While it is unfortunate that we live in such a violent country, this does not mean that you have to fear mass shootings all the time. That is also something that is realistic, but focusing on it all the time distracts us from being able to live in the here and now, which is pretty important.
Using Compassion to Deal with Fear of Mass Shootings
This doesn’t mean that you relinquish having compassion for the slain or injured people who are affected by mass shootings. However, you don’t have to tell yourself that you’re next. Take reasonable safety precautions and advocate for your own safety as well as the safety of your community. While the number of shootings has increased, it is still less likely than we might believe. Whatever you do, don’t let emotional reasoning interfere with your life. Just because you fear that something will happen does not necessarily mean that it will. Enjoy what time you have on earth without living in constant fear.
If you need to cope with it and it’s not going away, talking to calm, reasonable friends and family or a professional may be a good option. If your fear is persistent and interfering with your life, you might need help from a mental health professional. You can also call me at (661) 233-6771 to see if psychotherapy is a good option for you.