By Farhana Qazi
We live in unpredictable times and many people I’ve met are struck by anxiety and fear of not knowing when the next attack will take place, which is why I have given lectures on how to live fearlessly in an age of terrorism to general audiences.
Fear is a terrible feeling.
When we’re scared, we can’t move forward and get stuck in that moment for a very long time. That’s what happens when you’re always reading about terrorist attacks or waiting for news about the next victim(s) of terror. Or, if you’re like me, you’re hoping that terrorists will not target you for writing about them.
Every day, I remind myself that the world is more than extremists creating chaos and confusion to our peaceful lives.
The good news is that there are timeless tips to turn trepidation into triumph. These are my golden rules for fighting fear in the times we live in:
- Confront Fear
Master life coach Steve Chandler, author of books like Fearless, says that you have to shift the way you see your problem to find clarity. “Once we can do the mind shift (from paranoid mode to creative mode) necessary to see them for what they are…” Over time, I have learned to honor my fear of terrorism and terrible people because it is growing reality.
Terrorism will never end.
In years past, I have had the chance to met terrorism super-star Dr. Martha Crenshaw, who writes about the end of terrorism and political violence. Certainly, there are few cases and conflicts (or countries) in which terror groups have evolved into political parties. In the valley of Kashmir, several violent groups denounced violence in 1994 and created legitimate political parties–they continue to demand a free Kashmir by using the political system, not the gun. So yes, it happens.
Few violent groups stop using violence. And while that’s good news, the world we live in today is consumed with more conflicts, war, and terrorist groups. The only way I keep my sanity is to believe that I have control over my life. Not them, the extremists.
- Travel Far
Going to a place not widely featured in travel magazines, like a remote island with lush vegetation (Langkawi, Malaysia) or a country with grassy fields and an abundance of horses (Mongolia) can make you more than just a travel adventurer. Traveling outside your comfort zone takes courage. While I traveling to a place unfamiliar can be uncomfortable, it is a beautiful reminder that there are countries, cities, and counties in this world that are not racked by violent rage and political extremism.
Traveling far can be the most life-affirming experience.
When I was a young terrorism analyst, adventure guru and author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places Robert Young Pelton told me to leave my comfort zone.
You have to see the world to know the world.
He was right.
Those simple words of truth led me to the valley of Kashmir to discover humanity’s greatness. Traveling far led me to discover Croatia, Chikar, Langkawi, and in America, traveling far included a two-week trip to Alaska.
3. Get Off The Grid For A Day (or Two)
In an age of terrorism, I rely on my cell phone’s many apps to alert me of terrorist attacks and disasters around the world. I feel I always need to stay “on” instead of allowing a day to go by without an attack passing me by.
And that’s no way to live. I realized I would be OK if I didn’t read the news for a day or two; if I didn’t count the number of people killed in Iraq or Syria or Kashmir; if I didn’t think about the terrorists (especially female bombers) who killed in the name of Islam.
Yes, I will be OK if I let terrorism go.
I convinced myself that I didn’t need to write about every terror attack or examine the shock-and-incredible-awe of what terrorists have done to our lives. When I choose to turn off my phone for just one day (or avoid the Internet altogether), I can see the world for what it is: Wonderland.
I can see the world the way I once did as a child running through fields of bluebonnets in Texas.
There’s nothing more fearless and uplifting than imagining a world without wicked people. For me, it means less stress and more sanity.
4. Read Fiction.
Einstein once said that creativity is contagious. Pass it on.
As a writer, I belong to writing communities and circles; I listen to other people tell their stories with pride and purpose. Most often, these stories do not include terrorists, murderers, or serial killers. Their fictional characters and stories offer hope to the dark & twisty world I find myself in when I lecture and speak about war, conflict, and terrorism.
When I was working in the Counter-Terrorism Center, I had no time for fiction, poetry, or novellas. My days and nights included searching databases with terrorist profiles and creating link charts to map the ugly people of this world.
In those years, I forgot what it was like to read (and enjoy the work of) Walt Whitman, Lawrence Durrell, C. S. Lewis, and Hemingway. Now, I pick up novels to discover the magical and mystical worlds that authors create–sometimes, it’s a just a beach read. Most often, novels are an adventure.
Award-winning writer Arundhati Roy, who just released her new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, says a novel is a “prayer, a world, a way of seeing.”
Which is why everyone, especially terrorism analysts and field officers, should pull away from the dark world and read literature that enlightens, educates and enriches one’s worldview.
The act of giving is universal across cultures and countries. We know that giving to those who need to be served is soulful and heart-warming. Solving someone else’s problems adds value to your own life.
According to Chandler:
Life focused on what you’re going to get is always less abundant than life focused on what you can give. Because the one (giving) requires creativity and courage, while the other (getting) is just another word for fear. It’s easy to give if you focus your energy on what you can gain when you give to yourself, family, community, or the Universe. One way to do this is to create great things that serve others…
Give something away and you will never be afraid anymore.”
Giving is the answer to living fearlessly.
Remember, terrorists (and criminals) will continue to exist, despite our efforts to defeat them.
posted on Farhanaqazi.com on 21/07/2017
Farhana Qazi is an award-winning speaker, author, and a scholar on conflicts in the Muslim world. She is the creator of Global Insights, LLC, and offers knowledge base solutions to clients around the world to improve their national security. You can learn more at www.globalinsights.co