How to deal with shocking incidents and fear

Exploring Happiness Blog - Dealing with Fear

This email is about exploring happiness, and, as a reminder my definition of happiness is embracing life with all its challenges, making as many positive moments as possible without ignoring the negative ones. We cannot avoid shocking incidents and fear, so this is a reflection about how to deal with this.

So, happiness is not only about happy moments and positive emotions. It is also about so-called negative emotions. While nobody is happy when experiencing negative emotions such as fear, anger or sadness, acknowledging those feelings and transitioning back to happiness is the key.

It is often suggested to not categorise emotions into positive and negative. However, I find it easier to understand the difference. Positive emotions generally describe ‘happy’. We are happy when we are calm, joyful, proud, interested, in awe or excited. These are positive emotions and they signal that things are ok.

Negative emotions can be subtle variations of anger, fear and sadness and include disgust, nervousness, frustration, annoyance, depression and panic. These emotions signal that something is not ok and that there is a danger or threat. Feelings associated with anger usually make us want to attack/fight, and feelings associated with fear make us want to run/flee or freeze. Sadness is on the spectrum of hopelessness and giving up.

Thus, negative emotions signal that something is or might be wrong. Unless we listen to the emotion and check out if there is a threat and deal with it, that alarm bell will keep ringing (keep stressing the body). If the threat is dismantled or dealt with, we can transition back to positive emotions.

The shocking incident causing fear

The reason I’m writing about this today is that there was a stabbing with 6 people killed in a nearby shopping centre where I wanted to go with the kids tomorrow. This has seriously unsettled me, interestingly being mostly afraid that something could happen to my kids (not to me).

In my quest to explore happiness including those challenges that throw me out of the positive happy state and make it difficult to return, I’m reflecting on how to deal with these situations. Ignoring negative emotions cannot be the answer as my own definition shows. But in reality that’s easier said than done.

My mind plays scenarios that scare me and I want to acknowledge that this incident has shocked me to process that emotion. However, I do not want to get lost in it. I mean, it is really out of my control where and when incidents like that could happen.

So, I’m turning to gratitude and awareness/living in the now. It is often hard to accept but the now is really all we have. Leaving our future-oriented auto-pilot and re-arranging our priorities to enjoy and appreciate what we currently have is the strongest medicine against the fear of loss. Making positive moments whenever we can, keeps being the answer. It has helped me through a lot of dark moments back into the happiness of positive emotions.

What does that mean more concretely? For me, spending time with my kids more mindfully, and trying to be more patient and loving around those human beings who mean so much to me. It’s not easy but I’ve much improved after some serious review of my priorities.

How do you deal with your fears?

I’m now also going for a walk to get my endorphins up.