Editor’s note: Dammit. We hate that we’ve been moved to resurface this story. But after the tragedies in London and Orlando in just the past 24 hours, we feel the need. Hang in there, people. We’re not sure what else to say.
The past couple years have been packed with brutal shocks, and yesterday’s possible terrorist attack at the Ariane Grande concert in Manchester, England, is one of the most shocking—and tragic. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of all the victims, as we simultaneously hope and pray that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.
But beyond those sentiments, how the hell else are we supposed to cope?
It’s really fucking hard to say, so we tracked down an expert to help us make sense of things. Below, Dr. Kenneth Doka, who has published nearly three dozen books on grief, explains why you shouldn’t look away and offers a five-part framework to ensure you don’t give up on the world, no matter how out of control it seems.
It’s worth remembering that very often the actual data is less scary than your initial impressions, and by taking the time to learn you’ll feel better, not worse.
1. Why You Feel This Way About Shit
Horrific incidents can traumatize those who aren’t directly involved, don’t know anyone directly involved and, indeed, may have never even visited the place where the tragedy occurred. For example, many people who never plan to go to Turkey were unsettled by last July’s airport attack, which left at least 42 dead.
“Maybe they don’t go to Turkey but they do fly,” Doka observes. “If the airport can be attacked, they can be attacked. They may not even be able to acknowledge that on a conscious level. That’s the heart of trauma, really. It makes the world suddenly seem unsafe.”
2. Assess Shit
When a development makes you feel powerless or overwhelmed, Doka’s first step is a simple one: “Take a breath.”
Once you feel like you’re settled down, then face the issue: “Acknowledge it and then evaluate it: Is this really a danger?”
That’s an increase of over 80 percent, by any measure a disturbing trend.
However, there are more than 7.3 billion people on Earth. (To put this massive figure in perspective, one percent of the world’s population is greater than 73 million people: roughly California, Texas and New York combined.)
In 2014, a year when terrorism surged, this was the approximate chance of getting killed by a terrorist:
And for most of the world the actual figure is considerably lower, because 78 percent of those terrorism-related deaths occurred in just five nations: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
Of course, terrorism tends to hit places where we want to feel entirely safe: Anything above zero is too high.
It’s still worth remembering that very often the actual data is less scary than your initial impressions, and by taking the time to learn you’ll feel better, not worse.
On a related note…