11. I panic when I can't reach my partner. If I call or e-mail and he doesn't get back to me within an hour, I picture him being washed away by a tidal wave or run over by a truck.
There are several levels of questions I would ask. First, are you watching a lot of TV and focusing on disaster? If that's the case, turn off the TV and concentrate on the good things in your life. Next, do you worry only about your partner? If so, you may be too dependent on him and feel that if something really did happen to him, you'd be lost. Find ways to be more self-sufficient and widen your social network. If you worry about something bad happening to your child, parents, and other loved ones, look deeper for the cause. Are you obsessing about others because you're avoiding your own problems? Do you need to keep tabs on everybody because you have control issues? Was there a trauma in your life that causes you to fixate on bad possibilities? Or were you raised by worrying parents, such as a mother who said, "I thought you'd been hit by a truck!" if you came home late from school?
Whatever your reasons, try this exercise: Ask yourself if you're feeling angry about something; then ask if you're feeling sad, guilty, or fearful. Whatever the feeling, go to its opposite. For anger, that's gratitude; for sadness, it's joy; for guilt, it's pride; for fear, it's security. Now ask, what are you grateful for? Joyful about? What do you feel proud of and secure about? Focusing on positive messages, especially what you're secure about in times of fear, can help. — Beverly Engel, MFCT
(Engel is a psychotherapist and the author of Healing Your Emotional Self [Wiley].)
12. I'm so afraid of terrorism, I can't sleep. How unsafe are we?
Terrorism is violence calculated to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm. It often works. Terrorist attacks are deadly, dramatic, and visual; how many times have we watched the World Trade Center's towers fall? And the terror is reinforced by a relentless message of fear in the form of Washington's color-coded alerts and announcements of imminent attack.
The terrorist threat is real, but we must distinguish between threats to our national security and danger to individual citizens—us. The threat we face as individuals is minuscule compared with the everyday risks we accept. Each year the average American has about a one in 7,000 chance of dying in a motor vehicle accident, and a one in 18,000 chance of being murdered, most likely by a relative or friend. Compare that to about a one in 600,000 chance of dying at the hands of terrorists. Yet, are we ready to toss the keys to the car? Avoid the family picnic? No.
As a nation, we will combat terrorism. As individuals, it is up to us to combat terror—our own—by putting terrorist fears in perspective. — Brian Michael Jenkins
(Jenkins is senior adviser on terrorism and homeland security for the RAND Corporation.)