Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

How to Work with Threats

The following techniques can help with many of the threats we deal with in our daily lives. Obviously, life-threatening danger requires other immediate responses.

Use fear

Fear is a universal human response to perceived threat. In other words, it’s normal. In many situations, it can help you respond more quickly. So when it arises, recognize it. Don’t deny it—use your sharpened senses to help resolve the problem. Focusing on what you need to do can help you keep fear from turning into panic, which is when you are no longer functioning logically.  

For example, if you are faced with a growling dog, pay attention to where he is and what he is doing rather than trying to run away.

Don’t catastrophize

Even if you are in a difficult situation, focus on what is happening right then. Don’t waste time thinking about the worst that could happen—it probably never will. Just focus on what you need to do next.

One good example of this is getting bad news at the doctor’s. When Susan was diagnosed with diabetes, she went into a tailspin thinking about all the health issues she would have, and how her life would be completely restricted. As a result, she didn’t think to ask some clarifying questions about managing her disease. Later on, as she found ways to manage her condition, Susan realized how she could have handled the initial news more skillfully.

Strategize

If you know in advance you will be in a fearful situation, plan what you can do. This is when it might be helpful to think about what could go wrong—before you are ever in the situation! Learn as much as you can, come with up strategies and practice them. This is what the U.S. military does—practice and practice until the behavior becomes automatic.  

So, for example, if you are afraid of public speaking, you can start by getting feedback on your presentation style, then come up with ways to address your weaknesses and practice in front of progressively larger audiences. In addition, you can anticipate difficult questions or audience behaviors and come up with a plan.

Work collectively to reduce threats to personal safety

Collectively and individually, we obviously need to look for solutions to real threats in our society, such as domestic abuse, gun violence, and terrorist attacks. While this might seem overwhelming, sometimes solutions can be simple and gentle. Getting involved in our neighborhood (civic engagement) is an effective activity we can all do that reduces violence and crime. Planting vegetation in high-crime neighborhoods is another simple action that has been shown to reduce violence and increase connectedness. Asking about domestic violence in a non-judgmental way helps victims come forward.

The key is to engage, to work with others to identify solutions, and start with small, simple steps, and see what unfolds.

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