The Antidote to Fears of
Survivor Personality Skills
Adapted from The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back From Setbacks by Al Siebert, Ph.D. (Berrett-Koehler Publishers)
The antidote to feeling terrorized is to develop skills that reduce your chances of getting caught in terrorist acts, help you avoid feeling intimidated, and increase your confidence that you can cope with dangerous situations if they occur.
The skills are those that Attorney General John Ashcroft is urging us to use. In his October 8, 2001, press conference Ashcroft said "I encourage all Americans to continue to have a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings...Every American should be vigilant..." He also said "Although we must be aware of the heightened risk, we must not let that risk affect the freedom that makes America great. While we must be attentive to the threat, we must not yield to fear."
Is it possible to be aware of our surroundings without being anxious, and vigilant without fearful worrying? To not let the threats of terrorism be emotionally toxic?
Awareness, vigilance, and attentiveness without fear are qualities I find in people with survivor personality skills. Life's best survivors are alert to little clues that something may be wrong. Instead of feeling like victims when threatened or faced with danger, they find a way to handle the situation. They cope well in emergencies because they rapidly read the new reality, adapt quickly, and take effective action.
People with survivor personality skills are self-confident and self-reliant. They handle adversity better than most people because they have learned good lessons from some bad experiences. Like cats, they land on their feet when their lives are disrupted, and they usually end up stronger and better than before.
My awareness of people who handle dangerous situations better than others traces back to when I joined the paratroopers at the end of the Korean war. The training cadre were the few men still alive after murderous combat conditions. I was relieved to learn that real survivors are easy-going and have a playful sense of humor. They are alert to their surroundings and are cautious without being fearful. They scan situations for danger without worrying about horrible things that might happen.
Years of psychology research has identified the core skills for coping well with dangerous situations. These skills can be developed by almost anyone who wants to have them.
Here are the skills that reduce your chances of getting caught in terrorist acts and let you feel confident that you can cope with dangerous situations if they occur:
In potentially dangerous situations:
Be curious. People with survivor personalities are very curious. They ask lots of questions and want to know how things work. In potentially dangerous situations, stop your inner mental chatter. Silently scan and notice what is going on around you. Be observant. Be very "present" in your surroundings.
Empathize. Life's best survivors have strong empathy skills. They have the ability to see things from another person's point of view-even someone they dislike. One of the purposes of lengthy martial arts training is to remain relaxed while you focus outward to see, feel, and understand what your opponent is feeling and doing. In potentially dangerous situations, observe others in a quiet, non-judgmental way. Ask yourself "What is it like to be them? What is their energy like? Are they tense or anxious?"
Reports about the way many terrorists think and feel indicate that their thinking about Americans is primitive and simplistic. It is a child's way of thinking to believe that the world is populated by good people ("us," the good nouns) and evil beings ("them," the bad nouns). It is deluded thinking to believe that dying by killing innocent people will lead to being exalted in heaven.
Empathy means to fully comprehend, it does not mean to agree or approve. Focusing outward on what our antagonists think, feel, and see is an antidote to helplessness. No one can deal effectively with dangerous people when feeling helpless, anxious and fearful.
Our efforts to learn more about Islam, Muslim nations, and why people become terrorists portends well for us. Soon after the terrorist attacks, bookstores sold out all their books about Afghanistan, Islam, Muslims, and terrorism. Magazines, radio stations, and television networks are providing in-depth stories. Good trial lawyers prepare by accurately evaluating the validity of the case against their client. I feel confident that we will succeed in coping effectively with terrorists because we will understand them better than they understand us. Ask "What do they think and feel? What is it like to be them? How do they experience us? What do they want?"
Use intuition, monitor your feelings. Some people are better survivors than others because subtle reactions in their bodies give them useful information. All of us are capable of subliminal perception. Survivors are sensitive to their subtle inner feelings. Once alerted, they remain focused on discovering what is up.
In potentially dangerous situations, take advantage of your capacity for subliminal perception. Ask yourself, "Is my body trying to alert me to something?"
Something about adverse conditions opens people up to their intuitive abilities. Uncertainty and disorientation may make you more receptive to intuitive hunches about things than you normally would be. You may, for example, have a stronger sense of when you can or cannot trust what someone is saying.
Many survivors report doing something without understanding why, and may not have a logical reason for what they do. Survivors typically accept intuition as a natural part of their lives.
Television star Carol Burnett escaped injury during the big earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994 because she trusted her intuition. She said she woke up about 3 a.m. the morning of the earthquake feeling agitated. "I got out of bed," she said, "and walked around my house. I could feel that something was about to happen. I suspected it would be an earthquake. I can always tell when there will be a big one."
She went back to bed, but instead of laying down on the side where she always sleepsthe side with her night table, lamp, telephone, and the remote control for her television setshe got on the other side of her bed. She said "I laid there knowing an earthquake was coming. I wondered if I should get up and stand under a door frame, but decided not to."
Things got very quiet. She said she felt a deep silence. She pulled her covers up and covered her head with a pillow. Thirty seconds later the earthquake hit. "My house and bed shook violently," she said. "I felt something fly over me and hit the bed. When the shaking stopped, I peeked out from under my pillow. My bedroom furniture looked like it had been thrown around and knocked over by a poltergeist." Her eyes widened as she said "I looked at the other side of the bed. The earthquake had hurled my big TV set out of its cabinet onto the side of the bed where I always sleep."
Intuition is not a random, mysterious human experience. It is a useful ability that can be developed as a reliable, trustworthy skill is a matter of practice. Psychologist Weston Agor, founder of the Global Intuition Network, finds that intuitive managers "function best in crises or situations of rapid change." He reports that, "Without exception, top managers in every organization differ significantly in their ability to use intuition to make decisions on the job."
To improve your intuitive skills, begin by deciding to be more receptive to subconscious, irrational information even if it is contrary to what seems logical. Then practice. The next time you are in a situation where there is some confusion or you have to make a decision without all the facts, detach your conscious mind from the external action. Relax. Stop inner conversations. Scan internally for answers to the silent questions "What am I reacting to? Why?"
Instead of dismissing these feelings, value them. You may want to keep your awareness private, but monitor those inner thoughts and feelings which come to you at this time. They can serve to improve your awareness and guide you through the maze of uncertainties that we face.
Good intuition skills pay off in many ways. Research by psychologists shows that people who trust and use their intuition have better relationships and achieve more career success than people who do not use intuition.
Adapt quickly. What is the most important skill for surviving? Anyone who studies survival of species, organizations, or individuals knows that survival depends on the ability to adapt quickly to a new environment.
Be very flexible. Adapt quickly to unexpected developments. In a potentially dangerous situation be quick to stop your planned actions and do something different.
We are being very adaptable as a nation. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld keeps saying that this is a different war. We are not fighting a country with an army and military bases. The terrorists have no land or territory to defend. We are going after the terrorists in a way that fits the circumstances.
Humor improves effectiveness. When Viktor Frankl was in the death camps during the holocaust, he and another physician made each other laugh about something at least once a day. He said that humor, more than anything else in the human makeup, gives one an "ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds."
Playful humor enhances survival for many reasons. Mental functioning is affected by emotional arousal. When people are highly emotional they are less able to solve problems and make precise, coordinated movements. Laughing reduces tension to more moderate levels, which improves problem solving skills and ability to take useful actions. In potentially dangerous situations, ask yourself "What is amusing about this?"
Is it inappropriate or insensitive to laugh and enjoy moments of humor during times of tragedy?
New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani emphasized that point by appearing on the Saturday Night Live television comedy show on September 15th, urging the show to continue. He said we need laughter to help us heal.
Playfulness is powerful. Playing with a situation makes a person more powerful than intense determination. The person who plays with a situation creates an inner feeling of, "This is my toy; I am bigger than it. I won't let it scare me. I'm going to have fun with this." Toy with trouble.
Playing is how children learn about their world. Life's best survivors are like playful children, always learning lessons about how things work.
An advantage of playful humor is that it gives a person a different, less frightening perspective. It redefines the situation emotionally. A playful person is relaxed, alert, and focused outward toward the situation to be dealt with. One of the better examples of this can be seen in the Jackie Chan martial arts movies. His way of using his martial arts expertise is very playful and lets him defeat his very serious opponents.
Another advantage of playful humor is that it gives a person a different, less frightening perspective. It redefines the situation emotionally. When President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, the bullet entered through his left arm pit at a vulnerable spot above his bullet proof vest. His bodyguards shoved him into the limousine and slammed the door. As the limousine sped away, heading for the nearest hospital, Reagan asked, "Did anyone find out what that guy's beef is?"
The surgeons were scrubbed and ready when Reagan was wheeled into surgery. He looked at them in their masks and gowns and said, "I hope you're all Republicans!"
Anticipate problems with optimism. The new reality is that there are people in the world planning to kill us. Before entering potentially dangerous situations, mentally list the bad things that could happen to avoid them or handle them if they do occur.
Anticipating problems is not the same as worrying. Life's best survivors can think in both optimistic and pessimistic ways at the same time. They have an amazing ability to think and feel paradoxically. They can be both positive and negative about future developments.
The ability to think negatively side-steps the disadvantages from being naively optimistic and in denial about dangers. The ability to think positively helps to mobilize effective coping skills and generates renewed energy. Each counter-balances and benefits the other.
Research by Harvard psychologist David McClelland found that people who achieve the most success show both pessimism and optimism when selecting goals. He found that when examining a possible undertaking, the person with the highest probability of success will go through a phase that can seem as negative as a person who is negative all the time. Successful people anticipate difficulties before they occur, and then plan to avoid or overcome them.
Anxious worrying and repeatedly imagining a feared possible bad event without plans for effective coping is a prescription for a bad future. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson finds that anxiety, fear, and worrying all weaken a person's energy and narrow a person's thinking capacities. Constant worry also predisposes a person to quickly succumb to a bad event if it does happen.
After the terrorist attacks, the surge of actions to decrease the chances of future acts of terrorism was a healthy protective response. It was not a panic response of a terrorized nation. The protective security actions are based on a rational assessment of our vulnerabilities.
If you are caught in a dangerous situation:
Coping with extreme emergencies can be especially challenging because of the shock-the unexpectedness of what is happening. Survival may hinge upon taking effective actions when there is no one to protect you or tell you what to do. Survival may also depend on not getting swept up in group panic.
Paul Barney was a passenger on the ferry, The Estonia, when it sank in the north Atlantic ocean in September, 1994. Paul says that he was sleeping on a bench in the cafeteria on an upper deck when the Estonia started listing over. He looked around and saw about one hundred passengers distressed, confused, and bewildered. No crew members came to tell them what was happening or what they should do. As the boat rolled onto its side. Paul thought to himself "I could die here!" He saw moonlight through an opening and scrambled up a passageway to get outside onto the hull of the ship.
Paul says that after the ship sank there were empty life rafts floating on the ocean. Only 137 people survived out of the 989 on board, making it the worst maritime disaster since WWII.
Anyone can be killed if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. One never knows. What can determine survival is how you react if there are moments when what you do makes a difference. It is at such moments that people who read situations rapidly and take independent action have a predictably better chance than others.
Paul Barney's alertness and awareness can be viewed as a sort of "open-brainedness." This open-brainedness is a mental orientation that does not impose pre-existing patterns on new information, but rather allows new information to reshape the person's comprehension of the world around them. The person who has the best chance of handling a situation well is usually the one with the best mental maps, the best mental pictures or images, of what is occurring outside of their body.
In contrast, those people with incorrect or distorted mental constructions of what is happening in the world outside their bodies do not survive well. When you listen to some people talk and watch what they do-how they act, think, feel, and describe things-it becomes clear that their perceptions do not match well with what is going on in the world around them. Their strong emotional reactions tend to overwhelm their problem solving skills and/or have them jumping to inaccurate conclusions about what is going on.
Interviews with survivors has identified a similar pattern of reactions. In a dangerous situation:
Calm yourself. Telling yourself "stay calm" and "relax" is a valuable survivor reflex in an emergency. Deep breathing helps. Blind rage, screaming, panic, angry yelling, or fainting are not good solutions to a crisis. Calmness keeps your problem solving skills strong. The time for anger and for grieving and mourning is later, after the crisis has been handled and others have taken over.
Rapidly read the new reality. Quickly size up what is happening. Focus on what others are doing. Fast questioning expands awareness and develops action choices.
In a crisis, the survivor reflex is to rapidly "ask" unverbalized clusters of questions, such as:
What is happening? Not happening?
Should I jump, duck, grab, yell, freeze, or what?
How much time do I have? How little?
Must I do anything? Nothing?
What are others doing? Not doing? Why?
Where do I fit in the scene?
Have I been noticed? How do I appear in their eyes?
How are others reacting? What are their feelings?
How dangerous is this?
Does anyone need help? Who doesn't?
In emergencies, the sequence of questions can happen faster than words, as fast as a computer can zip through files. The questions can all be asked and answered in fractions of a second. The point is, more quickly you grasp the total picture of what is happening, the better your chance for survival.
The automatic openness to rapidly absorb new information epitomizes the survivor orientation. It characterizes their response to the world under normal circumstances as well as unusual ones. Whether going for a walk or reacting to an emergency, they are alert to external circumstances, events, facts, or new developments.
Focus on the problem, not your distress. People who focus on coping with the problem at hand are more resilient than those who become emotional and have a victim reaction. Anger, fear, and panic narrow what you see, reduce awareness, and limit your response choices.
When Jackie Nink Pflug was on a hijacked airplane forced down on the island on Malta, she looked at herself though the eyes of the hijackers. When the Malta officials would not refuel the plane, the hijackers announced that they would execute one Israeli or US citizen every hour until their demands were met. Jackie has black hair, a dark complexion and spoke Spanish. She prepared to pass herself off as a Mexican citizen until the hijackers took everyone's passport and determined that she was a US citizen. Throughout her ordeal, she kept problem solving the best way to survive.
Sometimes the best solution to an extreme challenge comes from following left brain, rational, problem-solving steps. At other times, the best solution is impulsively creative, which is a right brain skill. Life's best survivors can use both brains for solving problems. Don't limit yourself by trying to stay "in character" if you have always emphasized one problem-solving style or the other.
Be self-reliant. If no one in authority is telling people what to do, figure out your best course of action and take it. Don't feel helpless.
Survivors draw on their reservoir of inner resources to come up with the best action or reaction. Possible outcomes of several alternatives are weighed against each other and action is taken so quickly that the whole sequence seems to be a reflex. This automatic and sometimes unconscious process can cause the survivor to later be astonished by what they've done, and wonder how he or she accomplished it.
In early 1995, a seventeen year old girl living in Oakland, California, purchased her first car. It was a used Oldsmobile. She felt very proud of it. That evening she wanted to drive around and show her car off. She had only a beginner's license to drive, so she needed to have a licensed driver in the car with her. Near her apartment house, she saw a twenty-two year old man she'd met the week before. She innocently asked him if he'd like to go for a ride. He said he would and got in.
She drove to various places and eventually stopped at a view spot overlooking the city. The man started making advances. When she resisted he beat her into submission and raped her. Afterward, her attacker pressed a screwdriver against her neck and forced her into the trunk of her car. He then drove her car along the road looking for an entrance to a nearby large regional park where he planned to kill her and hide her body.
Police files contain many cases of unsolved murders where a woman has been raped and killed and her body buried in a remote area. This girl did not panic, feel overwhelmed, or react like a victim, however. She came up with a survival plan. It was very dark out, almost midnight. She felt around in the trunk, located the wires to the tail lights and yanked them out.
Two police officers saw the car driving by with no tail lights and decided to investigate. When they stopped the car and approached it, they heard the girl pounding inside the trunk and shouting for help. The officers freed the girl and arrested the man.
A police sergeant said "I think the highlight is the girl's moxie to work her way through the ordeal. She'd already been physically and sexually assaulted. She showed incredible survival instincts to get out of this without panicking."
The survivor way of orientating to a crisis is to feel fully and totally responsible for making things turn out well. The better your self-reliance and self-confidence, the more you can face up to a crisis believing that you can handle it-without knowing exactly what you will do. When you keep at it, play with it, and allow yourself to do something creatively unpredictable, you usually discover a way to deal effectively with what has developed.
Self-reliance and self-confidence let you feel comfortable in ambiguous situations. You can move into unknown territories-mental, physical, or emotional-and be curious about what you will do. This ability to operate in the unknown comes from knowing you can count on your ability to hold up in the worst situations.
You increase your ability to survive future dangerous situations when you:
Learn good lessons from bad experiences. Resilient people learn quickly in the school of life. That is how they become stronger, smarter, better, and more emotionally intelligent. Psychologists have identified how to facilitate self-managed learning:
When something happens that you want to learn how to handle better, reflect on the experience. Observe it. Mentally replay it as if remembering a dream.
Then put it into words. Write it down in a journal or tell someone.
Next, ask yourself "What can I learn from this? What is the lesson here?"
After identifying a useful lesson, ask yourself "The next time, what could I do differently?"
Then imagine yourself handling the situation differently, better, and getting a desirable outcome. Mentally rehearse the ways you will handle such a situation again should the opportunity arise.
People stuck in the victim mode do not learn from bad experiences. That is why they accumulate more and more negative experiences. They dwell on "if only such and such hadn't happened." They focus backward on the past. They tighten up when faced with a similar situation and do not cope well with the next one either. In contrast, people who dwell on "The next time..." face future challenges with optimism. They expect to do better the next time and usually do.
Develop healthy self-esteem. Overcome the "good child" handicap. A person raised to be a "good girl" or "good boy" is conditioned to never be prideful, not talk back, and never be selfish. The problem is that the "good child" syndrome makes you vulnerable to dangerous people. It makes you afraid to say "no" and unable to defiantly act in your own best interests. People with weak self-esteem are "pleasers," afraid of what others will think if they fight back, are assertive, or take selfish actions. People with weak self-esteem typically try to build themselves up by tearing other people down.
Self-esteem is your emotional opinion of yourself. Healthy self-appreciation is like a thick emotional blanket that protects you from hurtful criticisms and negative labels. Like and appreciate yourself. A strong positive identity makes you less vulnerable to people who declare that you are bad or evil. It lets you comprehend how terrorists think and leads to effective ways to protect yourself from their efforts to harm you.
Enjoy every day of your life. Frequent positive feelings will strengthen you and expand your mental abilities for dealing with threats of harm. Research by psychologist Barbara Frederickson shows that positive emotions open a person's mind to a broad range of new ideas and new courses of action. Feelings such as enjoyment, happy playfulness, contentment, laughing, satisfaction, warm friendship, love, and affection combine to neutralize twinges of anxiety and fear. Negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear, vulnerability, and helplessness narrow your range of thoughts and limit action choices.
Notice that the desirable positive emotions come directly from your everyday experiences. It is important to distinguish these from temporary pleasant sensations such as eating ice cream, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or watching a comedy on TV.
The point is that you can increase your problem-solving strengths by consciously experiencing many positive emotions each day. Taking time to appreciate your life, friends, and family daily has an effect on your brain and nervous system that will strengthen you and enhance your problem solving skills.
Find the gifts. Life's best survivors have a knack for finding something positive in terrible experiences. The survivor personality research identified many people who turned disastrous circumstances into good luck.
Look for the hidden benefits in the turmoil caused by the terrorist attack and the threats to our lives. Instruct your mind to look for unexpected gifts, ask yourself "What is the positive side of what has happened? What are some benefits from all of this? What unusual opportunity has this created?"
When you find the positive aspects, you begin to feel more personal control over the events taking place. You are a human being going through a transition you may not have wanted, and there will be things you don't like about it, but also there will be things you can like about it, and things which may turn out to be to your advantage.
An interesting thing about the human brain is that when you send it looking for information it often finds it. If you define the situation too narrowly and think of these events only in negative ways, then information which seems contrary to your mind-set won't be able to penetrate your perspective. People who turn "misfortune" into opportunity do so because they deliberately scan for those opportunities. It is a powerful skill which life's best survivors share.
Jackie Pflug miraculously survived being shot in the back of the head by hijackers in 1985. Her account of her struggle to recover and live a normal life is a superb description of the way survivors think, the difficult road to healing, being transformed, and becoming grateful for the experience. Jackie had to overcome PTSD, depression, and survivor guilt while having to cope with a learning disorder, epilepsy, a divorce, testifying at the trail of the hijackers, and impaired vision. (To read more about Jackie's amazing story of survival and recovery, after being shot and left for dead on the airport runway, see the www.THRIVEnet.com story of the month, November, 1997.)
People like Jackie Pflug do not merely rise above their problems, they become transformed by tragedy. Their struggle to regain their lives converts their misfortune into good fortune. Like Jackie, you were born with the ability to learn how to gain strength from life's roughest trials. What you are going through could be one of the best things that ever happened-even when events feel so unfair. The best long-term strategy is to handle each difficulty as well as you can, adapt quickly, and choose to make the effort to bounce back. It isn't pleasant to go through this, but your effort can lead to becoming increasingly resilient, more self-confident, stronger, and better.
Become highly resilient, and don't let threats overwhelm you. Life's best survivors bounce back when their lives are turned up-side down. The terrorist attacks will have a profound, lasting effect on us. We will never be the same again. Deadly attacks and threats of more will cower people or make them stronger. When threatened, people become frightened, helpless, and vulnerable or very resilient.
A threat does not have an emotionally toxic effect on people who have developed an emotional immunity to threats. A waterways inspector with the Corps of Engineers told me that one time he walked up to a small trailer home that was serving as an office for a dump trucking company located on a river bank. He saw that the owner was increasing the size of his parking area by filling in the riverbank. He said that when the owner saw him at the door, the owner yelled "If I'd seen you coming onto my property without my permission, I would have shot you!"
The inspector said that he has been threatened so many times, his response was to look at the man and say "Who put a burr under your saddle?" The man stepped back, started talking about his business problems, and the inspector accomplished his purpose.
Life's best survivors recover quickly from disasters and losses. They bounce back with resiliency because they don't waste time dwelling on what they are losing. They handle setbacks without feeling discouraged. They work to have the future turn out well.
Edith Eva Eger was sent to Auschwitz at age 16, where she watched her parents led to their execution. She had been training to be a ballerina and was kept alive to dance for Nazi officers. Edie says "I'm able to now truly realize that the gift I have when nothing comes from the outside, as it did not in Auschwitz, I still can get it from the inside. I can resort to my inner resources. If you look at my arms, I don't have a tattoo. When I stood in line, I asked, 'Why am I not getting a tattoo?' They said, 'Because, you are going to go to the gas chamber. They don't want to waste the ink on you.' I didn't feel frightened. I knew the Nazis could torture me, they could kill me, but they could not rob my hope from me."
Edie survived and became a world famous psychologist. She now speaks to many groups about how to be transformed by tragedy and not be victimized.
The best survivors are very hard to threaten. In fact, they may be amused at threats. Weak people make threats, strong people take effective action.
The Survival Style Has Many Benefits
The survivor reaction to danger is like side-stepping a charging bull. One reads reality rapidly by asking clusters of questions and handling what is happening in a poised, relaxed way. Survivors spend almost no time, especially in emergencies, being angry, getting upset about what has been lost, or feeling distressed about what has happened. They know that if they lose everything, they will still have themselves.
Survivors adapt quickly to the specific situation at hand and decide what actions will give them the best chance of making things turn out well. Once they make an emotional commitment to their goal, they devote all their energy toward finding a way to succeed.
The terrorists don't seem to understand that the strength of this nation is not in its symbols of prosperity. The strength of America is in its people. The terrorists are attacking their delusions about us and this is their fatal flaw.
We are a resilient nation, we are resilient people. I believe that we will not only cope well with what has happened, we will emerge stronger, better, and wiser than before. I expect that in the years ahead, the terrorist attacks will prove to be a defining moment in the history of our nation. I expect us to be transformed in ways that would not have happened if not for the terrorist actions. Time and again I have had survivors tell me that the worst thing they ever went through was also the best thing that ever happened to them. I expect the same will prove true for our nation.
Use Survivors as Role Models
If you aren't coping well with the turmoil of a potentially dangerous, uncertain future, then associate with people who are coping well. Use people who are highly resilient survivors as role models. Link up with someone who is remaining stable and has a good perspective. Ask them for advice and guidance. Then do what they say. With practice you will begin to develop excellent survivor skills.
If you look around, you will find many people in the United States who are skilled at living with danger while living good lives. Many people in the United States are threatened with death because of the work they do. IRS agents, police officers, and people working in abortion clinics receive death threats. Many US citizens are at risk of being assaulted and attacked because of their ethnic or religious background. People identified as being black, Hispanic, Chicano, Asian, and American Indian, have grown up in a country they know is not as safe for them as it is for the white, Euro-American majority. Take a close look at individuals who are street smart. They can tell you how to spot and avoid dangerous situations, they can tell you what they do when they feel targeted by people who want to harm or kill them.
The more you develop the qualities and skills found in people with survivor personalities, the more confident you feel about being able to handle emergencies if they occur. This means that you can go about your life without constantly worrying about possible harm or injury. You are consciously alert to what is happening without being hypervigilant looking for only certain dangers that might happen. When you look for something in particular, you miss what you are not looking for, and that could be deadly.
We must be more cautious and vigilant than before, but the survivor personality style frees you from constant worry and anxiety about being vulnerable and injured if caught in an act of terrorism. The survivor skills provide you with an emotional antidote to the toxic intent of terrorism.
The less we engage in helpless worry and continue to enjoy the world we live in, the better we can problem-solve and develop effective anti-terrorist practices. Thus it is that each of us, at an individual level, can thwart the intentions of terrorists. Further, by developing a conscious, creative, effective plan to foil them, we can make them worry about us.
Al Siebert has studied mental health for over thirty years. He is the Director of The Resiliency Center and author of The Resiliency Advantage and The Survivor Personality.