The greatest threat to world peace, as I see it, is the fear caused by anxiety. My message is consistently about finding one's inner peace. Yet, the greatest threat we have to achieve that inner peace is anxiety and fear. One's anxiety quickly turns to fear, and fear can turn us against ourselves and against one another. Here are my 7 practical tips to reduce the greatest threat to world peace.
The greatest threat to world peace is more profound than what we hear about in the news. The media will tell us that war, terrorism, poverty, climate change; these are the greatest threat to world peace. While I won't argue the point, what's the common denominator affecting societies and cultures? Anxiety and fear.
According to the American Psychological Association anxiety is defined as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. And what tends to cause most of our anxiety? The unknown, a sense of feeling out of control.
When we don't know what the future may bring, or we feel a lack of control in our life, our anxiety rises. As the tension increases, the feeling of loss of control leads to fear. What I don’t know, understand, or control can be fearful.
In these terms, think now of the greatest threat to world peace. The more we don't understand what will happen, and the higher our feeling of a loss of control, the greater our anxiety and fear. And if I feel afraid, I will either hide or fight that which I fear.
Therefore, when other cultures, societies or countries feel a loss of control, they will become anxious and afraid of that which they perceive is the source of their loss of control. In my opinion, simplified greatly, the greatest threat to world peace in the Middle East is fear rooted in the ignorance of other cultures. Both Western cultures and Middle Eastern cultures tend not to understand each other. Therefore we are anxious and fearful of that which we don't understand. Unfortunratlrey, the response to the feeling of fear is to fight rather than dialogue to understand each other. This fear, by the way, is felt on both sides, the West and the Middle East.
Unless you are a diplomat or have international influence, the question we ask ourselves is, "how does this relate to me?" It relates to us since most of us interact with other people. How we interact with people who are of a different culture or different religion from our own, let us know the level of anxiety and fear we hold inside ourselves. This level of anxiety influences and affects not only how we feel but how we treat others.
Think now of the solution to the greatest threat to world peace. If each of us, everyone in this world, took the time to learn about that which we fear, we would most likely not fear others. If everyone in the world ceased to fear each other, the need for terrorism and war and sanctions would disappear.
I fully understand the complexities of life and take into account the problematic realities of the situations we face in the world, yet devoid of naïve "answers." In place of answers, I propose the following practical tasks to work on as we develop ways of reducing our anxiety and fear of unknown people and situations. As we accomplish these tasks, we will feel a sense of hope, a hope fulfilled by each person.
- We aren't alone. The struggles of coping with a world in turmoil are not yours nor mine to struggle with by ourselves. Many people feel similarly. Seek out others who feel the same as you and, instead of complaining or despairing, work together on practical solutions to local problems.
- We aren't victims. A victim is a person who suffers as a result of events happening to them for which they are powerless to control. You may say that, according to that definition, we are victims of what is happening in the world! But if we change our perspective on how we define "world," not meaning the entire globe, instead, define my world as consisting of my local community. In this way, we can create reasonable expectations. Creating reasonable expectations allows us to actually do something resulting in our expected change. For example, it is unreasonable to make our goal that of world peace. Yet, the purpose of creating a peaceful home, work, or local community is reasonable.
- Empower yourself and others. Educate yourself about the struggles and solutions tried in the past. Learn what worked and what didn't work, figuring out why it didn't work and what you may do differently to make it work. Find and obtain the resources needed to carry out your goal. Our ability to work with others to find a solution to problems removes the label of victim, replacing it with survivor. Although we need to be educated about the issues, it is also essential to keep a balance, allowing for some news-free periods in our day.
- Regain your power. Once we realize that we are not powerless, our desire to implement change brings about renewed strength and optimism. Recognize the power and strength that you individually, and you as a group, possess. Find creative ways of using your energy for the good. Do not let the power itself take over, for hubris makes one feel invincible. In reality, even though we may have power, we will not always make the proper decisions. Knowing how to learn from our mistakes is a sign of strength, for the knowledge gained from the error will help you to avoid that, or similar mistakes, in the future.
- Focus your energy. Our power and abilities are limited, so wisely focus your energy on those tasks which can be completed and not on those tasks you know are impossible to achieve. No one person, or one group, can do everything.
- Empathy. As we learn about the issues affecting our world we begin to realize that many of our problems originate with people not understanding each other. We tend to view the world from our perspective and our history, failing to recognize that those with whom we may disagree are also seeing their world from their perspective and past. Finding solutions to problems presupposes that all parties agree on the nature of the problem. Empathy, placing ourselves in the shoes of another, provides us a deeper understanding of the concerns of others. By viewing the world through their eyes, we can be better informed and so better prepared to find and carry out solutions. Empathy does not mean I agree with another's opinion, only that I view the other's opinion as viewed by themselves.
- Self-care. The realist in me recognizes that to accomplish all of this, I will end up draining and wearing myself out. But, I realize the need for self-care. Take time for yourself; keep up bonds with family and friends; find activities or hobbies which do not relate to the work at hand; spend time in meditation and quiet to focus yourself.
The greatest threat to world peace is the fear caused by anxiety. One's anxiety may quickly turn to fear, and fear can turn us against ourselves and against one another. Empower yourself through knowledge so as not to fear the unknown, but to make the unknown known. The known reduces anxiety, rids one of fear, and allows you to feel a more profound sense of inner peace.
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