BE STRONG in the Face of the Boston Marathon Atttack
by Dr. Abraham Twerski, M.D.
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack, we have become painfully aware that we are vulnerable to random attacks of terrorism even when we engage in normal recreational activities. Government officials state that in spite of all security precautions, it is impossible to forestall a terrorist attack. Our anxiety is at an all time high. We know that every bridge, every tunnel, every tall commercial or residential building and every place where many people assemble is a potential terrorist target.
So, shall we avoid all traffic, all tall buildings, theatres and ball parks? Of course not! We must all participate in maximizing security. I do not object to removing my shoes at the airport security checkpoint and I am alert to mail whose sender is unknown to me. But this does not eliminate anxiety. Put simply, we must now learn how to live and cope with this type of societal anxiety.
Problems of low self-esteem are very common. Most people employ a variety of psychological defense mechanisms to deal with these unpleasant feelings. However, when any adversity occurs, the feelings of low self-esteem can be intensified, and if the defense mechanisms are not adequate, it may result in dysfunction or depression. Thus, many people may be allowing the recent horrible events to incapacitate them, well beyond the acceptable level of daily “normal” anxiety.
Of course, emotional reactions often do not follow rules of logic. Even when the adversity is in no way indicative of a personal shortcoming, low self-esteem issues may be aggravated. Those with pre-existing low self esteem may find these tense times especially difficult to navigate. Unless we learn to cope effectively with anxiety, it may impact negatively on our work and relationships, both familial and social. It is recommended that we learn relaxation techniques and attend workshops, to learn coping skills. It is crucial that we do not turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with chronic anxiety.
Good self-esteem enhances our coping skills and can diminish toxic anxiety. It prevents the anxiety from compromising our healthy function. Good self-esteem enables us to continue living normally as we must, to relate, love, work and play. No, self-esteem cannot diffuse bombs. But whereas the damage of an attack may be formidable, living in fear 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, may be equally damaging. Anything we can do to minimize the effects of toxic anxiety will improve our lives. Enhancing our self-esteem can be of great help.
Dr. Abraham Twerski, is a psychiatrist and founder of Gateway Rehabilitation Clinic in Pittsburgh, a leading center for addiction treatment. He is a medical advisor to Freedom from Anxiety.