Finding happiness in terror-torn countries

Finding happiness in terror-torn countries

It is difficult to find happiness when you feel your life is constantly under threat. People who live in warzones or in places where terrorism is a daily reality experience this struggle.

Experts say people who consider themselves “happy” are those who get out of their comfort zones, who look for excitement, who live curiously. 

But how can you pursue happiness when you think your life is being stolen from you, and when this is a feeling that you have every single day in your life? Can happiness come from a mindset where you feel you are in constant danger? Even in warzones you can hear birds chirping, but in today’s dystopian world every single place where you stand can be perceived as a “battlefield.” Life is almost like a war for survival. 

In this harsh war we call “life,” you cannot easily distinguish your enemies. In the past, during conventional wars, soldiers dressed differently to distinguish themselves from enemies. You knew that you had to fight the person who has a different “war outfit.”

In today’s world, the rules of the battlefield have changed to become less ethical, more cowardly and more destructive. 

‘Set point’ low in current circumstances

A piece I read in Psychology Today a couple of years ago suggested that every person has a natural “set point,” which is like a thermometer. This thermometer is set by genetic baggage from your family and your personality specifics. It also depends on the culture that you live in.

But in today’s world, where you cannot even point out your enemy at first glance, the “set point” is even lower. That is especially true if your life is under constant threat of terrorism.

Imagine a day like this: You wake up, drop the kids off at school and go to work. It’s just a usual weekday. But as soon as you get to your office, you realize that everyone looks panicked. They are trying to phone their loved ones, their parents or their kids...

You realize that a bomb has just exploded in a central part of your city.

The street that you cross every day is covered in blood. You see people running around. There are sirens of ambulances and police cars everywhere.

Time stops. You feel numb because you don’t know what to do, where to go, or who to call. You need to continue what you do in your daily life but you cannot. You want to hide under your bed, under your blanket with your loved ones, go somewhere that nobody can find you…

Eighteen separate terrorist incidents have wounded Turkey in this year alone. Hundreds of people have been killed, thousands of people have been hurt and millions of souls have been wounded.

If you’re living in a city constantly under threat from extremists, terrorism is something that you might experience every other month, week, or even day…

‘Business as usual’ after terror attack

But strangely, daily lives where terrorism is a threat look the same as daily lives in terrorism-free cities. 
Think about Istanbul and Montreal, for example. In both cities people go to work and students go to school. People go to art biennials or football matches. They enjoy a beautiful sunset as if nothing can go wrong. Then something irreversible happens, which sweeps away every bit of happiness in your soul.

As the Psychology Today article says: “The good life is best construed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness and psychological flexibility as well as autonomy, mastery and belonging.”

I agree. But sometimes, in some places around the world, you have to think otherwise. Sometimes we have to grasp the feeling of “insignificance” rather than “balance” to save ourselves from a downward spiral.

Otherwise, how can anyone function normally in the presence of everyday terrorism? Perhaps the only solution is to think we’re just small, insignificant creatures living in a universe consisting of 2 trillion galaxies. 
The earth itself, let alone the Milky Way, is an insignificant dot if you think of something so big.

How can anyone feel unhappy if they think we are actually just an insignificant part of such grandiosity?