01/13/2015 03:31 pm ET Updated Mar 14, 2015

A Counter To Terrorism

Here are two things we can say with statistical certainty about terrorist acts in 2015.

First, there will be more of them.

Second, you will not personally be involved in any of them.

We could take it a step further and say that you are more likely to be hit by a meteorite, win the Powerball twice in a row, or discover that you are an identical twin than find yourself in a terroristic incident.

Yet we ignore statistics and pay attention to our fear.


Because terrorism counts on the most basic of emotions: empathy.

We imagine ourselves being held hostage.

We imagine ourselves facing torture or a brutal death.

In short, terrorism works not just because it commands the headlines.

It works because it commands our feelings.

It creates the emotional equivalent of an autoimmune disorder inside each of us - it turns our own emotions against us.

It triggers empathy for the actual victims, which very quickly turns into fear for ourselves and our loved ones.

The evildoers kill one person and traumatize a billion more.

Or more precisely, cause a billion people to traumatize themselves.

So what can we do about this?

I'm not suggesting that we become emotionally callous.

Let's pray for the actual victims and their families.

But we have to steel ourselves and guard our emotions.

We can't allow our feelings to be hijacked.

We can't allow the bad guys to dictate how we think or how we live.

We can't allow them to limit our behaviors or our choices.

So how do we do all that?

First, contact your news providers - networks, local stations, online sources of news - and demand that they stop showing the photos of these horrible criminals.

Why should CNN or NBC News permit itself to be used as a recruiting tool for these people?

Why reward their inhumanity with notoriety?

Why should the rest of us have to stare into their dead eyes?

Next, I'd like to share with you an approach you could call "emotional counter-terrorism."

The human mind can only hold one thought at a time.

The counter to fear is gratitude.

When fear strikes, the thing to do is focus on what we're grateful for.

We're alive and healthy.

We live in a free and tolerant society.

I didn't say a perfect society, but a pretty darned good one.

We have jobs, or money in the bank, or a good school to go to, or the possibilities of each of these things.

We have people who love us.

We have fantastic technology at our disposal to connect us with loved ones and friends far and near.

We live in a beautiful world in an awe-inspiring universe.

We have brains that technology still can't come close to replicating.

The list goes on and on.

What's on your list?

Gratitude is the best inoculation against fear.

The bad guys want us to feel fear and be demoralized.

They want us to think about them.

I say, let's think about our many blessings.

How many people no longer with us would have been thrilled to see the sun rise this morning?

How many of us took today's sunrise, and our place in the world, utterly for granted?

The real tragedy of our times isn't terrorism.

It's that we pay so little attention to the people and the things and the circumstances for which we have every reason to be incredibly grateful.

So if there's a gift inside the bizarre political and religious wars that engulf the world today, it's the reminder that our lives are better and more energizing than we realize.

Focus on what you have and not just on the people who are trying to take all that away.

Our emotions are ours to manage.

The only way to win the war on not to let others instill terror in us.

(Author's note: I wrote this in the hours prior to the Paris attacks, and the piece is dedicated to the memories of the victims.)