I have a fear of all the suffering and death I see around me. I watch the news, with all the war, starvation, crime and death around us, and my thinking reels. I feel completely powerless to protect my family and myself. What do I do?
How can we not overreact to the catastrophes you describe? I personally worry that there are not more people without at least occasional significant sadness and fear. You might even believe that to somehow be successful with positive thinking on the tragedies and terror around us, you would be to ignoring your compassion, even to living in tacit collusion with it all. This is a double bind you cannot win.
I would not always try to find positive thinking and I’m not sure you should either. It’s comparable to the tar baby in the Brier Rabbit tale: the more you try to grapple with it the more stuck you become. Instead, maybe you could think of those lines of thought as an inherent part of living, and work instead to expand on the moments when your attention is on matters of immediate value to you. Trying to live your own life well becomes the focus of your efforts. It can start simply, with momentary full sensory awareness while eating a good fresh piece of fruit for instance. It’s hard to be fully depressed at that moment, and it should do nothing to trivialize all that is grave.
While it may seem like a contradiction, you can also practice recognizing your own distorted thinking. With a little practice, you can catch yourself before you buy into certain fictions. Examples? “I’m completely powerless”, “It’s bad everywhere, always, with everyone” or “Good times are not legitimate”. It works to replace ideas like this when you can see that it is completely rational, and your attention can go towards rich pleasures and quality work.