Dealing with the Post-Election Experience
Reading friends' posts on social media, talking to those around me, and thinking about my own experience, there is a lot going on this post-election morning. I have a few thoughts about how to deal with the emotional experience of this time. Since I'm a psychotherapist, I'm not interested in writing about politics here, but rather, the internal experiences we have because of what has happened in our country.
If the election (and the result) was a positive experience for you, perhaps you can hold some compassion for those who are experiencing extraordinary difficulty today. Perhaps you can be curious about why this is so important and what it means for them, even if you disagree. Maybe you can take a moment to think about the massive divide in our country and the experience of those on the other side.
If this election (and the result) is a negative experience for you, here are some ideas of how to cope.
Your feelings are valid, express them.
Anger, dismay, shock, numbness, resignation. It is all real.
Feel it and lean into the experience. Before you try to analyze why you feel the way you do, just have it. Where do you feel it in your body? Is it a tightness in your chest? A heaviness in your shoulders? Does this feeling stay constant or change?
While posting your experience on social media can be helpful to having an experience validated, I think that it is even more helpful to have a real, meaningful conversation with someone. Express your feelings and if possible, express them to someone who at the very least can empathize with your experience.
If you are in a situation where you don't feel safe expressing your experience, if can be helpful to write these feelings down or say them out loud to yourself.
If someone shares their experience with you, validate it. You don't have to agree with it, but just try to understand what it is like to be in their shoes right now and let them know that you hear them.
Pay attention to your thoughts and take care of yourself.
The results of this election are bringing up significant anxious thoughts about the future. These concerns are real and shouldn't be denied (see below about acting on your values).
It is important, however, to be mindful of how you are relating to your thoughts. Certainly there is practical, problem-solving value in considering your future in the aftermath of this election and the practical ways that this election will impact you.
Pay attention to the patterns of your thoughts. If you notice that your thoughts have moved from practical problem solving to chewing on the same distressing thoughts over and over in your head, take steps to step back from the thoughts. Noticing your thoughts as just thoughts can be helpful as can getting back in touch with the present moment, right here, right now.
Don't forget to breathe and be mindful of how you treat your body. Take steps to calm your nervous system. Take a walk and get some exercise.
Act on your values.
This is probably the most important coping skill. If you are angry, sad, shocked, or dismayed today, it is likely because you see this election as our civilization, our culture, and our society moving in the wrong direction. What are you values right now related to this and what direction do you want to see? How can you have the distressing experience you are having but still find a way to move forward to make meaningful change happen in our world?
Certainly you can take bold and assertive action today in response to the election. For some, moving forward with political organizing and protest will be the most important way to find meaning in the pain they are experiencing.
You can also start by acting in smaller, but still meaningful ways. Perhaps you will figure out a new and more authentic way to engage with those on the other side of the political divide. Or maybe in your own family and community you will find some way to address the factors in our society that contributed to what has happened in our country.
It is a very difficult time for many today. Can you have the pain you are experiencing and act in a way that reflects what you think is important? This is about taking the long view, putting things in perspective, and turning this into something that feels healthy and valuable for you.