The physical shock began to set in for me while watching the election results come in last Tuesday night. The next morning I awoke to adrenaline coursing through my body. It was as if my body knew that the world was not okay, that it needed to be prepared to fight or flee a potentially dangerous situation. As Wednesday wore on, I began to feel physically sick: a deep queasiness and skin-crawling uneasiness set in. By Thursday, my emotions ranged from sadness and anger to denial. Friday, I experienced full-blown anger. What helped me to manage through this range of emotions was reminding myself that whatever I was feeling was okay. Accepting the emotions as they washed over me and allowing them to pass on their own. Even with this mindful approach to my emotions, I could see myself being more irritable with other people for small things. I could feel my heart hardening in ways that I’m not proud of. I could feel hate starting to seep in.
But Saturday was different; Saturday buoyed me. Saturday reminded me that it is possible to find love and joy in the midst of hate. That it is possible to create life in the midst of justified fear. My Saturday was filled with connection. Discussions with friends about what is going on in our country and processing our fear, anger, and frustration. These times of connection also included talk of every day life: babies, marriage, education, and new jobs. I struggled last week to figure out what I would post about, what could I possibly say that people might find helpful in the aftermath of the election. What might begin to soothe our pain and anxiety in the midst of increased attacks on people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and people in the LGBTQIA community. What is there to say when people fear that their lives will be torn apart?
First, I think it is essential to be honest. We must acknowledge the real danger some people are facing. Denying that and acting like everyone should just passively accept the outcome of this election is dismissive and a privileged position to take. Part of this honesty means not asking people to “give Trump a chance” as though he has not clearly communicated who he is and what he stands for over the last two years. As a therapist, I would never encourage a client to give an abuser or someone who had treated them poorly, a chance and clean slate without that person apologizing, acknowledging what they did wrong, and changing their behavior over a sustained period of time. It is important to let people make their own decisions about when, if ever, to give Trump an opportunity to rebuild trust with them.
How to: Acknowledge and affirm how you feel and do what feels right for you. Know that there is no right or wrong way to react to the election results.
Second, I realized that during this time of fear uncertainty, we must hold tightly to our humanity. Last week, I was giving Trump and all of the hateful people in this country the power to pull me away from my values. We must continue living our lives in ways that we feel proud of. This does not mean that we can’t be angry, protest, hold people accountable, and call out injustice. It means that we strive to do these things from a place of love and not hate. I’m not encouraging us to stay true to our values for the benefit of Trump or his supporters. I strongly believe that we must do this for ourselves. We must persevere with dignity and openheartedness for ourselves.
How to: Reflect on your values for engaging with other people (e.g. with love, openness, curiosity). If you have strayed from these values, see if you can come back to them. Reconnect to religious, spiritual, or moral ideals that guide your life.
Third, it is essential that we continue to create connection and community. We must draw near to our loved ones. Connection is what has carried us and our ancestors through extremely difficult times in our past and community is what will continue to support us through the difficult times to come. I encourage you spend quality time with people that you love. See people in person, go to each others homes, be present, cry together, hold each other, cook, break bread and nourish each other. We must actively show love to ourselves and our communities.
How to: Reach out to the people that you love and make plans to get together. Connect in spaces where you can have real conversations. Be honest with your loved ones about how you are doing. Offer support to the people that you love
Finally, we must reaffirm our rights to love, life, and happiness. The results of this election make it seem like a large proportion of the country does not value the rights of people of color, Muslims, immigrants, people in the LGBTQIA community, and women. In order for us to persevere and continue fighting for justice, it is essential that we reaffirm our rights. That we remind ourselves that we are deserving of full lives; we are deserving of health, safety, and protection. As we continue to tell the world that they must respect these rights we must remind ourselves that no one can take away our worthiness for love, joy, and freedom.
How to: Take care of yourself. Find and embrace moments of joy in your daily life. Express gratitude for the things that you are thankful for.