3. Share with others the anger, fears, and doubts you’re experiencing. Social support is generally recognized as the single most important therapy for trauma. It’s helpful for people who have suffered similarly-- a group of children in Gaza’s post-war rubble or their counterparts in a shelled Israeli Kibbutz. It can be even more powerful for groups that include opponents or enemies. I’ve been amazed by the growth in understanding and compassion that eventually emerged among groups of Serbs and Albanians in post-war Kosovo, and among Israelis and Palestinians meeting together in the midst of their ongoing conflict.
Virtually all political campaigns, especially this one, are fueled by animosity and mistrust. They demand unquestioning loyalty and discredit doubt and nuance. A group committed to respecting confidentiality (whether homogeneous or composed of political adversaries) can give you a safe place to share the doubts you have about your candidate as well as your anger at and fear of the other side and of what Trump’s victory may bring.
In recent days, Trump supporters have spoken freely about their concerns about bigoted statements they “overlooked” to vote for him, as well as their passion for him and their hope for his presidency. Hillary’s devoted partisans have shared the pain at the loss she and they have endured and their fear for the future, along with disappointment and sadness about her self-defeating self-protectiveness.
Expressing all our concerns and our ambivalence, as well as our fears and anger is a relief. And listening to others-- no interrupting, not arguing with them- we may actually learn something new about ourselves as well as about and from our opponents. This is the way I’ve been working this last week with people from every part of the political spectrum.
You can do this yourself: gather a few friends-- perhaps political opponents as well as allies— establish the ground rules for safe and respectful listening, do deep breathing and Shaking and Dancing, and share what’s going on with you. As you do, you’ll likely be more relaxed; your pained feelings will be less oppressive and your thoughts clearer.
Perhaps you’ll discover that we are all more alike than inflamed political rhetoric would lead us to believe. Perhaps you can discover in yourself and others the mutual respect and understanding that all of us crave and need. You may feel, as you quiet your body and mind and share yourself with others, more hopeful and energized, more ready to imagine the future you want and to take an active role in creating it.
James S. Gordon, MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression, Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School. Soft Belly and Shaking and Dancing audios are available for download at www.cmbm.org