So, it happened. For some, the absolute unthinkable. For others, rejoicing. This post is not for those in the latter category, because they aren’t feeling the need to “survive”. This post is also not an endorsement of either the loser or the winner of the election for President of the United States, 2016. I will keep my political views, to the extent possible, out of this article, but it is clear that many are in a state of shock, grief and anxiety about the future of the country, their way of life, their friends and families.
The media has been inundating us with what seems to be very little in the way of facts and a lot in the way of sensationalizing, hype and sometimes outright misinformation. Half of the nation watched in horror as the Republican nominee was chosen, yet much like the witnesses to a horrific car accident, they could not turn away. The compulsion to watch the spectacle unfolding of their worst nightmares walking out into the daylight was more than many could overcome. After the media coverage of a 2006 interview between Donald Trump and Billy Bush for Entertainment Tonight wherein Trump bragged about grabbing women by their genitals without asking, many women reported an increase in their baseline anxiety; panic attacks; increased irritability; crying spells; insomnia; nightmares and hypervigilance, all of which are symptoms of PTSD. And, why would anyone be surprised at that when the statistics show that at least 1of every 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. The thought of having someone, anyone who would profess to doing those things, holding the highest office in the land and some, say, the world, is wholly unthinkable.
Most of the media had the predictions all wrong. As a result, many went to bed on November 8th with a hope that sometime in the wee hours of November 9, Hillary Clinton would be announced as the President Elect, only to awaken and discover the shocking and utterly appalling news that she had lost. Additionally, those people were left to deal with what is, to them, the horrifying specter of xenophobia, misogyny and hate on the horizon, barreling down on all of the US.
As the days have gone by and the news has sunk in, many are left sinking right along with it into despair. The American Psychological Association estimated a 52% increase in reported cases of anxiety and stress related to the election, early in November, even before the election results were tallied. To date, there are no updated statistics, but one can only imagine that they are worse.
So, how does one begin to swallow the putrid meal now placed before them, much less digest it? There is a period of grieving that must follow this event. More than half the American public is now somewhere in the 5 stages of grief.
DENIAL: This isn’t happening!! Multitudes of people were initially so stunned and in disbelief that they thought a miscount of votes had happened. There was widespread complete denial with many shouting that the electoral college got it all wrong and votes were yet to be counted (as they were). Millions went through the several ensuing days in conversations about how this couldn’t possibly happen in their beloved United States of America. Then, the unassailable truth set in and when it did, most people moved into the next stage of grief.
ANGER: Outrage has been expressed everywhere across the country in the form of protests that have resulted in destruction of property and violence. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in solidarity against hate, only to end up representing the very thing they rail against. Social media has abounded with hateful expressions from both sides of the political battle. The voices against bigotry were called bigots, themselves as they refused to accept bigotry and hatred as ideologies they could “work and cooperate with”. The divide between the two sides widened into a Mariana Trench, virtually bottomless and unfathomably wide.
BARGAINING: What has followed, for some, are the pleas to our existing government to abolish the electoral college and to count the votes according to the popular numbers. Many expressed hope that President Elect would, at least, surround himself with people of sound mind who were dispassionate and reasonable. Then came his announcement of the former head of an alt-right media powerhouse that has, since 2007, been producing xenophobic, hate-mongering articles directed against people of all colors, faiths and against women.
This announcement could be likened to a cancer patient who has received a terminal prognosis and now is being told that there will be physical and emotional torture gratuitously meted out by his would-be caregivers while he dies. The news set many back in their stages toward anger, this time at a whole new, acrimonious level.
DEPRESSION: This has literally set in for many. Stark, undeniable, clinical depression. A vacillation between depression and the former stages is common. The transition is never smooth into each stage, nor is it without continued dynamics. We will try to rescue ourselves out of the depression by hopping back into denial; i.e. surely the electoral college will vote against him, with all of the public outrage; surely the world disapproval and blatant ridicule will cause him to resign; surely we can fight back as a country, we always have, right???…right??…right? Then there is the rebound into anger. A fire reignites and we decide to charge into action, only to be met with revelation after disappointing revelation, reminding us that we are only one in a sea; only a drop in an ocean and maybe all of the other drops are coalescing into a pool without us.
Depression is painful; hopeless; dark; paralyzing. Like a rubber ball that is dropped on the concrete, without some additional action to perpetuate its movement, it eventually stops bouncing and settles on the ground.
ACCEPTANCE: If you are one of the few who has come to this, then good for you! It’s a rare commodity in this political climate. Resignation may be the more apropos descriptor of this stage for most. We cannot change the outcome. Living with it is the only choice. The next step is how to get through each day while maintaining hope and not succumbing to paralysis or anxiety. That will be the challenge. It is the ultimate call to self care while caring for humanity and this beautiful planet.
There is a theory that thoughts compress energy waves into matter. If this holds any truth, it is imperative that you hold onto the image of the world in which you want to reside. It is vital that you bring to each day and each person you meet the hope and love you want to have for yourself. The ripples will spread from your tiny corner of the world. Be the pebble that starts a wave; be the butterfly wing that change the weather.