I wanted nothing more than for the US election to be over and to drop my habit of checking news several times a day. Instead I found myself in a country roiling from an unexpected outcome and the seismic shifts it will usher in. Hate to say it, but “We’re in for it.”
Seems people always want change in elections. I wonder how much of that is the phenomenon of “the grass is always greener on the other side,” how much is frustration with personal circumstances or the real dysfunction of government, and how much is undying partisanship where the contest will never end.
So now we are in freefall.
We will have unprecedented change in the office known as the presidency. Our President-Elect is a man who doesn’t want to live full time in the White House, who wants his children who run his businesses throughout the world to have security clearance, who changes his mind by the minute, and wants an unconventional presidency in which he’ll continue to act like a rock star. The scariest thing I heard yesterday was that Trump wants to continue holding rallies. With the direction he is going in excluding the press, he’ll have a hothouse of social contagion for any aggressive energy he wants to unleash.
Rather than the president as any kind of exemplar, parents, schools, and organizations are already telling their people, “Those are not our values. We are not going to act that way.”
There will be changes in America’s place in the world. The Trump win landed us an immediate black eye, and our relationships with other countries will be far, far from what it has been.
Rather than the Republican party being in tatters as many projected, the Democratic party is–and with signs of either a radical shift in that party or the emergence of a party that largely replaces it. Hopefully the Electoral College will soon be gone. The political process, campaigning, what is acceptable have all changed.
Yes, we got change that will ripple through our institutions and through our lives. There will be relentless, constant change that will cause many to long for the stability of any previous status quo.
The Challenges of Healing
The election exposed the huge rupture in the American people, the two Americas—or three or four. Our biggest challenge is to find a new harmony, if that is possible.
We must heal our relationship with the Other—whether that it along political lines, racial, religious, lifestyle, or any other line. Will we fear and vilify the Other, or can we engage in the deep dialogue used successfully in small group processes between populations that could not be more polarized? Can we move toward more inclusiveness—not just the growing pluralism of the racial and ethnic makeup of our country but between urban and rural, young and old, wealthy and working class, and what in this election was Trump supporters and the more than half of the country that cannot understand anyone voting for him.
The second challenge I would name is can we find our way toward persistent engagement in civic life? Can we let this tsunami shake up our lives in new ways, where we know ourselves as part of a whole, needing to also steward that whole?
Some beautiful, inspiring thought has been circulated since the election. Here is one forwarded to me by my friend, Renee. It comes from poet, Ivan M Granger:
“Before election day and after election day, the work remains the same– to give a helping hand, to protect the vulnerable, to cultivate a livable future, to be less blind to others, to be fully present, to embody love in a troubled world.”
Can you be present to this moment with its demands and opportunities?
For Trauma Survivors
One challenge with any history of trauma that hasn’t been resolved is that even though your rational mind knows the traumatic event is over, your nervous system does not. It is still on guard, aroused yet contracted, keeping us in defense rather than free to thrive and explore the world.
Trauma survivors live in a world that does not feel safe. I’m afraid this election has made it less safe for millions of people. The challenge is to find pockets of safety where you can relax your guard and rest, where you can take in nourishment.
And of course the election itself was traumatizing. I notice that how we each react reveals our cracks, the places we are most hurt and unstable. Trauma stimulates any trauma it simulates. Seeing that we are reacting to multiple levels can help cool off our terror in the moment.
It can also be helpful to identify when you are in a trauma vortex. Feeling trapped, helpless, overwhelmed, frozen, or on high alert are common indicators. Just identifying that you are in such a state creates a splinter of separation from it because there is some witnessing that is not collapsed into the state.
Change has come. We cannot stop it. But we can–and must–help shape its course.
P.S. Thank you for reading. Please sign up for my blog list if you’d like to receive more. If this piece sparks something in you, you can share your thoughts below. I may not be able to respond to every one, but I know some people enjoy comments. Please keep in mind the volatile atmosphere we’re in.