I am writing this on the Friday before Election Day, knowing that I may be in a less calm and objective place starting Tuesday night. But NO MATTER THE OUTCOME I passionately believe that we have an obligation as responsible citizens to ensure that we maximize the arc of progress. This means replacing the combative “us against them” mentality that has motivated most of us in the run up to Tuesday with 2 key questions: “What contribution can I make to healing the country?” and “What can I do to help the government resume contributing to the welfare of the people?” Where can you help build bridges with those with a different vision of the country? What compromises can you support that will help unlock the frozen gears of government?
OK, that’s my civic take on the upcoming election. My take as a therapist and coach is to remind you that the external reality of circumstances is only as powerful as we allow it to be, and that how we THINK about that reality and what we DO about it are actually more significant. Famed psychologist Victor Frankl survived Auschwitz by reminding himself of that truism (as outlined in his classic work “Man’s Search for Meaning), surely you can survive a Trump or Clinton loss.
Fine, but if your candidate loses, what practical (as opposed to theoretical or philosophical) steps can you take to move out of a state of bitterness and resentment. If Hillary Clinton wins Trump voters need to focus on the positive things she brings to the table, which they can enumerate as they see fit. Perhaps her lifelong work on behalf of children, or the strong relationships she’s built with leaders abroad, or her relatively moderate record as a senator. If Trump wins Hillary voters should be impressed that a man whom most pundits dismissed all along was able to capture the Presidency despite minimal institutional support and significant Republican defections. Or that he was able to motivate millions to a fevered pitch of concern about the political system of the nation. Or that he has built a worldwide business and a powerful brand. All of these achievements required tremendous skill and tenacity.
And try to avoid mentally demonizing the supporters of your opponent. The vast, vast majority of them care deeply about the direction of our country and simply want to do their best to ensure that they and their families get the best chance at a life of peace and prosperity.
You will need to consciously dial back your emphasis on the many faults of the winner and look for what’s ok about him/her. Maybe it’s only a position on an issue or two, but at least that’s a beginning. You might even want to get a head start on altering your thought process by imagining the outcome you don’t want and then beginning to see how you might create some alchemy to change your reaction to it.
Here is a wish that I send you: May you be gracious in exhibiting the extra joy that will come if your candidate wins, and gracious in the acceptance of your candidate’s loss, but in either case coming to peaceful terms with the outcome and then rejecting division and striving for a renewed connection to your fellow Americans.
The surprising outcome of the election is dismaying to millions; if you’re one of them think about what you can do to in your own sphere to work towards the kind of nation you want us to be. Whether that’s engaging in local politics, volunteering for an organization that helps others, donating to causes you believe in….remember that you can help make a difference.