Can We Come Together (Part 2)

ByDr. Marshall

Can We Come Together (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this blog, I discussed what seems to be our national hangover following this year’s presidential campaign and election. The way our political system is supposed to work is that after the people (and the Electoral College) have voted and a winner is announced, our elected officials come back together to solve problems. We may disagree on the solution, but we generally agree on what we need to do. Health care is a good example. I think it is safe to assume that everyone deserves affordable health care. The difference is in how to pay for it. The way this usually works is that the two parties negotiate and compromise until they find a solution acceptable to both sides.

Although that is the way it is supposed to work, many of us fear that this election was different. Most elections generate strong feelings. Those who lost feel anger, disappointment, sadness, and fear. Those who won feel excitement, hope, and vindication. But these feelings generally dissipate in a month or two and we get on with our lives. We might not like the person who was elected, but we accept the results and we assume that there will be an orderly transfer of power.

This year seems different. The strong feelings are not dissipating. They are lingering; they are lingering not just in the news and on the talk shows; they are also lingering in us. Strong post-election feelings have taken root and many of us are unable to let go of them. We remain angrier, more fearful, more pessimistic. Some patients are reporting that their lives have yet to return to normal. Some report that they don’t even want to get ready for the holiday season. Some tell us that they just can’t pull themselves together. Others complain that their partner is so obsessed that they feel an odd sort of abandonment.

Take heart. There are solutions to this post-election angst. First, it is highly likely that no matter who won, the other side would be at least as angry, anxious, dismayed. As we keep hearing, Mr. Trump tapped into a visceral anger that even the “experts” didn’t know was there. It’s helpful to remember that Ms. Clinton produced VERY strong feelings among her critics. Had she won, we would have been discussing the anger and the anxiety of her opponents. Remember “lock her up?” Those words reflect strong sentiments that would not have dissipated quickly either.

Second, it is also important to remember that a person running for office is willing to say and do anything to get elected and they needn’t worry about the rest of the world. That’s why Candidate Trump could say and do things as a candidate that he will not (or, at least, should not) say or do after January 20, 2017. As I noted in Part 1, a candidate represents his or her party, but a president is the president of all of us and he operates on a world stage and represents the world’s strongest nation. That has obligations that can’t be ignored. Candidate Trump didn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders; President Trump will.

Third, this election is different, because we really don’t know what the policies are going to be. In all previous elections the president-elect’s policies and leanings were known. Except for Harry Truman most other presidents had served in public office and we had a general idea as to what their presidency would look like. This time, we haven’t a clue and that creates uncertainty; and uncertainly can create anxiety.

As a nation, we need to slow down; enjoy the holidays, enjoy those you cherish, take a break from work, from politics, from whatever is troubling you. And if you are still having trouble settling in and settling down, Amie M. Gordon, Ph.D., a post-doctoral scholar in Social-Personality Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley offers the following tips:

  1. Recognize your own biases. America’s two political parties have become more polarized, we tend to see opposition candidates not as people with different views, but as bad people. We tend to watch news programs and listen to radio programs that support out beliefs. I know some very smart, well-informed people whose views are very different from mine. These people are highly successful; they are smart and they are well-informed. They must have some good reason to vote in ways that make absolutely no sense to me. Remember my opinions are based on MY world view. And no matter how right I think I am, other people have a world view that may be far different from mine.
  2. Try to see things from another person’s point of view. It’ not that we have to adopt their views. But we should try to understand what they are.
  3. Get away from the news and social media. The 24-hour news cycle is not our friend. And we must separate news from propaganda and news from opinion. And we must separate ourselves from social media. Go out and do something else. Anything else. Surely by now we all know that social media is simply a way of making ourselves look like we are living a charmed life.
  4. After you shut off social media, you will have hours to think about changes you can make in your own life. Once you get off social media, you can spend time improving yourself. Or you can think of ways to make life better for those who are close to you. Imagine what a gift you would be if you volunteered in a hospital or nursing home. Or, if you are really concerned about politics, get involved; ours is still a participatory democracy.

In the end, Dr. Gordon offers this simple but valuable advice: “Stop talking and start listening, be kind, assume the other person has a valid point of view, admit our own faults… .”

A colleague has this attached at the end of every email: “Be kinder than necessary, everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

About the author

Dr. Marshall administrator

Richard Marshall earned an Ed.D. in reading and learning disabilities at West Virginia University in 1982. While completing his doctoral studies he served as an educational specialist in the Pediatric Neurology. Upon completion of his degree he became an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the WVU Medical School. After moving to Florida in 1983, he joined the faculty in the Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida and worked for five years in the Neonatal Developmental Follow-Up Program. In 1993, he completed a Ph.D. in School Psychology at the University of Georgia with an emphasis in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychology. Upon degree completion, he taught courses in the biological bases of behavior and neuropsychology at the University of Texas in Austin. He also served as developmental psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Austin. He and his family returned to Florida in 2001 and he once more became a faculty member at the University of South Florida. He is presently an Associate Professor in the College of Education and he is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the USF College of Medicine. In 2008, Dr. Marshall co-authored the Pediatric Behavior Rating Scale; in 2011, he co-authored The Middle School Mind: Growing Pains in Early Adolescent Brains (2011) and is currently revising the Handbook for Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child (2012). In addition to writing and a busy schedule of workshops and presentations, Dr. Marshall also maintains a private practice in Lakeland, Florida where he specializes in the assessment and treatment of children and adults with emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders; parenting; family therapy; and couples counseling. As part of that practice he maintains a daily blog and he co-hosts The Mental Breakdown Podcast (iTunes, Google Play Music, and YouTube) and the Psychreg Podcast. He has spoken to professional and community groups throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.

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