How to Manage Post Election Malaise – November 13, 2016
In the classic 1969 book On Death and Dying by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the Swiss psychiatrist outlined the five stages of grief and shock that people go through when they find out that they are dying. As people struggle with the impact of the recent election, it may be helpful to revisit those stages and apply them to how you may feel today. Following that review I will outline steps that you can take to help manage your post election malaise.
Five Stages of Grief as outlined by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (in bold.)
Shock – “What just happened? I couldn’t have heard that right.”
Denial– “It can’t be. There is no way Hillary could have lost.”
Anger – “Trump is bad for America. I’m going to start, or join, an anti Trump rally.”
Bargaining – “Surely if I fight back I can undo Trump’s win or his influence.” or “We can get the delegates to reverse their votes.”
Depression – “I can’t stop thinking about the election. I’m sad. America is doomed.”
Acceptance – “Okay, Trump won the election. I’m not happy about it, but next time I’ll do more to help my candidate win.”
Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross later said that the stages are not necessarily linear and can come in any order. They can be one off emotions or can even be skipped entirely.
On Friday morning I attended an event where Alec Baldwin was asked about the election. As a celebrity who is a well known Democrat and Hilary supporter, I thought he was well grounded in his response to questions about the election. “…If you think that Trump’s going to do any of what he said he’s going to do, you’re crazy; just as if Sanders won, Sanders wouldn’t do any of what Sanders said he was going to do. Because they make a claim, I don’t doubt their desire, I don’t doubt their passion, I don’t doubt their integrity at all. But you come into office and you find out the realities that … Until we have campaign finance reform in this country to take the money out of politics … I guarantee you one thing about the American experience. You will never have the government you deserve to represent you the way you want to be represented until we end the campaign finances in this country.” He then went on to say, “… I only have opinions and in the end I think it will work itself out because the government is run by a huge index of people and Trump I think is going to be, with profound differences, with PROFOUND differences, I must say this, Trump to me will be like Reagan. What he does is he comes, he’s like a front man. He’s like Mick the Jagger of a band. He’s out front (Alec does impression of Trump as Mick Jagger) Gonna build a wall. I’m gonna build a wall … But behind that other people take over and other people run the government … There’s a professional class of people who run the federal government.”
So what can you do to move through the stages of grief to overcome the malaise you may feel after the election. Here are some tips that may help.
Start or join a march – The photo at the top of this article was taken on Friday evening in Boston at a rally at Boston Common. By gathering with people of like mind and expressing your support for their cause you will see that you are not alone in your grief. You also help to draw attention to the issues of concern.
Unplug – Stop watching the news and social media. When someone is brought to an emergency room the first task of the physicians is to perform triage; stop the bleeding. To stop a fire you should stop adding fuel and cut off the oxygen. Hanging around with your friends and continually complaining won’t help either. By reducing your exposure to things that fuel the fire you will take longer to move through the stages of grief.
Join a support group, either online of offline. www.griefincommon.com is a website designed to bring together people who have lost a loved one. While it isn’t designed to address the political loss it shows how there are people out there who feel like you. This is different than ranting on social media about the election.
See a counselor, psychologist – If you are paralyzed by grief it is imperative that you seek professional support.
Focus on the positive – Do something you like to do and preferably something you can do by yourself. Yesterday I went to a museum in Boston that has an Italian garden inside ( Isabella Gardner museum.) The artwork and then just sitting in the garden and looking at the green and the flowers (chrysanthemums) was so peaceful and it helped to calm my soul. Find the thing that makes you happy and double down on that activity.
Plan for 2020 – Shift your attention forward to ways you can make a difference in 2020. The voter turnout for this election was the weakest it’s been in the past 20 years. Did you do everything you could to encourage your friends and acquaintances to vote? We all have short memories so set up a reminder now for 2020 to remind yourself to get out and grow the vote. Join the efforts of the candidate of your choice. Adding a bumper sticker or yard sign is unlikely to make a big difference. Go big and then you will be able to say that you really did everything you could to get your candidate elected. Be sure to vote. There were some contests in states where the margin of victory for Donald Trump was razor thin.
Join a cause for something you are passionate about supporting – On Friday I heard Reshma Saujani, the founder of the organization Girls who Code. The organization’s mission is to close the gender gap in technology. It was clear from Reshma’s talk that she is extremely passionate about this important cause. Find something you are passionate about and channel your energy into that. Whether it be Black Lives Matter, environmental causes, transgender equality, etc.
There are many thoughts about why Hillary lost the election. The reality is that it’s over now. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to be angry, sad, frustrated, or a myriad of other emotions. However, the sooner you gain control of your emotions, the easier it will be for you to help others who are struggling to move through their stages of grief. After the bloody and divisive Civil War, America pulled together and started to rebuild the fabric that was torn apart by the war. There were significant issues that remained, especially for women and African Americans, issues that we still struggle with today. However, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Laozi, Tao Te Ching.) Let’s work together and move forward in our journey to improve the lives of all Americans.