Today I send my heartfelt condolences to everyone reading this. Just when you were so tired and weary of all the animosity and divisiveness being thrown around in the election and hoping it might come to an end, you most likely suffered another huge blow about how this all turned out. These are painful times we are living in. I am so sorry for all that loss that you are feeling.
I have witnessed in the last day a range of emotional reactions in people I’ve seen in my office or on the street:
Numbness; catatonia, lots of people walking around like zombies with their heads hanging down, stunned
People feeling unable to think about or process anything
A sense of devastation, sadness, overwhelm
Sobbing relentless tears
People feeling hopeless, lost, unmoored, loss of control
People feeling triggered, re-traumatized
Drinking a few too many drinks
People trying to rationalize, make sense or have a clear analysis of it all
People in mourning
References to 9-11 and World War II were so many lives were lost
Feelings of outrage, discouragement, powerlessness
People tired of commiserating
Students chanting “love trumps hate!” as they marched down the street in protest
Total and utter dejection
People wanting to get on with things
People breaking down who never usually do
Many reaching out, offering kindness
People who feel immobilized
Lots and lots of fear
Heartache. This feels like dying a slow painful death.
Great worry for loved ones who are minorities, Muslim, undocumented, women, physically impaired, LGBT, etc.
These are but a few of the normal natural human reactions that people are having in response to what has gone on in our world. The range of emotions is vast and varied from person to person and within each individual. Maybe you have noticed some of these in yourself.
In myself, I have been aware of my own range of emotions – my disbelief, my difficulty wrapping my head around this; my disturbing sense that as a woman of color I am not welcome in this larger society, and a feeling that there are more people in this country who not only don’t celebrate diversity, but hate it and would rather I and people like me disappeared or left. I have felt alienated and disconnected. I have resented hearing from people who voluntarily could leave this country, while there are so many who are frightened by the threat of being banished from this country they now call home and wish they could be allowed to stay in. My sadness is profound and I have sobbed with and without sound. My heart aches. I have searched for words of comfort to share. And I have been angry and judgmental as well. I feel as if we have suffered a huge national tragedy. I feel mistrustful; not sure who or what I can believe. I am hyper-vigilant, avoidant and discombobulated at the same time. I wandered around the block two times last night trying to find my car when I left work and I couldn’t remember where I had parked nor did I recognize it when I passed it. ‘Hello darkness my old friend’ keeps playing in my mind – only it’s not in my mind, it’s in the world we’re living in. I’ve been mindlessly eating candy and seeking comfort food. My dreams were a dark screen during the night. I woke up hoping it was just a nightmare I had had. I have felt tender and raw and supersensitive, once I moved out of immobilized numbness. My eyes are red rimmed. How can I possibly hold all the sadness I feel for myself and for everyone I am talking to?
At the same time I have been seeking comfort, reassurance, inclusion, words of wisdom and healing. Thankfully, moments of grace have come through the heavy clouds, as I talk with people I see, or connect with loved ones. I have been trying to stay mindful, and present – even to these deep dark feelings… It is really, really hard… “This hurts… Yes, this (racism, misogyny,) too… I allow myself to feel this…This hurts so…”
When I was at my lowest, I read an email from a loved young person in my life who bravely and openheartedly listed all the people and family experiences she was grateful for, especially in the midst of her deep pain. She was courageous in accessing her gratitude among the shards of glass her heart had been broken by.
I have been graced by the words I have heard from colleagues, clients, associates, family, friends, even strangers, as they express their concerns or their compassions. I have gone from personalizing the sense of alienation and woundedness I feel, to having my sense of empathy and connectedness be expansive and inclusive. I realize not every person who voted for Trump is a bigot who hates my existence (nor sadly is every person who voted against Trump completely free of his or her own judgments and prejudices). I have connected to the many times throughout history where masses of people have suffered through some very terrible times and circumstances, and yet their human spirit lives on.
From what I have gathered as I have observed the emotional experiences of those around me and of myself, I offer these following mindful options as possibilities to help you through your own healing as needed:
Name your feelings (shock, horror, rage, judgment, despair, fear, worry, etc.) and pay attention to where you feel these in your body.
When afraid, draw close to loved ones. Reach out and connect to those you love and who love you.
Light a candle. Send love.
Find comfort and be comforting.
Pause and listen to one another. And then listen some more.
Make room for all the feelings – even the ones you don’t like. Quietly say “yes” to them.
Do good. Be kind. Be the source point of the good you wish to see.
Be heart full – courageous and open hearted. Stay engaged.
Find something you can say yes to.
Recognize that you can’t do it all by yourself, and don’t let that awareness push you into feeling completely powerless.
Notice you are not alone. This is bigger than you; but needs you also.
Accept yourself and be comfortable with having a bad day.
Realize everyone is triggered; on heightened sensitivity; more reactionary. Try not to take it personally.
Look for the good – witness it in others and in yourself – acts of virtue, kindness, compassion, character, courage. Savor the feeling when you feel uplifted.
Let empathy rise above the fear.
Build bridges, rather than walls.
Practice unity – which is a salve for the wounds of hatred.
Recognize shared humanity.
Maybe now would be a good time to breathe.
Contemplate the human being or group who is triggering your judgment, disgust, anger, fear, contempt, and remind yourself “Just like me, this person wishes to be happy and free from suffering. In this way we are no different.”
Share a three breath hug with someone else who’s hurting.
One conscious long slow deep breath. Or maybe 10.
Keep up your daily practice of things that nourish you and your body and allow you to come back to your center.
Allow emotion-surfing of the waves of emotion.
Take heart in the good that is real.
Use the energy of your anger in a constructive way. Don’t be destructive.
Observe without being flooded
Guard and guide your attention (toward the news, social media, other people, etc.).
List all the things, people, experiences you are grateful for. Keep adding to that list.
I wish you peace and gentleness through these difficult times. Take good care.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
**If you would like more tools to develop more mindful practices and skills in your daily life; and would like more support especially during this time, please register here for my ‘hot mess to cool oasis’ course starting soon: http://tinyurl.com/OASIS-registration