As I write this on Nov. 2, I don’t know how our national and state elections will go. Or whether we’ll even have definitive results by the time you read this.
The unrest associated with our national election is likely unprecedented. And that has brought about a lot of fear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen businesses board up their buildings to protect against potential rioting and looting after an election. I even read that George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., advised its students to gather enough provisions to stay inside their dorm rooms for three days.
Feeling out of control is one of the worst feelings we can have as individuals. And when this permeates a society, the collective angst is definitely felt.
The following week after an election may be too raw — and too soon — for you to look at constructive ways for dealing with any anger you may have. And that’s okay. It’s important to process your emotions — and not just stuff them down. You don’t want to wallow too long, though, as this could lead to a downward spiral.
Whenever you’re ready, here are a few insights that may help along the way to restore some peace into your life.
Dealing with anger
Anger doesn’t always look the same. It can be disguised as sarcasm. Or criticism. Or jealousy. Maybe you just have an unsettled feeling.
Here are some common reactions to dealing with anger, along with an outlier:
- Bury it. Shove it into a tiny box inside. Deny its existence.
- Lash out. Mow down anyone in your path who doesn’t agree with you.
- STOP. Interrupt the pattern.
Burying your anger will only cause it to bubble up in other ways. Lashing out — and blaming others — doesn’t get to the root of the problem and could be harmful.
Anger is caused by unmet needs
The need is never “to be angry.” Think about the example of “hangry.” When you’re experiencing this, you’re not actually angry. You’re just hungry. The solution is to eat.
Of course, there are minor forms of irritation and anger — long checkout lines at the grocery store, heavy traffic, etc. Putting things into perspective — and injecting a bit of patience — can help here.
And then there are deep-seated patterns that may have been caused by a bitter divorce, a sense of betrayal or a scenario in which you’ve defined yourself as the victim. Then you find yourself ruminating — repeating the scenario in your mind over and over. You may be in this situation right now if your candidate didn’t win.
Interrupting the pattern
I like the Flip/Switch Technique for interrupting an anger pattern. When you find yourself dwelling on an issue, just visualize a stop sign in your mind. Interrupt the negative thought. And switch to a neutral image — like a pet, child or something that gives you pleasure.
I’m not saying this will solve the problem. Far from it. All you’re doing is getting to a neutral objective place in your thinking — and detaching from the negative emotional charge. Then you can take another step. Nothing constructive can take place in the heat of anger.
Baby steps toward the future
When you break down your feelings of anger in this way, you can peel off the layers to get to the core unmet need. You may be extremely disappointed that your candidate didn’t win the election. And these deep-seated feelings go further than the person. They embody policies that affect your life.
You may need to drill down for ways that you can still keep your commitment to those issues that are important to you — and still be okay — regardless of the election outcome. This circles back to the beginning of the column and the observations about feeling out of control.
Calling a time out from the external world — and going within — could be just what the doctor ordered. Take a break from the continual external banter — and try a little inner reflection.
Taking a time out
Last week I was going through a box of memorabilia from my mother’s memorial service 11 years ago. While it was emotional, I also felt such a sense of gratitude for the beautiful tributes to her life — and the outpouring of support I received, many of which came from you.
I was struck by one of my favorite quotes on the back of her funeral program. It may provide some comfort for you in these unsettling times, particularly if you take the time to look internally, rather than externally.
“I’m content with where I’ve been ... and I’m proud of who I am.”