We as a nation have just undergone a time of great stress for many people. Given how volatile this last election was, those who were strongly against Trump now face a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Minorities, people of alternative lifestyles, and those who fear for them may feel as through potential doom awaits in the near future. For many it is not just their own personal safety that is threatened, but for their loved ones. Our country has become very polarized with people on the far left and far right politically are more divided than ever.
During times like these, it may be important to be mindful of the media’s powerful influence on the hearts and minds of those who watch it. Facebook feeds can feed these feelings of dread and it is easy to give in to hopelessness and fear. On the left, reports of the protests and the actions of the intolerant quickly gain likes and shares which increase the circulation of stories of injustice. A steady diet of negative news can lead one to feel as though they have been personally attacked whether or not that has factually happened. When this happens we should take stock of the amount of stress news one has been exposed to. All news sites, blogs, and Facebook posts have some degree of slant to them. For many news agencies the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality powers what gets published. A shocking headline has a higher chance of being read, which in turn then drives up views, shares, leads, and advertising dollars. This does not help us in seeing the truth of any situation. Indeed, if one only watches the news, it can create enough fear that leaving your house will most assuredly lead to being attacked, robbed, or worse. Many of these stories from the news sites, blogs, and other sources do not report a verifiable source for their material, or if they do, they quote out-of-context or mold the story to fit their agenda.
If you’re on the right, there may be a feeling to celebrate and even gloat that the hope your savior has arrived. I’ve seen plenty of posts about how people need to accept and quit throwing a tantrum over losing. This does not help the situation. For many minorities the is fear that past times of racism will return, and sadly that has been a reality for them since racism was not something invented within the last week. Just a few generations ago our country had internment camps for Japanese-Americans for fear that because of where a person was born meat they were an immediate threat since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor which thrust us into World War II. For Muslims, the call for registration of all of them due to extremists such as Isis was something Trump and others like him called for during his campaign. Never mind the fact that many Muslims are equally disgusted by the actions of a few. Those people are no more representative of the whole than the KKK or Westboro Baptists are of Christianity. Keep in mind Islam is a major religion with even more followers than Christianity worldwide. If they all felt the same as Isis, we would be in another World War. Seeing those who are different does not mean that person is an enemy. It is unfair to them, and it unfair to you to see them that way. You may be missing out on a new friend or at least a person that can broaden your worldview.
Look to your immediate community, fact-check your news sources. Stand up to bigots and clear racism when you find it. But do not just look as though it is everywhere, it is not. In my life, the people I have met, and with my clients I have found many of us want the same thing. To feel safe, to provide a better life for their children, to prosper and to thrive. We often give way to fear and anxiety because they can be extremely powerful emotions that try to protect us from threats. At worst, these emotions can get out of balance and have us in a state of hyper-awareness where we see threats everywhere which robs us of the present moment and orienting to what’s good in our lives. If you have been an unfortunate victim of racism/bigotry you do not need to suffer in silence. Bullying and other forms of hate and intolerance thrive on secrecy and loss of the victim’s personal power.
Therapy can help you release and strengthen your boundaries if you feel stuck in a state of constant apprehension or fear. Remember, well over half of the country did not vote for this, you are not alone. You family, friends, and many in the community are there and can give support. The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center are just two national organizations that want equality for all.
Living in fear does not serve you. By all means be alert for true threats and keep yourself safe. But do not give in to the view that the entire world is against you to the point where there is no such thing as safety. The future is not here yet, nor is is already written. There will always be people who are jerks and are emboldened by fear. But there are many more that reject that and will fight for what is right. You only have to look for them.