by Dr. Jennifer Jones www.DrJennifer.com
It’s the morning of the election. I just cast my ballot. I rarely cry but find myself in tears this morning. My tears are joyful and full of hope for possibility and yet sorrowful for the separation and anger that has surfaced. I use the word “surfaced” when describing the divisiveness of our country where others use the word “created” because these feelings weren’t created, they were in us all along. These powerful feelings of anger, hate, apathy, judgment, and fear, didn’t just appear out of nowhere. They have been with us for a while, possibly since our childhoods. It is unresolved trauma that we are unaware of.
I’m thrilled the election is heated and that it’s divisive. It means things are changing, progress is being made, and most importantly, that people are done being victimized. Anger is a great tool to move out of depression, sadness, and apathy.
We are an angry country who are un-friending each other or much worse (on Facebook and in real relationships), won’t consider an alternative view and hold onto our anger because it gives us a sense of possibility.
But what now? How do we heal, how do we move on in a productive, peaceful and conscious way so we don’t add to the unconscious trauma that brought this about in the first place?
As approximately 89% of adults in the world are parents, we have an incredible opportunity to heal through our relationship with our child. Two important pieces of psychological knowledge that will help us heal:
1. We unconsciously project ourselves onto our children more than any other relationship.
2. We are most annoyed in others that which is not healed in ourselves.
Therefore, our children become like a mirror to us. If you find yourself angry, annoyed, yelling, or being sarcastic with your child, it is a sign that you have not healed yourself.
We can use our relationship with our children to help us to practice tolerance, patience, acceptance, and non-violence. When we feel the need to punish, control or manipulate our children, it is often out of unconscious, or often conscious fear. Instead of feeding the fear by distancing the relationship, the task is to connect to the child and do our best to investigate the potential source of the behavior.
We can apply this practice to those who voted for the opposite political party. Instead of judging them and seeing them as different, less than, arrogant, ignorant, or worse, we can look for the potential source of their behavior, be mindful of our anger and fear and look to connect rather than punish.
And also, just like the relationship with our children, there is a window for healing. If we wait until they are adults to try to connect, the chances are much lower of obtaining an authentic connection.
In our relationships with others from the opposite political party, since the wounds are still fresh, we have a unique opportunity at this very moment in time to heal trauma, heal division and see that we have more in common than we realize.
So, the next time you are in a conversation with someone from the opposite political party, instead of falling for the more primitive, reptilian trap of looking for differences between you, go toward the executive functioning part of your brain and think about why that person is feeling the way they are.
If you are a Clinton supporter and the person you are talking to is a Trump supporter, think about the psychology behind why that person is voting for Trump—perhaps they have fear of immigrants, fear of losing/missing out. Perhaps they have felt bullied at some point in their lives and prefer to ally themselves with someone who they feel can protect them. Perhaps they have experienced poverty and have fear of returning to poverty or wish to become wealthy.
Likewise, If you are a Trump supporter and the person you are talking to is a Clinton supporter, think about the psychology behind why that person is voting for Clinton—are they a woman or a minority? Perhaps they have experienced sexism or discrimination. Perhaps Clinton represents an opportunity for them or their daughters that they didn’t think was possible before.
And there are, of course, a thousand other legitimate reasons why good people vote for candidates from the opposite party. The bottom message is: look into their suffering before you judge. Just as you would benefit from with your children—look into their suffering, their reasons for acting out before you punish or judge.
Because ultimately, relationships are the key to healing and compassion is at the core. Practicing deeper viewing and compassion with our children and applying it to our relationships with the other adults we meet in our life can have ripple-like effects in healing the trauma of the election and the state of our world in general.
Dr. Jennifer Johnston-Jones is a renowned psychologist and expert in Transformational Parenting and the Science of Success. Read more about the magic of Transformational Parenting at www.DrJennifer.com
I hate cooking. I really do (and I rarely use the word hate). But it really fits here. For me, cooking represents the idea that women are expected to work constantly and are expected to give more than we receive. It's the unstated but quite engrained cultural expectation that we should love serving others, even if it's not reciprocated that drives me nuts. It's the fact that ever since I can remember, the kitchen is mostly devoid of men.
Growing up, during Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was the women who rushed around and cooked all day, the women who prepped the table, and even the women who cleaned up the mess.
And yet, I've found myself perpetuating these behaviors as well. It's true that we love our families so much that it brings joy to see our loved ones together enjoying delicious food, even if the women of the family exhaust themselves in the process. As a mother, I've often had to check myself of these self-sacrificing and martyr-like ways. There were a few years that I unconsciously overloaded myself overzealously preparing food for a large gathering without asking my husband for help--he would have been equally thrilled if we did take out. To his credit, there were a few years when he did all of the overzealous prep without asking me for help too. And my father-in-law must have some inkling of our strivings as this Thanksgiving he surprised us by pre-ordering the entire Thanksgiving feast as take out.
But here's the thing: it's not just on holidays and special events where we work so much harder than the men--we do it everyday. In fact, about 41 percent of mothers earn the majority of their family's income while another 23 percent of mothers are co–breadwinners, contributing at leased a quarter of the family's earnings.1 These numbers are dramatically higher in Hispanic and African-American families where 27% of Latino children and 51% of African-American children are being raised by a single mother.2
Despite the fact that we are working outside the home, we are also working much more in the home as well--and doing so alone. In heterosexual homes, women do approximately 80% more housework and cooking than the men. I met a mother recently who wakes at 5:00am everyday to make her children's lunches, clean the house, and prepare dinner for later that evening. Her husband sleeps until 7:00am. I asked her why her husband gets to sleep in until 7:00am while she has to wake up in the dark, "I have to make the lunches and dinner," she repeated as if I didn't hear her the first time. “Yes, but, can't he help you?” I insisted. "Oh, that's just the way it is. I'm not sure he would even know how to make the lunches and it's not worth the stress." This is not an unusual scenario.
It’s not that men are a**holes, it's that they grew up with their mothers doing all of the housework and it's all they know. Then they grow up and their wives continue to do the housework. And it's not that the women want to be martyrs either, it's that it's what they have been programed to do since they ate their first meal (that their mother made--by herself). We are all doing our best to figure out gender roles and marriage. Who does what and how? It can be confusing for sure. But over time, repeating traditional gender roles in the home with non-traditional gender roles at work sends a message: that women's time is worth less, that men have more of a right to relax and take a break, and that women's needs come last.
My husband and I have been together for 23 years and we are still deeply in love. When people ask how we manage to keep the spark alive, we often admit to hiring a housekeeper. Instead of squabbling over whose turn it is to clean the toilet, in college, we paid $30 a week to have someone come in and do it for us. Not that we were rich…we made this happen when I was paying $350/month for a basement apartment where water seeped in through the walls when it rained. For those who would prefer to spend their money on upgrading their rental instead of a housekeeper, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sharing housework. It's the least sexy job. And believe me, contrary to popular myth, women are not inherently cleaner or more organized, it's simply due to constant societal pressure. Plus, there are immense benefits to sharing housework. When husbands do more housework, couples are happier, wives are less depressed, and marital conflicts decrease.
So, I ask you to make the unconscious conscious: what message are you sending to your children by segregating the cooking and housework according to gender? More importantly: what message are you sending to yourself? I say it’s time we liberate ourselves of expectations and dive into a life of true equality, even if it does mean take-out on Thanksgiving and a toilet no one cleans—we’ll find our way.
1 Sarah Jane Glynn, Breadwinning Mothers: Then and Now, Center for American Progress (June 2014), 6. In 2012, 40.9 percent of mothers were sole primary breadwinners for their families and another 22.4 percent were co-breadwinners."
2 Child Trends Data Bank, Family Structure: Indicators on Children and Youth, (March 2015),4,http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/59_Family_Structure.pdf.
3 Sharon Meers and Joanna Streber, Getting to 50/50: How working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All (New York: Bantam Books, 2009).
Jennifer Johnston-Jones, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and executive director of Roots & Wings Institute for Personal Growth and Family Excellence. In addition, she keynotes conferences and conducts workshops for parents, educators and clinicians. Dr. Johnston-Jones lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two children whom she adores.
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