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